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The BBC's Jonathan Charles in Moscow
"The cases are being used by Russia to show that it will take action if crimes are committed in Chechnya"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 28 February, 2001, 13:44 GMT
Chechnya colonel on trial
Yuri Budanov
Budanov is the first soldier charged with atrocities in Chechnya
By Jonathan Charles in Moscow

A Russian army colonel has gone on trial accused of kidnapping and murdering a young Chechen woman during the war in the republic.

Colonel Yuri Budanov is the first soldier to be accused of carrying out atrocities during the military campaign since operations began in Chechnya almost a year and a half ago.

He is appearing before an army tribunal in the southern city of Rostov.

The court case comes with Russia once more facing criticism about its human rights record in Chechnya.

'Angry outburst'

Colonel Budanov is charged with kidnapping and murdering an 18-year-old Chechen woman, Kheda Kungaeva.

Chechen refugees
Human rights groups say Chechens have suffered atrocities at the hands of Russian soldiers
She was allegedly abducted from her village near Urus Martan by Colonel Budanov in March last year.

Witnesses who will be giving evidence say she was at home with her family when soldiers dragged her away in an armoured personnel carrier.

Kheda's body was found two days later, badly disfigured.

Colonel Budanov has admitted the murder, but denies it was pre-meditated.

He told the court he detained the woman because he thought she was a sniper. He then strangled her in an angry outburst during an interrogation.

The court will also hear allegations that another soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan Fyodorov, ordered his men to open fire on the village without good reason.

Human rights concerns

The cases are being used by Russia to show that it will take action if crimes are committed in Chechnya.

But organisations monitoring human rights believe these trials are just the tip of an iceberg.

They accuse the Russian army of carrying out widespread abuses in Chechnya.

The latest allegations follow the discovery of a mass grave in the Chechen capital, Grozny, during the past week.

Human rights groups say that 27 bodies have been removed so far from a pit in a Grozny suburb.

It is claimed they were civilian victims of the Russian army, but the military disputes that, insisting they were killed by Chechen rebels.

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See also:

16 Jan 01 | Europe
Chechnya's cycle of devastation
04 Feb 01 | Europe
US aid worker freed in Chechnya
23 Feb 01 | Europe
Russia targets UK Chechens
26 Jan 01 | Europe
Council of Europe readmits Russia
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