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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 18:52 GMT 19:52 UK
Sanity tests halt Chechnya murder trial
Russian Colonel  Yuri Budanov
Budanov will undergo psychiatric tests
By Caroline Wyatt in Moscow

A Russian Colonel on trial for the murder of a young Chechen woman is to be sent for psychiatric tests to assess his mental state when he strangled her.

Colonel Yuri Budanov is the first senior Russian officer to be tried for offences committed during the ongoing conflict in Chechnya.

The tests, which could take up to three months are the latest twist in a deeply controversial trial.

Colonel Budanov admits strangling Kheda Kungayev, who was just 18 years old when she died.

Inconclusive tests

However, the colonel claims she was a Chechen sniper and that he killed her in a fit of rage, during an interrogation in his army tent, late at night.

soldier in Grozny
This is the first trial of a Russian soldier over Chechnya
The colonel had spent that day celebrating his own daughter's second birthday.

The question the court now wants answered, is whether Yuri Budanov was temporarily insane when he committed the attack.

Two previous psychiatric investigations have proved inconclusive, so now the court is sending him for a third.

Military psychiatrists will also be involved, a move the lawyer representing the family of the murdered girl has argued against.

Rape

The lawyer fears that army experts have an interest in seeing the colonel diagnosed as mad rather than criminal, it could me that he would go free despite admitting the killing.

The family of Kheda Kungayev, was already upset that forensic evidence that their daughter had been raped was never made part of the charges against the colonel.

This long running trial has split Russia, with some people still seeing colonel Budanov as a Russian hero for his actions during the long-running conflict in Chechnya.

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See also:

10 Jul 01 | Europe
Russia accused of Chechnya abuses
28 Feb 01 | Europe
Chechnya colonel on trial
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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