Russian colonel who killed Chechen girl is shot dead

Yuri Budanov in court, 22 Apr 03 Yuri Budanov's two-year trial took place in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don

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A Russian colonel who was jailed for murdering a Chechen teenager has been shot dead in central Moscow.

Yuri Budanov was killed on Friday by an unidentified gunman on Komsomolsky Prospekt, a busy avenue in the capital, state prosecutors said.

In 2003 a court upheld his 10-year jail sentence for strangling an 18-year-old girl in war-torn Chechnya in 2000.

But he was released early from jail in January 2009 - a move that angered human rights activists.

Russian media say the gunman, wearing a blue jacket and hood, attacked Budanov at about 1230 (0830 GMT), shooting him six times with a pistol, then fled by car.

The Mitsubishi Lancer getaway car was later found abandoned and on fire, the reports said. A pistol and silencer were found inside.

High-profile case
Mother of victim Elza Kungayeva - 2001 file photo Kungayeva's mother Roza Bashayeva moved to a refugee camp in Ingushetia

The Budanov trial was big news in Russia, where very few officers have been prosecuted over abuses committed during Russia's two campaigns against Chechen separatist rebels.

He was the only senior officer to be jailed for crimes committed in Chechnya.

He was found guilty of the kidnapping and strangling of Elza Kungayeva in 2000. An allegation that he had also raped her was dropped.

The murder provoked outrage in Chechnya, where many civilians have died at the hands of Russian forces and the local pro-Moscow militia, during the long war against rebels.

At his re-trial in 2003 Budanov accused Russian media of having swayed the judge, insisting that he was "a Russian soldier who defended his country for the past 20 years".

Budanov was acquitted at his first trial in December 2002, when the court accepted his plea that he had been temporarily insane at the time of the killing.

But the Russian supreme court ordered a re-trial, where he was found to have been of sound mind at the time. He was found guilty and stripped of his rank and the Order of Courage, which he had won in breakaway Chechnya.

Budanov told the court he believed that Kungayeva was a Chechen sniper and that a fit of rage had come over him as he interrogated her.

The lawyer representing Kungayeva's family, Stanislav Markelov, was shot dead in Moscow in January 2009, along with a journalist, Anastasia Baburova, who was with him at the time.

Last month a court in Moscow sentenced a Russian nationalist to life imprisonment for the double murder. His partner was also jailed.

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