| MOSCOW (AP) - The fate of an army colonel convicted of
murdering a Chechen
woman will be decided by President Vladimir Putin following a Russian
governor's decision to support pardoning the officer, Russian media reported
Ulyanovsk Gov. Vladimir Shamanov gave his backing to a regional commission's
recommendation to pardon Col. Yuri Budanov, sending the case forward to
Kremlin for Putin's endorsement, Interfax said, citing defense lawyer
The Ulyanovsk region in the Volga area is where Budanov is serving a
sentence for the kidnapping and murder of 18-year-old Heda Kungayeva,
Budanov accused of being a sniper; its governor was Budanov's former
commanding officer in Chechnya.
"Even now I think that the sentence upon Budanov was not fair and
injustice must be corrected," Astakhov was quoted as saying.
Human rights groups have criticized the effort to pardon Budanov, the
Russian officer prosecuted for a crime against a civilian in Chechnya.
Officials in Chechnya also reacted angrily, with the late Chechen President
Akhmad Kadyrov's powerful son, Ramzan Kadyrov, telling Interfax: "The
Ulyanovsk commission's decision is like spitting on the soul of the
long-suffering Chechen people."
Budanov's trial was widely watched in Russia and abroad for a signal
the military would handle reports of abuses in Chechnya, which have
undermined the Kremlin's efforts to build trust in the war-ravaged republic.
Rights groups say killings of Chechen civilians by Russian soldiers
common, and they have called for more prosecutions.
Pardoning Budanov "would send a wrong signal to the military personnel
are part of the Chechnya operations and would not help improve the human
rights situation," Alexander Petrov, deputy director of Human Rights
Watch's Moscow office, was quoted as saying by Interfax.
Russia's human rights ombudsman, Vladimir
Lukin, said he would advise the president against pardoning Budanov.
The prosecutor's office in the Ulyanovsk region also said it believes
it would be unhelpful to pardon Budanov now, the Interfax news agency
Dmitry Kozak, Putin's newly appointed representative for southern Russia,
indicated in an interview on Russian state-run television Sunday that
could back the pardon.
"We have announced several amnesties for the other party to the
members of illegal armed units, and it is quite possible that there are
grounds" for Budanov's amnesty, Interfax quoted Kozak as saying.