| MOSCOW, Sept. 17 - A Russian colonel who was incarcerated
last year in the
March 2000 murder of a Chechen woman has been recommended for pardon by
regional amnesty commission that convened at the prison where he was serving
a 10-year term, according to news reports on Friday.
The decision to recommend a pardon for the officer, Col. Yuri D. Budanov,
was made Wednesday, Anatoly Zherebtsov, the leader of the Ulyanovsk Oblast
commission, told the Interfax news agency. The commission also decided
restore Colonel Budanov's military rank and decorations, of which he had
been stripped. It was not clear why the decision was not announced
Colonel Budanov's case was widely seen as a test of Russia's willingness
prosecute those accused of atrocities in Chechnya. He was charged with
kidnapping Elza Kungayeva, 18, from her home and strangling her in his
quarters, but in a first trial he was acquitted, prompting an appeal and
ultimately a second trial that led to his conviction in 2003. He argued
he had thought Ms. Kungayeva was a Chechen sniper, and throughout his
many rushed to his defense.
Vladimir Shamanov, the governor of Ulyanovsk, is a general who has also
accused by human rights groups of allowing his troops to commit rape and
murder in Chechnya. He supported Colonel Budanov during his trial.
The pardon is subject to the approval of President Vladimir V. Putin.
administration made no comment about the case on Friday.
Vladimir Lukin, Russia's
human rights ombudsman, told Interfax by telephone from Athens that he
would recommend that Mr. Putin be cautious about approving the pardon.
"In the wake of recent events in Beslan, we should clearly find
stand, treat the killers of innocent people very toughly, and not create
impression that we approach such issues with double standards," he
referring to the school hostage-taking by Chechen rebels in which hundreds
Last week, a Chechen rebel Web site mentioned Colonel Budanov's crime
of the Russian atrocities against Chechen children that led to the Beslan
siege. On Friday, an official of the pro-Moscow Chechen government condemned
Human rights advocates warned of the ominous message sent by the decision.
"It's a signal to servicemen who are in Chechnya," said Aleksandr
deputy director of the Moscow office of Human Rights Watch. "Don't
afraid. You won't have to pay for what you do."