Russia tries to make sense of colonel murder

Russian army colonel was found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Kungayeva in 2003.

Moscow: The brazen killing of a Russian
army colonel who murdered a 18-year-old Chechen girl in 2000,
prompted on Saturday a bout of soul-searching, with some mourning
the Caucasus war veteran and others fearing fresh ethnic

Budanov, convicted of the murder of Elza Kungayeva,
was shot dead in broad daylight yesterday in central Moscow in
a contract-style killing.

Even after his death he remains such a polarising
figure that the Kremlin and Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov,
who has called the colonel a schizophrenic and "the enemy of
the Chechen people," have remained conspicuously silent.

Supporters including army officers and football fans
have deposited heaps of flowers at the murder scene amid a
heavy police presence.

Former officer Mikhail Lebedev, who spent six months
on a tour of duty in Chechnya in 2003, defended the colonel as
a "true leader" who never betrayed his men.

"You have to understand that it was war. He acted
according to the laws of wartime."

Budanov was jailed for 10 years for Kungayeva`s murder
but freed on parole in 2009 after serving most of the
sentence, provoking angry protests by Chechens and Russian
rights activists.

He was the commander of a tank regiment deployed in
Chechnya after the start of the Kremlin`s second war against
separatists in 1999 and decorated with an Order of Courage,
one of the most coveted army honors.

Arrested in 2000 and stripped of the honour, he was
found guilty of kidnapping and murdering Kungayeva in 2003.

In a snap poll conducted by the popular Echo of Moscow
radio earlier in the day, 68 percent of respondents said
Budanov deserved sympathy, while another 32 percent said they
did not feel sorry for him.


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