Publication: North Caucasus Weekly Volume: 2 Issue: 10

On February 28, the trial of Colonel Yury Budanov, a tank commander accused of strangling a young Chechen woman, El’za Kungaeva, in late March of 2000, commenced in a military court in Rostov-on-Don, a southern Russian city. “According to specialists [in Russian law],” the newspaper Kommersant daily reported, “the trial of Budanov promises to be complex and long” (Kommersant, March 1).

On the first day of the trial, an estimated twenty to twenty-five pickets representing the neo-Nazi Russian National Unity and Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democrats, as well as various Cossack groups and the Communist Party, gathered outside the court and, employing megaphones, chanted slogans such as “Freedom for Budanov!” “Budanov-Hero of Russia!” and “Let’s Cleanse Ichkeria Using Beria’s Methods!” A larger group of pickets returned for the trial’s second day. At times the shouting proved so loud that it hindered the court’s proceedings. Budanov’s former commanding officer, retired General Vladimir Shamanov, a well-known Russian military “superhawk,” who was recently elected the governor of Ulyanovsk Oblast, showed up in the courtroom as a symbol of support.

The Kungaev family lawyer asked that the trial be moved away from the city of Rostov, arguing that it would be impossible to hold a fair trial there. That request and one from one of Budanov’s attorneys that the trial be made closed to the public were both declined by the judge. At one point in the proceedings, Colonel Budanov spoke up angrily and criticized the Kungaev family lawyer. On the second day of the trial, Budanov developed heart problems–his lawyers said they feared he would have a stroke–and a temporary medical recess was ordered. Budanov refused to be taken to a hospital. On March 5, however, it was reported that the court hearings were to be postponed until March 20. The victim’s mother had been hospitalized with a heart attack, and she and her husband were unable to attend the trial (Izvestia, Kommersant, March 1; Segodnya, March 2; Agence France Presse, March 1; Reuters, March 2; Moskovsky Komsomolets, March 3; Lenta.ru, March 5; see also the Monitor, March 2).