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No official permission was granted for the memorial stone erected in Moscow at the site where Colonel Yury Budanov was killed earlier this year.
MOSCOW -- A memorial stone devoted to a former Russian Army colonel convicted of murdering a young Chechen woman has appeared at the site where he was shot dead in June, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Yury Budanov was jailed for 10 years in 2003 for the murder in 2000 of 18-year-old Elza Kungaeva.

His early release in January 2009 prompted protests by rights groups and officials in Chechnya.

Budanov was shot dead on June 10 on Moscow's Komsomol Avenue. Police arrested Magomed Suleimanov, from Russia's Chechen Republic, as a suspect in the murder in August.

Local citizens told RFE/RL that the leader of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR), Vladimir Zhirinovsky, attended the ceremony last week for the unveiling of the memorial in Moscow.

The LDPR press service told RFE/RL that Zhirinovsky visited the site on November 24 but said the media should contact Valery Budanov -- Budanov's son, who joined the LDPR earlier this year -- for any comment.

Unveiled On Budanov's Birthday

Budanov told RFE/RL that the memorial stone was unveiled on November 24 -- his late father's birthday.

"I have initiated the placing of the memorial stone on that spot and people who respect my father sponsored the project," he said. "Our party did not cover any expenses. The idea to place the stone had been discussed with local citizens. They did not mind. The stone does not block any traffic or path."

He added that Zhirinovsky and 10-15 activists of the LDPR came to unveil the memorial stone.

A woman whose apartment windows face the newly unveiled memorial, told RFE/RL that "our yards and playgrounds cannot be turned into graveyards."

"A woman was killed nearby recently, will they place another stone here now?" the woman asked.

Officials in the Khamovniki district administration told RFE/RL that they are unaware of the stone.

It is generally very difficult to obtain permission to place a memorial or plaque in public places in Moscow.

Numerous agreements and bureaucratic proceedings must be arranged before such a memorial is approved by local authorities. The placing of a memorial without official permission is usually punished with large fines.

But Budanov's memorial neither received permission to be placed nor has anyone thus far been fined for erecting it.

Read more in Russian here
Jailed ethnic-Uzbek rights activist Azimjan Askarov
BISHKEK -- The Kyrgyz Supreme Court has postponed until December 20 hearings into a local Uzbek human rights defender's appeal against his life prison term, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Azimjan Askarov and seven other ethnic Uzbeks were found guilty in September 2010 by a court in the southern town of Nooken of organizing ethnic clashes and of involvement in the murder of a policeman during deadly ethnic confrontations that broke out in the south of the country in June of that year.

Askarov and four others were sentenced to life imprisonment, two were given 20 year prison terms, and one was sentenced to nine years.

Several dozen of the victims' relatives and their supporters blocked the Bishkek-Osh highway for several hours on November 28, demanding Askarov's verdict should not be changed.

They told RFE/RL on November 29 that the decision to postpone the hearings was intended to drag out the appeal process. They warned that if Askarov's sentence is changed they will hold a series of mass protests.

Askarov's lawyer, Nurbek Toktakunov, told RFE/RL that the Supreme Court did not inform all the lawyers in good time about the hearings, and some of them failed to show up in court.

Askarov is the head of the local human rights group Vozdukh (Air), and his work over many years has focused on prison conditions and police treatment of detainees.

He had reportedly been documenting the killings and arson attacks in southern Kyrgyzstan in June last year in which 400 people, most of them Uzbeks, were killed and hundreds more wounded.

Askarov says his case is politically motivated. He denies any involvement in the crimes he has been convicted of.

The Prague-based NGO People in Need awarded its annual Homo Homini prize to Askarov in March, saying he had continued his rights activism in the face of threats, detention, imprisonment, and physical abuse.

Read more in Kyrgyz

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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