Russia arrests 'killer of notorious Chechnya colonel'

26th August 2011, Comments 0 comments

Russia has arrested a Chechen man suspected of murdering Russian army colonel Yuri Budanov who notoriously strangled to death an 18-year-old Chechen girl in 2000, officials said Friday.

Magomed Suleimanov was charged with murder and placed under arrest until October 26, the spokeswoman of Moscow's Presnensky court said in a statement to Russian news agencies. It was not clear when the arrest had been made.

The spokeswoman, Olga Sutyapova, said Suleimanov was a resident of Chechnya born in 1970.

Budanov had been convicted of the horrific murder in 2000 in Chechnya of Elza Kungayeva but was regarded as a nationalist hero by extremists and had been released early from jail.

The girl's strangling was seen as a notorious symbol of the abuses committed by the Russian military in the Kremlin's second war against separatist rebels in Chechnya.

Budanov was murdered by a gunman who pumped four bullets into his skull on June 10 in southwest Moscow as he emerged from an office building.

The Interfax news agency quoted a security source as saying that the most likely motive of the murder was "revenge for the death of Elza Kungayeva" although other theories were also being examined.

Another source emphasised that while Suleimanov had been charged with murder, the mastermind of the killing and another murder accomplice had yet to be identified.

"M. Suleimanov acted in the interests of an unidentified individual and entered into a criminal pact with another unknown person to kill Yuri Budanov," the source told Interfax.

The killing had been claimed in a July video message by Doku Umarov, the current head of the rebellion in Chechnya who has eluded numerous attempts by Russia to capture or kill him.

Budanov was released from jail in January 2009 after serving only part of his 10-year sentence for Kungayeva's murder, a move that provoked angry protests by Russian rights activists.

Charges of raping Elza Kungayeva were dropped during the trial although activists still believe there was firm forensic evidence to convict Budanov on this count.

Just days after his release from jail, a masked gunman killed human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov as he was emerging from a news conference protesting Budanov's return to freedom.

Anastasia Baburova, a young journalist working on opposition newspaper Novaya Gazeta, was killed alongside Markelov in one of the most shocking killings in Russia in recent years.

© 2011 AFP

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