A Russian ex-colonel who was sentenced to 10 years in jail for murdering a Chechen girl has been recommended a pardon by a regional amnesty board.
Budanov was convicted last year
Yuri Budanov was the first Russian officer to be prosecuted for a crime against a civilian in Chechnya.
A final decision on whether to approve the pardon must be made by President Vladimir Putin.
Observers say the recommendation that Budanov be freed will send shockwaves through the Chechen community.
The Budanov case has been widely seen as a test of Moscow's determination to crack down on human rights abuses by Russian troops in Chechnya.
Human rights groups have documented thousands of cases of alleged abuses in Chechnya, but convictions are rare.
Mar 2000: Elsa Kungayeva is killed
Dec 2002: Budanov acquitted on grounds of insanity
Feb 2003: Supreme Court orders re-trial
July 2003: Budanov convicted
Oct 2003: Supreme Court upholds conviction
The BBC's regional analyst, Stephen Dalziel, says Chechens believe the recent hostage-taking in a Russian school in Beslan could lead to a renewed crack-down in Chechnya.
If Mr Putin grants a pardon to Budanov, Chechens will see this as giving the Russian army carte blanche to behave as it wishes in the republic, our correspondent adds.
Elsa Kungayeva, 18, was taken from her home to a Russian military barracks in March 2000. While in custody, she was strangled.
The colonel admitted in court to killing her in a fit of rage during interrogation, because he was convinced she was a Chechen rebel sniper. But he argued he was temporarily insane at the time of the crime.
He was acquitted in a military court in 2002, but the decision was later overturned, and a fresh trial last year resulted in a guilty verdict.
"Whether in jail or freed, Budanov will remain a person who
has committed a grave crime, which took the life of an innocent
girl," Taus Dzhabrailov, the head of Chechnya's pro-Moscow proxy
parliament, told Russian news agency Interfax.