Lawyer Fighting Budanov's Release Killed in Moscow

MTInvestigators standing over the body of Stanislav Markelov, lawyer for the family of slain Chechen woman Elza Kungayeva, in central Moscow on Monday.
A lawyer for the family of a Chechen woman murdered by former army Colonel Yury Budanov was shot dead Monday in central Moscow after holding a news conference decrying Budanov's early release from prison last week.
 
Stanislav Markelov, who was representing the family of Elza Kungayeva, was shot dead at around 2:30 p.m. Monday on Ulitsa Prechistenko, near the Kropotkinskaya metro station, a city police spokesman told The Moscow Times.
 
The police spokesman declined to give further details. RIA-Novosti reported that two others were shot and seriously injured in the attack.
 
Prior to the shooting, Markelov had given a news conference at the Independent Press Center on Ulitsa Prechistenko on the subject of Budanov's parole last week.
 
The news conference was titled "The Illegal Release of Budanov From Prison: the Ignorance of the Court and a Direct Benefit For Militants," according to the press center's web site.
 
Budanov, convicted in July 2005 for the murder of Kungayeva, was released on parole Thursday morning, sparking outrage among the victim's family and senior Chechen officials.
 
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison for strangling Kungayeva, 18, in Chechnya in 2000, but an Ulyanovsk court last month ordered his early release, citing good behavior in prison and more than five years of time served in pretrial detention.
 
Budanov, who has maintained that he believed Kungayeva was a rebel sniper and said he strangled her in a fit of rage during an interrogation, has become a rallying figure for Russian nationalists who claim that his
conviction was merely an attempt to appease the Chechen leadership.
 
Markelov last week decried the court's decision to release Budanov.
 
The victim's father, Visa Kungayev, said Thursday that he intended to push for a new criminal case against Budanov over the purported rape of his daughter, a charge that was dropped early in the original investigation, Interfax reported.
 
He accused Budanov of securing his early release with assistance from "his influential friends," Kommersant reported. Kungayev also said he and his family feared retribution from Budanov upon his release.
 
Budanov was arrested in 2000, but a court concluded in 2002 that he could not be held criminally responsible because of brain injuries he had sustained in combat during federal forces' second military campaign in
Chechnya.
 
That ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003.
 
Budanov's appeal for early release was his fifth, with all of his earlier requests being rejected. The Ulyanovsk court's decision to release him prompted large-scale protests last month in Grozny.