Yury Budanov, a former Russian army colonel who symbolized army abuses in the war in Chechnya, was shot dead in central Moscow on Friday, the Russian Investigative Committee spokesman said.
He was killed by an unidentified assailant with four shots to the head fired from a pistol, Vladimir Markin said, adding that the attack occurred at about 12:10 Moscow time as Budanov left a notary’s office in central Moscow.
A photofit of the killer was made with the help of CCTV camera footage, Markin said.
A police source said one of the attackers was of “Slavic appearance.”
Police said there were at least two people involved in the killing, and they fled the scene in a Mitsubishi Lancer car. The getaway car was found 100 meters away from the crime scene, a police source said.
A police source said it was obviously a “contract hit.”
Vadim Yakovenko, head of the Special Investigations Committee Moscow Directorate, and Moscow city police chief Vladimir Kolokoltsev went to the scene.
Eyewitnesses were being questioned by police.
Budanov, who had commanded a tank regiment during the second Chechen war, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 2003 for the kidnapping and murder of 18-year old Chechen woman Elsa Kungayeva three years earlier, was released on parole in January 2009, 15 months early.
Some experts have pointed to a Chechen trail in Budanov’s killing.
“This is unmistakable cold-blooded revenge to an active participant in the operation to enforce law and order on the territory of the Chechen Republic,” Igor Korotchenko, a member of the Defense Ministry public council, said.
He said the killing of a Russian army officer must not go unpunished, whoever might be behind it.
Elsa’s father said, however, that he was sure Budanov had not been killed in revenge for his daughter’s death.
“This is not connected to the murder of my daughter. There is no need to avenge my daughter,” Visa Kungayev told RIA Novosti, adding he had learned about the attack from reporters who had called him in Norway, where the family now lives.
A lawyer for the Kungayev family also said they had nothing to do with the killing and suggested that there were plenty of people who wished Budanov ill, including fellow military officers.
“I am sure that this killing is not connected to the Kungayevs,” Minkail Ezhiyev said.
Ezhiyev cited a reported incident where Budanov showed displeasure with his subordinates by throwing a hand grenade into an oven during a meeting, as a result of which several people were injured.
Budanov was the highest ranking soldier convicted over abuses in Chechnya, which journalists and human rights groups say were widespread.
The lawyer for the Kungayeva family, Stanislav Markelov, who had attempted a last-minute appeal against Budanov’s release, was shot dead in Moscow on January 19, 2009, along with Anastasia Baburova, a 25-year-old journalist for Novaya Gazeta.
MOSCOW, June 10 (RIA Novosti)