The military prosecutor of the North Caucasus Military District has completed the investigation of Yury Budanov, commander of the 160th tank regiment. Budanov was charged in March of last year with premeditated murder, kidnapping and exceeding his authority in carrying out acts of violence. Along with Colonel Budanov, his subordinate, Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan Federov, the 160th tank regiment’s chief of staff, is also facing trial in the North Caucasus Military District’s military court. Federov is accused of exceeding his authority in using weaponry. Investigators have established that on the day that Budanov allegedly murdered a young Chechen woman, Federov ordered a training exercise involved firing live rounds into the woman’s village, Tangi. One home was destroyed in the incident (Russian agencies, February 8).
On March 27, 2000, Colonel Budanov arrived in the village of Tangi, where he abducted the 18-year-old Chechen woman, Elza, and brought her back to where his unit was located. There, according to Russian and foreign press reports, he raped her, after which he strangled her and order his soldiers to bury the body. Budanov’s crimes were strongly condemned by the Defense Ministry leadership: Anatoly Kvashnin, head of the Russian military’s general staff, publicly called Budanov “the dregs, which must be removed by its roots from our army collective.”
It is rather telling that a number of influential Russian newspapers have come out in defense of Budanov, claiming that the investigators found that the colonel did not rape the girl before killing her and that she was actually a rebel sniper. The newspaper Izvestia reported that Budanov, who had served throughout the entire Chechen military campaign without being replaced, had been decorated for bravery. Izvestia basically excused Budanov, writing that he “acted not according to the logic of the Geneva Convention, but according to the logic of a civil war, which the current campaign in Chechnya in essence is. On the fronts of civil wars the logic of revenge always replaces the law.” For its part, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, the government newspaper, drew an analogy from the 1994-1996 Chechen military campaign: the case of Lieutenant-Colonel Vladimir Glebov, commander of the 119th paratrooper-airborne regiment. Glebov was simultaneously decorated with the Hero of Russia medal and declared a criminal by the Military Prosecutor’s Office for “murdering civilians with special cruelty” during an unsanctioned antiguerrilla operation in several districts of Djohar [Grozny], the Chechen capital.
Various media have also reported about the campaign in defense of Budanov mounted by his fellow servicemen and soldiers’ mothers. These media, it seems, are trying to turn Budanov into a national hero. “Unfortunately, the many appeals by comrades in arms and fellow servicemen in defense of this holder of the Order of Bravery have not brought results,” wrote Leonid Savchenko in the SMI.ru electronic newspaper. “The hopes that the investigators would show objectivity and fairness, taking into account the circumstances and distinctive features of the situation Budanov found himself in, also did not materialize. The case has been sent to court, and Yury Budanov now faces the possibility of life imprisonment. There remains a small… chance that the court will show truly statesman-like wisdom [and] send the colonel’s case for further investigation or reduce his sentence” (SMI.ru, Izvestia, Rossiiskaya Gazeta, February 8).
The media campaign in defense of Colonel Budanov is an alarming signal. Thanks to systematic efforts by the mass media, Russian society has become so strongly anti-Chechen that it is ready to justify any crime against the Chechen people.
FREED AID WORKER GIVES PRESS CONFERENCE IN MOSCOW.