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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

4 Officers' Acquittal Overturned

Itar-TassFrom left, officers Vladimir Voyevodin, Ulman, Alexei Perelevsky and Alexander Kalagansky in a Rostov court in May.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday overturned the acquittal of four members of an elite military intelligence unit charged with killing six civilians in Chechnya and ordered a retrial, officials said.

The new trial will be held in a military court in Rostov-on-Don, Supreme Court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said.

Chechen President Alu Alkhanov said that the overturning of the acquittal should help to reassure the population about the fairness of the law.

"Our citizens at last can see that the law in Russia applies equally to all, whether a serviceman or a civilian and irrespective of nationality," he said, Interfax reported.

Two acquittals in the case had prompted protest rallies in Chechnya and criticism from the republic's Moscow-backed leaders.

In May, a jury acquitted Captain Eduard Ulman and three subordinates of murder charges in a retrial also ordered by the Supreme Court following an initial acquittal. But the May verdict was declared invalid because of procedural violations, Tuesday's court ruling said.

The defendants, accused of killing six civilians who were riding in a truck that passed their position in 2002, claimed they were acting on superiors' orders.

"The guilty must be punished, wherever and whoever they are," Koka Tuburova, a relative of one of the victims said Tuesday in televised remarks.

A lawyer for the victims' families, Lyudmila Tikhomirova, said they hoped the new trial would deliver a guilty verdict as deserved.

But defense attorney Natalya Belyayeva insisted the servicemen were innocent.

"They were just following orders; they had no personal motivation," she said, RIA-Novosti reported.

The only other high-profile trial of a serviceman accused of killing civilians in Chechnya was that of Colonel Yury Budanov, who was convicted of the murder of an 18-year-old Chechen woman in 2003 and sentenced to 10 years in prison.