Budanov in the courtroom on his trial
24 November 1963|
Khartsyzk, Donetsk oblast, Ukrainian SSR
|Died||10 June 2011
|Service/branch||Armoured Troops of the Russian Ground Forces|
|Years of service||1987 – 2003|
|Rank||Guards Colonel (stripped)|
|Unit||160th Guards Tank Regiment|
|Battles/wars||First Chechen War, Second Chechen War|
Yuri Dmitrievich Budanov (Russian: Ю́рий Дми́триевич Буда́нов; IPA: [ˈjurʲɪj ˈdmʲitrʲɪjɪvʲɪt͡ɕ bʊˈdanəf]; 24 November 1963 – 10 June 2011) was a Russian military officer convicted by a Russian court of kidnapping and murder in Chechnya.
Budanov was highly controversial in Russia: despite the conviction, Budanov enjoyed widespread support of Russian households as polled by public opinion. At the same time, he was broadly hated in Chechnya, even by the pro-Russian Chechens. In December 2008, a court in the south Russian Ulyanovsk Oblast granted a petition for early release. After eight years in prison (of the ten years he was sentenced), he was released on parole on 15 January 2009.
Budanov was born in 1963 in Khartsyzk, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union. He graduated from the Tank Military School in Kharkiv and went on officer career in the Soviet Army, particularly, serving with the Soviet base in Hungary.
At the fall of the Soviet Union, Budanov was serving in Belarus, but he refused Belarusian citizenship and was transferred to the Siberian Military District, and then to Chechnya. In 1999 Budanov graduated from the military academy, receiving the rank of Guards Colonel.
According to the father of Budanov's victim, Budanov's tank regiment had been encamped just outside Tangi-Chu since February 2000, and Budanov himself had a notorious reputation among villagers. About ten days before the murder, Budanov reportedly arbitrarily searched and looted several homes in Tangi Chu, and two days before the incident he reportedly looted and threatened to torch several other homes.
From 2001 to 2003, Russian courts tried Colonel Yuri Budanov on the charges of March 27, 2000, kidnapping, rape (an allegation later withdrawn by the prosecution) and brutal murder of Elza Kungaeva, an 18-year-old Chechen woman whom Budanov alleged of being a sniper for Chechen rebels who were attacking his unit. He admitted killing her in a fit of rage, but denied the rape charges.
He was assassinated on 10 June 2011 in Moscow, Russia.
Colonel-General Anatoly Kvashnin, then chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, appeared on national television to announce to President Vladimir Putin and the nation the arrest of Budanov in the grisly case. Kvashnin accused Budanov of "humiliating" and murdering Kungayeva, and denounced the colonel's behavior as "barbaric and "disgraceful."
In a stark contrast, Lieutenant-General Vladimir Shamanov, who was Budanov's commanding officer, exhibited strong sympathy towards him. He said that Budanov was one of his best commanders and offered this challenge: "To [Budanov's] enemies I say: Don't put your paws on the image of a Russian soldier and officer."
The Chechen rebels offered to exchange nine recent OMON special police captives for Budanov. After the Russian side refused the offer, the prisoners were executed on the morning of April 4, 2000.
In relation to the case of Kungayeva, Budanov was charged with three crimes: kidnapping resulting in death, abuse of office accompanied by violence with serious consequences, and murder of an abductee. No charges have been brought expressly for the beating and torture Kungaeva endured prior to her death. He was also charged in the beating up a subordinate officer, threatening superior officers with a weapon, and other crimes.
Budanov claimed that he detained Kungaeva on suspicion of being a sniper, and that he killed her during interrogation. The investigation, however, reportedly found that no member of the Kungaev family had in any way been suspected of involvement in the anti-Russian activity.
Budanov used his official position and a combat vehicle to remove Kungaeva from her home, and detained Kungaeva at a military installation; he was thus charged with exceeding his official position with violence resulting in serious consequences, which is punishable by three to ten years of imprisonment (article 286.3 of the criminal code).
Lack of a rape prosecution
The forensic physician, a Captain in the Russian military medical service, found three tears in her hymen and one in the mucous membrane of her rectum, and the report concludes that she was penetrated anally and vaginally by a blunt object before death.
Three of Budanov's subordinates, Sergeants Li En Shou and Grigoriev and a Private Yegorev, were found responsible. Charges against all three were simultaneously brought and dropped under the May 26, 2000 amnesty law.
Witnesses included Yahyayev, the person in the town administration, who according to Budanov had given him the picture representing Chechen snipers. However, Yahyayev said he had given no such picture to Budanov. General Shamanov came to defend Budanov during trial. He expressed his solidarity with the defendant, as did Colonel-General Gennady Troshev and numerous other Russian soldiers and civilians who picketed the court. According to a poll, 50% of the Russians asked supported the demands of picketers to release Colonel Budanov from custody; 19% did not support these demands.
In a controversial decision, Budanov was initially found not guilty by reason of temporary insanity on December 31, 2002, and committed to a psychiatric hospital for further evaluation and the length of the treatment would have been decided by his doctor.
However, in the beginning of March 2003 the supreme court invalidated the sentence and ordered a new trial. This took place in the same place but with a new judge. The sentence of 10 years of imprisonment was given on July 25, 2003.
The judge who convicted Budanov, Vladimir Bukreyev, himself was convicted of bribe-taking and sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment on July 6, 2009.
On 21 September 2004, Shamanov, now the Ulyanovsk regional governor, signed a pardon for Yury Budanov; Interfax quoted the head of the Ulyanovsk pardons commission, Anatoly Zherebtsov, as saying that if Putin backed the recommendation, Budanov would also get back his military rank and awards.
The commission's decision sparked outrage in Chechnya. "Whether in jail or freed, Budanov will remain a person who has committed a grave crime, which took the life of an innocent girl," Taus Dzhabrailov, the head of Chechnya's parliament, told Interfax. Ramzan Kadyrov said: "The Ulyanovsk commission's decision is like spitting on the soul of the long-suffering Chechen people."  Kadyrov also made statements that "If any of Elza's friends should meet [Budanov] I don't want to predict how they will act. The Chechen people do not consider him to be a human being, and as a war criminal, he does not deserve to be. One might be able to forgive his crime to some extent if he had killed a man. But to sexually assault a girl cannot be forgiven. He is beneath contempt. He has brought shame on the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation."
In February 2006, a Russian prison official announced that Budanov, who was serving his 10-year sentence, might be released early on good behaviour. The Chechen regional branch of the United Russia party addressed the State Duma and the Russian President with a request not to grant amnesty to Yuri Budanov. The same month, on the petition of Budanov's advocate, with account of good behaviour of the inmate, the former colonel was removed from the strict custody colony to a settlement-colony.
On 24 December 2008, a court granted him a release on parole. This was the fifth attempt by Budanov's lawyers to obtain him a release on licence. Four applications before that were rejected. Victim's lawyers appealed to overturn the decision (thus the delay in release), but without success. Budanov was released on 15 January 2009, 15 months before completion of his conviction term. The decision was protested by Chechnya's human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nukhazhiyev, who accused Russian judges of "double standards" with regard to Russians and Chechens.
The lawyer for the Kungayeva family, Stanislav Markelov, who had attempted a last-minute appeal against the release of Budanov, was shot dead in Moscow on 19 January 2009 along with Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old journalist for Novaya Gazeta. However, the investigation of Markelov's murder showеd in November 2009 that the murder was probably unrelated to this case, but committed by Neo-Nazis as a revenge for Markelov's support of Marxist activists as a lawyer.
Assassination and funeral
Yuri Budanov was assassinated around 11:30 on 10 June 2011 in central Moscow (Hamovniki, Komsomolski prospekt), Russia. Six silenced shots were fired, four of which struck Budanov in the head. The killer escaped in a car driven by an accomplice. The car was subsequently found partially burned several blocks from the site of the attack. A gun believed to be a Makarov PM was found with a silencer inside the car. Budanov's wife witnessed the assassination and was held by Russian authorities. Russian police investigators commented that the attack was carefully planned and they considered blood revenge as one of the likely motives. One witness to the murder described the driver of the car from which the six shots were fired as being of Slavic appearance. Dokku Umarov claimed responsibility for the assassination as he sat by the commander of the Riyadus-Salikhiyn Brigade saying "I am addressing you today about a joyous occasion: yesterday, on 10 June, Allah by his will brought us a great celebration, punishing one of the sadists, the reprobate, the killer Budanov. The same fate, the same revenge awaits the others. Let these celebrations happen more often for Muslims." Upon the release of a video by Umarov, one of the investigators in the case said that "We have been expecting this kind of statement for a long time because the 'Chechen version' is one of the main ones we are working with. Nevertheless, these types of terrorist statements will not alter the course of our probe. We are studying all the leads."
His funeral was attended by such Russian right-winged leaders as Vladimir Zhirinovsky and accompanied by a three-gun salute. The Moscow police were report to have made a dozen arrests immediately before closing most of the investigation to the press.
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- (Russian)Следствие: Буданов мог стать жертвой кровной мести
- (Russian)Следственный комитет: водителем машины с убийцами Буданова был человек «славянской внешности»
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