Russian colonel who tortured Chechen girl to death is given a hero's funeral

 

Khimki

A former Russian army colonel convicted of the torture and murder of an 18-year-old Chechen girl was given a hero's burial yesterday, after he was shot dead by unknown attackers in Moscow last week.

Hundreds of Russian nationalists joined family and former army comrades at the funeral of Yuri Budanov, at a small church in Khimki, on the outskirts of Moscow. The air was thick with the smell of incense and freshly cut carnations as a long line of mourners filed past the open coffin to kiss Budanov's corpse. Choral music echoed around the church, but the tranquil setting could not hide the controversial past of the central player.

Yuri Budanov was jailed for 10 years in 2003 for the kidnap and murder of Elza Kungayeva. He abducted the teenager after an evening of drinking in March 2000, dragging her from her family home in Chechnya and torturing her in a railway carriage. He was arrested two days later and charged with murder and rape – one of very few Russian officers to be put on trial for atrocities committed during the Chechen campaigns.

The rape charge was dropped, but Budanov admitted killing the girl, saying he thought she was a sniper, and that he had killed her in a fit of anger during questioning.

The colonel became a hero for the Russian far right, and most Russians believe he should not have been prosecuted. His initial trial ended with a "not guilty" verdict, the court finding that he had been a victim of temporary insanity. That was overturned by the country's Supreme Court, which gave him a 10-year prison sentence, of which he served six years before being released in 2009.

His release caused outrage in Chechnya, even among its pro-Moscow authorities, and the most likely motive for his killing on Friday appears to be revenge for Ms Kungayeva's murder. He was shot four times in the head, outside a Moscow notary's office, before the assailant fled in a Mitsubishi Lancer driven by an accomplice.

Chechnya has a long tradition of "blood feuds", in which victims' relatives take revenge for the dead, but Ms Kungayeva's father, who now lives in Norway, said the family had nothing to do with Budanov's killing. Chechnya's controversial President, Ramzan Kadyrov, has spoken out on the case several times, however. In 2009 when the possibility of Budanov's release was raised, he said: "Budanov is a schizophrenic and a killer; an enemy of the Chechen people. He insulted our people, and every man, woman and child believes that while Budanov still exists, the shame is still there."

Mr Kadyrov, a former rebel who now has the Kremlin's backing, warned: "Even a life sentence will only slightly ease our suffering. We will not take insults, and if the right decision isn't taken, the consequences will be bad."

At the funeral yesterday, many pointed the finger at Mr Kadyrov, and at Chechens in general, with some calling for revenge attacks. Many of those in attendance were members of Russia's neo-Nazi moment. Some had SS tattoos or wore swastika armbands, while others sported ribbons and slogans glorifying the Soviet victory inthe Second World War. Yet more were decked out in Orthodox Christian paraphernalia, highlighting the confused nature of the country's nationalist far right. However, it is not just a lunatic fringe which supports Budanov. After the church ceremony, the coffin was interred with full military honours.

As he was laid in the earth, a military band played a dirge and soldiers standing in front of a Russian tricolour fired off a salute from rifles. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a leading nationalist politician, made an appearance at the funeral, and called for the posthumous rehabilitation of Budanov. Even on Ekho Moskvy, the radio station listened to mainly by the liberal elite, more than half of the respondents to a telephone poll said they believed the dead soldier should be rehabilitated. "He was an absolute hero, and I hope that one day children will come here to his grave and pray," said Viktor Potapov, 52, a tall, grizzled paratrooper who had served with the Soviet army during its ill-fated campaign in Afghanistan and then with Budanov during the First Chechen War of 1994-96.

He said that Budanov had commanded the respect of all that served with him, and was known for his bravery. "Once he disobeyed orders and managed to save four tanks and their crews, that we all thought were goners," he said. The soldier said that Ms Kungayeva was a sniper, a frequently heard claim that was not substantiated by the investigation, and added: "War is war – terrible things happen."

The police investigation into Budanov's murder is continuing.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests