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24 Dec, 2008 19:55

Murderer of Chechen woman freed

A Russian court has ordered the release of an ex-army officer who confessed to strangling a Chechen woman.

A judge in the southern city of Dmitrovograd ruled on Wednesday that Yuri Budanov should be freed because he had “repented” for his crime.

Budanov, a former tank commander, was jailed for 10 years in the summer of 2003 for murdering Elsa Kungayeva – an 18-year-old Chechen woman.

Budanov admitted killing the teenager but said he thought she was a sniper. He claimed temporary insanity and a fit of rage.

Russian society was divided over the trial. Human rights groups demanded that the killer be convicted while others, including the military, supported him.

In July 2003, Budanov was found guilty of kidnapping and murder. He was stripped of his rank and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Wednesday’s decision followed a lengthy legal process to get Budanov released, which included two appeals.

In 2004, the Kremlin turned down an appeal to pardon Budanov, made by General Vladimir Shamanov – the governor of the Ulyanovsk region.

The Kremlin said the guilty verdict was correct because it punished those who tarnished the reputation of the Russian Army.