Ex-Russian officer who killed Chechen shot dead

June 10, 2011 - 6:59 AM
Russia Budanov Killed

Police officers and investigators stand near a body of Yuri Budanov in Moscow, Russia, Friday, June 10, 2011. Russian investigators say that Yuri Budanov, convicted of murdering a teenage Chechen woman, has been gunned down in central Moscow on Friday, June 10, 2011. Col. Yuri Budanov was convicted in 2003 of murdering 18-year-old Heda Kungayeva in 2000. (AP Photo/Sergey Ponomarevl)

MOSCOW (AP) — A disgraced Russian army colonel convicted of murdering a Chechen teenager was gunned down contract-style in downtown Moscow Friday, investigators said.

Yuri Budanov was sentenced to 10 years in jail for kidnapping and murdering 18-year-old Heda Kungayeva in 2000. His release on parole in 2009 sparked protests in Chechnya, but was cheered by Russian ultranationalists and neo-Nazis.

An unidentified assassin fired several shots into Budanov's head as the 48-year-old ex-colonel walked out of a notary office on a central Moscow street, Russia's top investigative agency said.

The assassin left a gun with a silencer in a car that was found several blocks away from the murder site, the Investigative Committee said.

Budanov was one of only a handful of Russian officers to be prosecuted over what rights groups say were widespread atrocities during two separatist wars in Chechnya.

Rights groups said he received more lenient treatment than some people convicted of nonviolent crimes, showing authorities' tacit acceptance of human rights abuses in Chechnya and neighboring provinces in the Caucasus region.

During the trial, Budanov said he strangled Kungayeva in a fit of rage, believing she was a rebel sniper. Lawyers for the woman's family also accused him of raping and torturing her, but the charges were later dropped.

After his 2003 conviction, Budanov was stripped of his rank and awards.

A respected human rights group said a vendetta was one of the possible reasons behind the murder.

"It could have been revenge for crimes he committed while serving in Chechnya," the group's chairman, Oleg Orlov, told the Interfax news agency.

The group has long claimed that Budanov was involved in kidnapping of at least seven other Chechen civilians, four of whom were found dead with traces of torture. A 2009 trial cleared Budanov of those charges.