Saturday, 11 June 2011

Budanov murder ‘not revenge’ for Kungayeva killing

Investigators and observers are groping for the motives in Friday’s shooting death of Colonel Yury Budanov – who, while considered a war criminal by some rights activists over his brutal military operations in Chechnya in 2000, has become a poster child for ultra-nationalist radicals.

Budanov, who had been sentenced to 10 years in prison for the kidnapping, rape and murder of a Chechen woman, Elza Kungayeva, but released on parole in 2009, was gunned down in broad daylight around noon near a children’s playground on central Moscow’s Komsomolsky Prospekt.

He died on the spot from four gunshot wounds to the head. The attackers reportedly drove off in a Mitsubishi Lancer, which they set fire to in a neighboring yard before fleeing the scene.

Investigators have launched a criminal case, with Investigative Committee spokesman Vladimir Markin saying that a composite photo of a suspect has been released, and that at least one of the two attackers had Slavic features.

“Investigators do not rule out that the murder was meticulously planned, and it is possible that the victim was being followed,” .

But investigators are warning against jumping to conclusions, adding it is too early to implicate Chechen groups in the shooting. “Given who Budanov was, the investigation cannot rule out that the murder was a provocation,” a source in the Investigative Committee as saying.


Memorial chairman Oleg Orlov said that a blood feud may have been behind the murder.

A blood feud is plausible as a motivation, but isn’t likely to be linked to Elza Kungayeva’s family, because Budanov had served a prison sentence for her murder, according to Alexander Cherkassov, one of the heads of Memorial who has closely studied human rights abuses in Chechnya.

“But by far not everyone who has suffered at the hands of Budanov’s unit has seen justice done,” Cherkassov said. “For instance, his unit is responsible for least seven people disappearing in January 2000. Orders for four of those people had been issued by Budanov personally,” Chekassov said, citing Budanov’s subordinates.

Elza’s father, Visa Kungayev, who now lives in Norway, has denied that Budanov’s death had anything to do with his daughter. “Other people do not need to take revenge for my daughter, and they would not do it,” he was quoted as saying. “And I am in Norway with my family, I found out about this from journalists.”

Nor does he believe that Chechen revenge is behind the murder. “This is something else, the investigators will find out. A dog gets a dog’s death,”.

Rights activists in Chechnya also doubt that Chechens could have taken revenge on Budanov.

“There is no revenge,” Mikhail Yezhiyev, head of the Chechen Human Rights Center, and a former representative of the Kungayev family, told The Moscow News. “From the military environment Budanov had entered a civilian environment. Perhaps he was connected to criminal groups. If Chechens wanted to take revenge on him, they would have done it while he was serving time in the prison colony.”

The Markelov connection

Stanislav Markelov, the lawyer who was gunned down in Moscow in 2009, had represented Kungayeva’s family and was shot shortly after attending a press conference on Budanov’s early parole.

Ultranationalists Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgeniya Khasis were convicted of the murder last month.

With nationalist groups blaming the Chechens for Budanov’s death, some have warned ofpending unrest in response to Budanov’s murder. And quoted Markelov’s brother, Mikhail, as saying that the murder itself could have been a provocation to provoke further unrest.

“[Stanislav] Markelov had said before his death that Budanov’s early parole isn’t in his own best interests,” Cherkasov informed. “It would have been better for him to serve out his term. Otherwise, the government was giving out a signal that there is no law.”

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