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Prosecutor: Russian Colonel Should be Found Guilty For Killing


A Russian prosecutor says an army colonel accused of murdering a Chechen civilian should be sentenced to three years in prison but be eligible for immediate amnesty. The trial is seen as a test of Russia's commitment to cracking down on army human rights abuses in Chechnya.

The prosecutor said Colonel Yuri Budanov should be found guilty of abducting and killing an 18-year-old Chechen woman. But prosecutor Sergei Nazarov said that since psychiatrists found Colonel Budanov insane at the time of the killing, it cannot be considered murder.

Mr. Nazarov said experts had agreed that the officer could not realize what he was doing at the time of the killing, so he should be cleared of the murder charges.

The prosecutor called for a three year prison sentence on lesser charges of abusing his office, but said the soldier should receive immediate amnesty. Russian television reported a court decision could be made as soon as Wednesday.

Colonel Budanov is the first Russian officer to be accused of military crimes in the breakaway Russian region of Chechnya.

He confessed to killing the Chechen woman, Elza Kungayeva, but said she was a sniper working for Chechen separatists fighting Russian soldiers in Chechnya. He said he killed the woman in a fit of rage as he was interrogating her.

Ms. Kungayeva's parents and lawyers deny she was a sniper and said she was dragged from her home in the middle of the night, raped and then killed by a group of drunken Russian soldiers. They also said the doctors who found the officer insane at the time of the killing were under heavy government pressure.

Human rights organizations and people in Chechnya have been paying close attention to the Budanov case. They say it is an indicator of whether Moscow is serious about cracking down on alleged human rights abuses in Chechnya.

Chechen citizens and human-rights officials accuse the Russian military of regularly abducting, torturing, and killing civilians in the region.

Russian forces have been fighting Chechen separatists for control of Chechnya for almost three-years. While Moscow said it has the situation under control, Russian soldiers die almost daily in rebel ambushes or mine explosions.

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