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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Sign of Budanov Rape, Court Told

ROSTOV-ON-DON, Southern Russia -- A Rostov-on-Don military court on Thursday heard forensic testimony in the trial of Colonel Yury Budanov, the tank commander charged with murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman, and his lawyers insisted it shattered earlier rape accusations against him.

Budanov is accused of killing Elza Kungayeva near her family's home in Chechnya two years ago. He is the first officer to be publicly prosecuted for alleged military crimes in Chechnya, and his trial, which began in February 2001 in the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, has attracted broad attention but faced frequent delays.

Budanov, who faces a first-degree murder charge, has admitted strangling Kungayeva, but says he killed her in a rage while interrogating her because he thought she was a rebel sniper. Kungayeva's family denies she was a sniper, and says she was dragged from her home, raped and murdered during a drunken rampage by soldiers.

On Tuesday, two psychiatrists told the court that Budanov, who had suffered concussions and head wounds, was temporarily insane when he strangled Kungayeva and recommended that he be forced into immediate psychiatric treatment.

And Thursday, Health Ministry expert Oleg Budyakov testified to the court that a forensic examination revealed no evidence of rape -- the conclusion that Budanov's lawyer Alexei Dulimov said proved the accusations against his client were unfounded.

An earlier forensic examination indicated that Kungayeva was raped, but Budyakov said that was flawed.

Kungayeva's family got a new lawyer, Stanislav Markelov, who flew in from Moscow on Thursday just in time to attend the hearings. Markelov said he was hired by a Russian human rights group.