Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 72

The judge in the trial of Colonel Yury Budanov agreed yesterday to a one-day postponement of the trial just one day after the trial resumed in Rostov-on-Don. The Russian tank commander is accused of kidnapping a young Chechen woman, Elza Kungaeva. The postponement was made after Abdulla Khazaev, the lawyer representing the victim’s family, asked for a two-month delay so that the victim’s mother could familiarize herself with the evidence in the case–some ten volumes’ worth. The judge accused the victim’s side of trying to delay the process, but agreed to a one-day postponement. He also turned down an appeal that Budanov be released for health reasons (Moscow Times, April 12;, April 11). Sitting in the dock along with Budanov is Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan Fedorov, who is also charged with serious crimes, including having ordered artillery to shell a house in the Chechen village of Tangi-Chu. Both men are also accused of having beaten and placed an officer of their unit, a Lieutenant Bagreev, in a pit for refusing to carry out the order to shell the village (Radio Liberty, April 10; see also the Monitor, March 2). Bagreev, who did not appear in court on April 10, had requested in a letter sent on March 5 that the trial proceed without his participation. According to his lawyer, on the evening of March 5, Lieutenant Bagreev was beaten by unknown persons near the Zvezda hotel, which belongs to the staff of the North Caucasus Military District. Bagreev’s lawyer believes that his client was beaten by members of the Rostov chapter of ultranationalist organization Russian National Unity.

The trial of Yury Budanov has become a kind of a litmus test for the condition of Russian society. He has unexpectedly found supporters not only among ultrarightist extremist groups like Russian National Unity, whose members have picketed the courthouse where Budanov is being tried, but also among the Russian armed forces’ senior commanders. Among those who have openly defended Budanov are Vladimir Shamanov, the Ulyanovsk Oblast governor who formerly commanded the federal forces in Chechnya, and Gennady Troshev, the current commander of the Russian troops of the North Caucasus Military District. The erstwhile liberal newspaper Izvestia has also come out in Budanov’s defense (see the Monitor, February 9, March 7).

Vissa Kungaev, father of the murdered Elza Kungaeva, said this week that he has serious fears for the safety both of his family and of his friends and neighbors who have gone to Rostov for the trial. Abudlla Khamzaev, the Kungaev family’s lawyer, is insisting that the trial’s venue be switched to Chechnya, where the murder took place. Budanov’s council, however, the well-known Rostov lawyer Aleksei Dulimov, believes that the Chechen side is deliberately delaying the process in order to prolong Budanov’s stay in prison. Dulimov believes that charges against his client will not stick because the murder was a crime of passion (Radio Liberty, April 10).