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Russia Reportedly Uncovers Terrorist Base; Colonel Convicted of Chechen Murder

BY Admin  July 25, 2003 at 2:30 PM EDT

Government officials told news agencies they suspect the facility may be linked to separatists from the breakaway republic of Chechnya.

Investigators uncovered five of the so-called “shahid belt” bombing devices in a house in the township of Tolsopaltsevo, a village located on the western outskirts of Moscow, according to news agency accounts of a statement from the general prosecutor’s office.

The belts were safely dismantled by bomb technicians and a robot system and then sent for further examination by explosives experts. There were no immediate reports of any arrests in connection with the raid.

“Today we have averted at least five possible terrorist acts,” Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov told the Interfax news agency, according to Reuters.

A Russian law enforcement source also told Interfax that components of the belts are identical to those worn by two female suicide bombers, reported to be Chechens, who triggered attacks outside of a Moscow rock festival in early July. The dual suicide bombings killed 15 in addition to the bombers.

In a separate development, a court in southern Russia found a high-ranking army colonel guilty of the murder of a young Chechen woman, in a case that tested Moscow’s pledge to crackdown on human rights abuses in war-torn Chechnya.

In March 2000, Col. Yuri Budanov admitted killing 18-year-old Elza Kungayeva during an interrogation. But last December a Russian court accepted his defense of temporary insanity, and he was not given a criminal punishment.

Russia’s Supreme Court later overturned the verdict and ordered a retrial.

Judge Vladimir Bukreyev said he based his decision on a new psychiatric report given to the court last month that concluded Budanov was sane at the time of the attack but was in a “highly agitated state,” according to the Associated Press.

The military court, located in the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don, found the Russian colonel guilty of kidnapping and murdering the woman. The court sentenced Budanov to 10 years in a maximum security prison and stripped him of his army rank.

The time Budanov has spent in pre-trial detention, which has lasted some three years, will count toward his sentence. The court also ordered him to pay more than $16,500 to Kungayeva’s family for “moral” damages.

Budanov’s lawyer told reporters that the sentence was “too harsh” with “no legal ground” and that he would appeal.

But the lawyer for Kungayeva’s family complained that the Budanov’s sentence was too lenient.

“When Chechens go on trial for similar crimes — murders, abductions — this same court metes out immeasurably more severe sentences,” Abdul Khamzayev told Reuters.