Rule of Law Institute
  Budanov's Case


The Yury Budanov case continues to test the Russian judicial system's ability to bring to justice Russian servicemen accused of atrocities against Chechen civilians. The case is still proceeding at a glacial pace; the latest hearing was delayed until May 26 after Budanov's new lawyer, Aleksei Dulimov, told the court that he is not feeling well. According to the Novosti news agency, neurosurgeons are to examine Budanov during the delay to see whether old head wounds from previous military action may have affected his mental health. (It was on mental health grounds that, in December, a court held Budanov to be exempt from criminal responsibility for his admitted killing of an 18-year-old Chechen girl. He was accused of raping her as well.) Thus, more than three years after the death of Heda
Kungaeva, the court may now be given a new justification for finding her killer not guilty by reason of insanity.


Also postponed until May 26 is discussion of Budanov's psychiatric examinations, both those past and those (possibly) to come. A May 12 session of the military court of the Northern Caucasus Okrug, based in Rostov, decided to require a new psychiatric examination in addition to the three that have already been conducted. But presiding judge Vladimir  Bukreev failed to resolve the most controversial question about the new examination: Who should perform it? The lawyer representing Kungaeva's family, Abdula Khamzaev, rejects the validity of two previous examinations that were performed by the Serbsky Institute, notorious during the Soviet years for its false diagnoses of dissidents as mentally ill. Instead, Khamzaev wants the court to assign the new examination to a state hospital
in St. Petersburg.


Bukreev was given jurisdiction of the case after Russia's Supreme Court ruled in February that it should be retried. After an outcry of protests both within Russia and abroad, the Supreme Court had overruled the New Year's Eve verdict of Bukreev's colleagues on the Rostov court. They had said that Budanov was not criminally responsible for his killing of Kungaeva on mental-health grounds (see Chechnya Weekly, January 22, 2003).


The first court hearing under Bukreev, which took place on April 9, was observed by Anna Politkovskaya, who commented in Novaya gazeta on April 17 that it "revealed some nasty symptoms that are already painfully familiar." She wrote that Budanov, sitting in the defender's dock, "openly threatened with inescapable reprisals" both the Kungaev family and their lawyer, Khamzaev. "In response, Judge Bukreev not only failed to stop the unacceptable behavior of the accused but behaved more like a teacher's aide in a kindergarten trying to soothe a naughty child; he tried to satisfy Budanov in every way possible and even looked for opportunities to exclude from the proceedings the lawyer whom Budanov so hates, Khamzaev."


While the Kugayevs and their sympathizers are appealing to international opinion, Budanov seems to be counting on popular pressure within Russia. His new lawyer, Dulimov, announced on April 9 that the former officer of a crack tank regiment had decided to mount a hunger strike to protest the retrial. (More recent media accounts have said nothing about this hunger strike, and as of May 20 it was not clear whether it was still on-going.) Budanov has been in jail continuously since his arrest in March 2003. Even after his court victory in December, the judges declined to release him pending the outcome of the current retrial. The delay is at least in part due to Budanov's and his lawyers' own choice of a mental-illness defense with its resulting series of psychiatric examinations. But the image of a Russian officer held in prison for years on end even though he has not been found guilty is sure to resonate among Russians who now rarely learn anything about the war in Chechnya except what the Putin administration wants them to.


In what looked like a sign of confidence that Russian public opinion will back him, Budanov used a non-verbal method to protest his retrial: He demonstratively plugged his ears with cotton and read a book during a brief May 7 court session. Judge Bukreev chose not to penalize him for contempt of court.


Budanov recently changed lawyers. Anatoly Mukhin told journalists last month that he had decided not to continue as the ex-colonel's defense counsel because of unspecified "technical" problems. On April 10, however, the website reported that Mukhin had said that he would continue to advise his replacement, Dulimov, and even to attend the most important court sessions. It was Dulimov who introduced the latest argument likely to cause further delay: He told Interfax on April 9 that Budanov has been suffering lately from an old grenade wound, shrapnel from which is still in his body.




The next step, also clearly intended to take advantage of Russia's political climate, was for Dulimov to file a petition for a jury trial. (For the previous three years the Budanov case had been entirely in the hands of professional judges, as are most criminal trials in Russia, where the institution of juries is still a relative novelty.) Stanislav Markelov, former counsel to the Kungaev family, commented on this tactic as follows: "Having no legal arguments, Budanov's lawyers are trying to use publicity to influence public opinion--especially since it is taking place in the south, where the attitude of the majority of population toward ethnic Chechens is downright biased."


If a new psychiatric exam is unavoidable, Budanov's lawyer is likely to press for it to be conducted by the Serbsky Institute, which continues to produce findings favorable to the defendant. reported that "according to the latest reports of the Serbsky Institute experts, after three years behind bars...the colonel's mental health, ailing as it was, has been virtually ruined. The uncertainty is making him contemplate taking his own life." A similar view was expressed to Izvestia by the chief psychiatrist of the southern federal okrug.


Nezavisimaya gazeta reported on May 13 that, at the request of the Kungaevs' lawyer, Khamzaev, the court has now ordered another type of specialized consultation. Experts on handwriting are to compare documents written by Budanov shortly after the murder with older texts from his hand, in order to look for signs of psychological changes.


In an interview published in Novaya gazeta on April 10, Khamzaev told Anna Politkovskaya that he would oppose Budanov's appeal for a jury trial, on the grounds that it is now too late for the defendant to file such an appeal under the requirements of Russia's criminal code. Under prodding from the journalist, who observed that this reasoning seemed rather formalistic, Khamzaev was careful to refrain from accusing the local citizenry of chauvinism. But he agreed that Budanov seemed to be counting on a jury that would consist only of members from Rostov Oblast. He suggested that it would be better to appoint jurors from the entire Northern Caucasus Military Okrug--including Chechnya.


Khamzaev said that he would also renew his appeals, repeatedly refused by Judge Bukreev's predecessor, Viktor Kostin, for the court to summon such witnesses as the mayor of the village of Duba-Yurt. Budanov has claimed that before the murder the mayor had given him a photograph showing one men and two women holding sniper rifles. (According to Budanov, he shot the young Kungaeva woman because he thought she was a sniper who had been killing his troops.)


Another important witness, said Khamzaev, is a former Duba-Yurt resident named Ramzan Sembiev, who, according to Budanov, had told him that snipers were living on the village's outskirts. "We found this a prison in Dagestan, and we asked Judge Kostin to summon him as a witness, but the answer was 'refused,' [because] 'this is not relevant to the case.'" Other witnesses who should be summoned, he said, include several officers who were present when Budanov was arrested in March 2000, including one who was still insisting nine months later that he was convinced that Budanov had raped the Chechen woman.


Khamzaev conceded that Budanov has not managed to escape all punishment for Kungaeva's death--after all, he is now entering his fourth year behind bars. But he insisted that the Budanov case is an exception: "His crime was discovered and became an object of universal scrutiny only by accident. Usually everything works out quite differently: Russian troops are allowed by all possible methods to escape responsibility for their actions."


The lawyer recalled an episode in April 2002, when Russian soldiers conducting a "special operation" near the village of Dai stopped a car, killed its six civilian passengers and burned their bodies. Two of the officers involved, Lieutenant Aleksandr Kalagansky and Ensign Vladimir Voyevodin, spent nine months in jail awaiting trial but were then automatically released under the condition that they promise not to leave the Moscow Oblast. In effect their situation is now better than ever, since previously they had been serving in remote Buryatia. During his entire legal career of four decades, said Khamzaev, he had not come across any other case in which someone accused of deliberate murder with aggravating circumstances had been allowed to remain free merely by pledging not to leave the area.


Politkovskaya asked the lawyer if he would be able to give an internationa tribunal examples of other cases in which Russian prosecutors failed to bring cases against criminals because they were military personnel. "As many as you like," he answered. "These days there are hundreds of such cases."


22 May 2003 Source: Chechnya Weekly May 2003, Volume IV, Issue 18,




Budanov's legal opponents divided


Stanislav Markelov, one of the lawyers of the Kungayev family – the aggrieved party in the famous Budanov trial – will no longer participate in the case. The Chechen family’s other lawyer, Abdulla Khamzayev, has wanted to see the back of Markelov for months though he gave no explanation as to why.


Whatever the reason, the row is likely to lead to more delays in a case that has already dragged on for almost three years ''I take part in the processes where participation brings practical benefit, where I see that my actions can bring some practical result. I am reluctant to be a simple decoration in the process,'' Stanislav Markelov told the press.


It is not easy to guess the true meaning of his words from reports. One could get the impression that the move is a protest against the authorities’ intention to justify the killer colonel, but the real reason is, in fact, different. After personal intervention by the Russian Prosecutor General, the process has taken on an unfavourable hue for Budanov.


The court ordered a new psychiatric examination which ought to dispel all the doubts about Budanov’s sanity at the time he strangled 18-year old Elza Kungayeva and therefore in the inevitability of a criminal prosecution.


Experts of the Moscow Serbsky institute of Judicial Medicine completed the investigation three months ago and its results were sent to the Rostov-on-Don court where the hearings are being conducted.


The court should have had its first session on November 19 after a lengthy break, but it was postponed yet again after the head of the Health Ministry Yuri Shevchenko demanded the papers be drawn up differently.


The Kungayevs’ lawyers, including Markelov, suggested it was a trap. Budanov’s lawyers were simply outraged. Both sides are sure that the specialists’ verdict will be corrected from the political point of view.


Tatiana Dmitriyeva, the director of the Serbsky Institute has objected to this, claiming that not a single comma will be added to their conclusion. The withdrawal of the paper was caused simply by the demands of the newly adopted criminal procedure code – it must be signed by all the members of the medical commission.


Now, the document has been sent back to Rostov again. The next court hearings have been scheduled for December 16. They will start by announcing the doctors’ conclusions and from that point on it will be clear if Yuri Budanov can count on a lenient sentence from the court, trying him for premeditated murder.


On Tuesday morning, however, Stanislav Markelov announced his decision to stop representing the family of the murdered Chechen girl after he had received a telegram from the victim’s father Visa Kungayev.


''I had between five and seven such telegrams in the course of the case,'' Markelov complained, ''and every time Kungayev arrived at the hearings his opinions had changed again.''


Relations between the lawyers of the Chechen family are complicated. The court hearings have lasted since February 2001 and Markelov got involved only this May.


This October, Markelov for the first time announced that the leading defence layer, ethnic Chechen Abdulla Khamzayev intended to remove him from the process. ''Khamzayev wants to turn the case into a nationalist one and a Russian lawyer is an obstacle for him,'' Markelov said.


''At that time, I had just started on the case and was extremely surprised by my client,'' Markelov told reporters on Tuesday. ''It was even stranger if we recall that I had been recommended to the Kungayev’s by Human Rights organizations and they had nothing against this…''


Markelov said that at first he simply ignored the aggravated party’s requests, just like Judge Viktor Kostin who was unhappy with Visa Kungayev’s refusals to appear at the hearings (Kungayev suffers from TB). Nevertheless, contradictory telegrams kept coming and now Markelov says he is sure that the elderly Chechen’s persistency was actually prompted by the lawyer Khamzayev: ''Personally I always wanted this process to be transferred from the national-political sphere to a purely judicial one so that the trial could end as soon as possible and for the truth to prevail. Khamzayev, on the contrary, is attempting by all means possible to politicize this crime which is actually quite common for an army at war.''


Khamzayev refused to comment on his colleague’s withdrawal. ''The decision to withdraw Markelov has been taken personally by my client and I would not like to comment on it,'' the Chechen lawyer told the Kommersant daily newspaper. However, one bitter accusation slipped off Khamzayev’s tongue: ''He (Markelov) did not even open the materials of the case.''


The Russian lawyer replied to this accusation before it was actually made - in a May interview with Gazeta.Ru Markelov said that he studied all 18 volumes of the case and intended to make a judicial analysis. This was probably not in the interest of both his Chechen client and colleague.


by Artyom Vernidub 


Source:, 26 November 2002


Yury Budanov no more needs advocates


Colonel Yury Budanov refuses from advocates: he has it enough of protecting himself, he can no more stand endless slowdown of the legal proceedings. This was stated yesterday, at the session of North-Caucasian Military Court by Budanov accused of murdering a Chechen girl Elza Kungaeva March 27, 2000, in Tangi settlement. Budaynov’s speech was harsh and emotional, though the court did not considered the colonel’s application. That was probably the statement of Kungaev’s father, which exasperated Budanov. Yesterday, the court considered his wire asking from postponing the trial for some indefinite time (Visa Kungaev is in hospital now, but he would like to personally attend at the legal proceedings). Kungaev also noticed that he has what to say about the defendant: according to his information, Budanov “deceives the court.” Moreover, the new advocate of the suffered side, Lyudmila Tikhomirova, also proposes to put off the trial. She intends to defend interests of the victim’s mother, Roza Bashaeva. Though, at first Tikhomirova should study numerous materials of the case. Shortly, Stanislav Markelov became the Kungaevs’ advocate, who also proposed to putt off the trial. Apropos, Markelov asked to add to the case’s materials the documents he had gathered, proving the conclusion of the forensic expert commission had been baseless, which acknowledged Budanov to be irresponsible at the moment of committing the crime. As a result, one more pause was declared in the trial. This time, next session is fixed for June 3. ORT presents opinion of Yury Budanov’s lawyers who state that the yesterday’s statement of his client was a kind of protest against the suffered side multiplying the number of its advocates. In the meanwhile, the legal proceedings against colonel Budanov could have in interesting development. The director of Serbsky Social and Forensic Medicine Centre, academician of Russian Academy of Science Tatyana Dmitrieva sent a letter to intermunicipal public prosecutor’s office of Moscow, asking to institute proceedings. It turned out that the Centre’s leadership had “possessed operative information that colonel Budanov could have been kidnapped or killed during the expert examination.” According to Dmitrieva quoted as saying by RIA ‘Novosti’, “anonymous telephone calls arrived in the institute.” The unknown people hinted at carrying out the expert examination to be “dangerous.” As a result, within only one month, while Budanov was examined, all the centre’s territory was guarded by the police. That anonymous calls were probably just a kind of revenge or some unknown people wanted to intimidate the experts examining colonel Yury Budanov…

by Sergei Yugov

Source: 28.05.2002,;



Yury Budanov is waiting for his sentence


The trial of colonel Yury Budanov, who is indicted for murdering Chechen girl Elza Kungayev, will continue next Monday, April 27. Stanislav Markelov, the Kungayevs’ new lawyer, is supposed to become familiar with the files of Budanov's case. The former lawyer, Abdullah Khamzayev, is surprised with Kungayevs’ new attorney. Khamzayev claimed that he did not break the contract, but simply asked the court to delay the consideration of the case until he recovers. Khamzayev has no idea who hired the new lawyer, because Kungayev’s father is in the TB hospital in Nazran (Ingushetia’s capital) and her mother never comes to attend court sessions. It seems that Markelov came to the court and appointed himself as the Kungayevs’ lawyer. However, there was a telegram read out during the litigation about the change of the lawyer; the telegram was signed by the aggrieved party.


If Budanov is set free, they are not likely to understand this in Chechnya. Elza Kungayev is an innocent victim for Chechens, and such a decision would de facto imply the obvious innocence of military men. This is exactly what Russian media outlets believe. The state acknowledged that it was unable to stop looters and commission military chiefs to consider Chechen civilians as the people of full value. On the other hand, the soldiers have their own truth. The Russian army totally supports Budanov. He is an honest and brave military man, so no matter what he did, he shouldn't be in prison.


Colonel Budanov’s guilt can be estimated objectively only on the basis of the total picture of what is going on in Chechnya. Chechen gunmen make videos about the war: countless executions of Russian soldiers and of their mothers who go to Chechnya to seek their sons. Sometimes Russian military men find these tapes. Russian journalist Yury Yuryev wrote about one of them: “A Russian soldier is lying on his left side tied up. There is a Chechen guerrilla bending over him and holding a big knife in his hand. He lifts the soldier’s head and starts cutting it off, but not completely. The head stops moving, but the body is convulsing. A younger bandit wants to shoot the body dead, but the cutthroat says, “Don’t!". Then, they drag the soldier's convulsing body to a grave and bury him alive there.”


A lot of people who see that truth of the Chechen war cannot handle it and have nervous breakdowns, even military men. A lot of men, who served in Chechnya, cannot return home to lead a peaceful life, many of them have the so-called “Chechen syndrome.” Therefore, such people think that Budanov’s crime (he choked the Chechen girl in a fit of rage) pales in comparison. Why is it that a Russian colonel has been in jail for three years already, but the leaders of the Chechen terrorists are still free and their gunmen are trying to win the confidence of the Chechen government


There has recently been some law and order established in Chechnya, to put in mildly, of course. This is not about Budanov or about his crime; this is about the government and the policy that this government is running. Budanov’s defense believes that the colonel will not be set free. The most important thing now is to properly estimate the extent of Budanov’s guilt and issue the adequate punishment.


The colonel’s lawyer, Anatoly Mukhin, has said that “Budanov was supposed to have his military service restricted due to the many shellshocks that he survived. A medical committee was supposed to carry out an examination and come to a conclusion, but they did not do it."


Therefore, Budanov was serving in Chechnya. Medical experts concluded that he was under the influence of the temporary insanity during the moment of his crime. Then, there is another question: how could he have been appointed commander of a regiment then?


This is a question to the state, this is a problem of the state, and the state realizes this. That is why it cannot convict colonel Budanov, a man that was sent to war. Some people think that the best way out of the situation would be to convict the colonel, but then grant him a pardon. This is like “good for you, and good for me.”

by Sergey Stefanov

Source: PRAVDA.Ru, 21.05.2002


Colonel Budanov’s trial can be suspended


The aggrieved party in colonel Budanov’s case uses any chance to delay the proceedings and keep the colonel detained as long as only possible. The colonel is charged with raping and murder of Chechen girl Elza Kungayeva. Parents of the girl plan to change the attorney. Yury Budanov’s defense treats the plan as an attempt to delay the legal proceedings.


Hearing of the case was resumed after almost a year-long break in Rostov-on-Don yesterday. The Vremya Novostei Russian newspaper informs, now the trial can be suspended for an uncertain period once again. New attorney of the Kungayevs’, Stanislav Markelov, will need enough time to study details of the criminal case.


Meanwhile, the forensic medical expertise revealed that colonel Budanov had been irresponsible at the moment of murder. Thus, as medical experts say, in accordance with the RF Criminal Code, the colonel can not be given to a trial; he will have only to undergo out-patient treatment in the area of his own residence.


Today the Rostov court continues examining results of medical expertise on Elza Kungayeva’s body. Answer to one of the most important questions has been already given: the girl had not been raped as was originally stated. Alexey Dulimov, Yury Budanov’s attorney says, “this fact exonerates colonel Budanov of the rape charge.” As the expertise revealed, the girl died of asphyxia. Earlier the aggrieved party insisted, the girl had been buried being still alive.


The Russkaya Liniya (Russian Line) news agency gives its own version of the situation: “the story depicts the authorities and President Putin personally in an ambiguous light. On the one hand, it was perfectly clear Chechnya wanted to turn Budanov’s case into a trial on Russia’s belligerent army that waged a war under conditions when no war at all was officially declared. That supposed, any commander could be brought to trial for abuse of authority. If colonel Budanov were convicted, President Putin would possibly lose his prestige among Russian officers, especially those who were at that war. On the other hand, Putin would have a talk with protesting Europe in case the colonel was acquitted. And suddenly a way out was found: the expertise concluded the colonel had been irresponsible. At the same time, we can not say for sure, whether there are sane people at all at wars.”


It is to be added here, colonel Budanov already spent almost three years in jail waiting for a court decision.

by Sergey Yugov

Source: PRAVDA.Ru, 17.05.2002



Amnesty Looms for Killer Colonel



Of late the court has taken a dim view of the actions by the Kungayevs' lawyer Stanislav Markelov and turned down his numerous appeals.

Now all that remains for the family's lawyers to do is to sum up, and at their request that has been put off until Wednesday. Markelov was not available for comment and it remains to be seen how he can stave off a 'not guilty' verdict.

Yesterday, however, he told journalists that already at the summing up stage the Chechen side had nothing to hope for: "Any legal move from our side is absolutely senseless. There is a huge amount of papers that still have not been looked at, and our addresses can only be compared to a situation when a man with a copy of the Criminal Code is waving it among a group of savages. Of course nobody will listen to him. They will just eat him."

If Markelov and the first advocate of the Kungayevs, Abdulla Khamzayev, do not speak for very long tomorrow (though this is unlikely), then Budanov could be released there and then.


Source: 30 August 2001, Gazeta.Ru,





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