Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 4 Issue: 18

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. Gazeta.ru 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 man…in 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 international 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.”