Russia tries to make sense of Chechnya colonel murder

Russia tries to make sense of Chechnya colonel murder

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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