Chechen President Ramzan Kadyrov declared on January 13 that he categorically opposes the decision to grant parole to Yuri Budanov, the Russian colonel who was convicted in 2003 of murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman, Elza Kungaeva, and sentenced to 10 years in prison. A Russian court ruled on December 24 that Budanov should be released after serving eight years and six months of his ten-year sentence (North Caucasus Weekly, January 9).
“I do not believe in the repentance of a person who has committed such a crime,” Newsru.com quoted Kadyrov as telling journalists in Grozny. “Even if he repented, a person convicted of such an insolent and cynical murder of a completely innocent underage school girl should not qualify for parole. Besides, he deserves a harsher punishment.”
Kadyrov accused prosecutors and the Ulyanovsk Oblast Court, which handed down the decision to parole Budanov, of “double standards,” Newsru.com reported. “Yuri Budanov—a murderer and rapist—has, in fact been acquitted,” he said. “At the same time, hundreds of Chechens convicted at the starting phase of the counter-terrorist operation on the basis far-fetched suspicions or for insignificant crimes—and some of them were not guilty of anything—were sentenced to 10-15 years. Even people such as these have been granted parole only in isolated cases.”
According to Newsru.com, Kadyrov expressed the hope that the courts would overturn the decision to grant Budanov parole. “In a law-based state all must be equal before the law, otherwise the authority of the government is undermined and this gives rise to citizens’ distrust of the judicial system in general,” he said, adding that he “fully understands the indignation of citizens aroused by the freeing of Budanov.” By “playing up to a narrow circle of xenophobes and pseudo-patriots, the court is exceeding its own authority,” Kadyrov said, adding that the court had turned “its own authority into empty words.”
“In the person of Budanov, all war criminals are acquitted,’ Kadyrov said. He then cited the case of Sulim Yamadaev, the former head of the now-dissolved Chechen-manned Vostok battalion of the Russian Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), behind who, he said, there also extends “a whole trail of grave and insidious crimes, however he still remains free.” Kadyrov added: “Punishment for crimes must be unavoidable regardless of the rank, regalia and shoulder boards of the criminal.”
It is worth noting that these comments by Kadyrov were his first on the decision to grant parole to Budanov, despite the fact that there were several large demonstrations in Chechnya against the verdict almost immediately after it was handed down and that it was denounced by Nurdi Nukhazhiev, Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman. Nukhazhiev’s office also reported it had collected statements from eyewitnesses claiming that Budanov was involved in the murder of other Chechens (North Caucasus Weekly, January 9).
Kadyrov last week also issued his latest claim of victory over Chechnya’s rebels, telling the republic’s government on January 12 that “illegal armed formations” in Chechnya have been “practically destroyed,” Interfax reported. According to the news agency, Kadyrov said that “certain militants” are still hiding from the police and are seeking to “recruit young and naïve boys” in order to create “an illusion of their presence.” Kadyrov said his government had learned several days earlier that a number of young boys were considering joining the rebels in the mountains and had gathered the youths together and handed them over to families following “appropriate explanatory work.” He added that the “weak and inept education” of young people, both inside families and in society at large, was the cause of “moral and psychological instability” in “certain young people.”
Still, Kadyrov claimed that the situation in Chechnya on the whole is “stable” and that “a dozen militants have no influence on it.” The police have enough firepower to “neutralize any gang,” he added. “The problem is that Dokka Umarov and some of his people are hiding somewhere,” he said, referring to the Chechen rebel leader. “They will be seized or killed if they resist arrest.” Kadyrov ordered his government “to educate the young and tell them what Umarov and the like are and what troubles they have inflicted on the Chechen people.”
Meanwhile, an article published in the Financial Times on January 12 focused in part on Kadyrov’s efforts to, as the newspaper put it, “promote a more Islamic society,” including the requirement that women wear headscarves in public buildings. The newspaper noted that while many question whether such moves are legal, given the strict separation of church and state mandated by Russia’s constitution, Kadyrov replied when asked last month whether the policy was consistent with Russian federal laws: “Chechnya is 100 percent Muslim, and the spiritual revival of the population is essential for the rebuilding of the republic. No one can tell us not to be Muslims. If anyone says I cannot be a Muslim, he is my enemy.”