The Chechen Lawyer and the Dead Russian Colonel

Colonel Budanov and the lawyer who defended his alleged killer. YouTube screenshots.

Colonel Budanov and the lawyer who defended his alleged killer. YouTube screenshots.

Russia’s Investigative Committee announced last week that they have started investigating Murad Musaev, a lawyer who has made a career of defending Chechens in high-profile cases, for attempting to bribe a trial witness. The witness claims that Musaev offered him 15,000 rubles (approximately $500) to produce false testimony during a February 2013 murder trial of Colonel Budanov's alleged killer.

Budanov, who had served 9 years in prison for the wartime kidnapping and murder of a young Chechen woman (he claimed she was a sniper), was murdered in 2011, shortly after his release. A Chechen man, Yusup Temerkhanov, was arrested and accused of premeditated murder 8 years in the making. Musaev defended Temerkhanov, who was found guilty and sentenced to 15 years in prison (Russia does not have the death penalty). Chechnya’s human rights ombudsman, Nurdi Nuhazhiev, defended Musaev [ru] when the bribing story first broke, and it had faded from view until the recent Investigative Committee announcement. 

Less than 24 hours later, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov shared photos of both Musaev and Markin on his Instagram account [ru], and defended Musaev (Kadyrov famously uses Instagram as a blogging platform):

Многие аналитики полагают, что СК не понравилось, с каким упорством Мусаев защищал обвиняемого в убийстве Юрия Буданова человека, а также с каким усердием он выступает и на других громких процессах […]

Many analysts believe that the [Investigative Committee] did not like the tenacity with which Musaev defended the accused in the murder of Yuri Budanov, and the zeal with which he performs during other high profile issues […]

Kadyrov went on to call into question the Investigative Committee’s commitment to investigating Budanov’s war crimes, which were potentially more numerous:

[…] следствие до сих пор не предприняло ничего для того, чтобы установить все преступления Буданова и дать им предусмотренную законом правовую оценку. Вместо этого, из него до сих пор определенные силы пытаются сделать героя.

[…] the investigators have so far done nothing to establish all of Budanov’s crimes and give them a statutory legal assessment. Instead, some forces are still trying to make him out to be a hero.

Alexei Navalny [ru] reacted by complaining, as he often does, about the excessive amount of state funds going to Chechnya, and accused the Russian judicial system of double standards when it comes to Chechens, while mocking traditional Chechen headwear:

Официальные лица этого государства, которых мы по какому-то недоразумению называем “российскими госслужащими” проводят этот принцип ясно и открыто: любые юридические действия в отношении граждан чеченской национальности должны осуществляться: в первую очередь, с учётом того, что они чеченцы; во вторую очередь, с учётом того, из какого они селения, кто их называет “братуха” и “красаучик” и носят ли они на голове круглую шапочку.

The officials of this state, whom we misguidedly call “Russian state officials” stick to this principle clearly and openly: any judicial action against Russian citizens of the Chechen nationality should be carried out: first of all, keeping in mind that they are Chechens; second of all, keeping in mind which village they are from, who calls them “bro” and “cool dude” and if they wear the little round hat.

Meanwhile, blogger Sergei Nikitski asked his readers [ru] what they thought of Budanov, who remains a polarizing figure and who many still maintain was falsely convicted. Perhaps unsurprisingly, 42% thought he was a “hero”, while 20% said he was “a victim of circumstances”. Only 16% called Budanov “a criminal”, and 10% thought he was simply “a man”. The remaining 9% said it was too difficult to say. In the comment section many said they wanted to voted for 2 options, both “hero” and “a victim of circumstances”. 

One commenter noted [ru]:

Обвинения в надругательстве с Буданова были сняты судом. Кадыров пишет о законе и справедливости, и тут же лжёт, умышленно или по незнанию.

Budanov was exonerated of accusations of rape by the court. Kadyrov is writing about law and justice, and lying at the same time, either intentionally or out of ignorance.

To which another commenter replied:

Что вы хотите от малограмотной обезьяны?

What do you want from an ignorant monkey?

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