Asia Crisis

Murdered Chechen girl's lawyer shot dead in Moscow

MOSCOW, Jan 19 (Reuters) - A lawyer acting for the family of a Chechen girl whose murder by a Russian officer became a symbol of human rights abuses in the region was shot dead in central Moscow on Monday, prosecutors said.

Stanislav Markelov, who acted for the family of Elza Kungayeva, had opposed the early release this month of a Russian officer who was jailed for her murder.

"The killed lawyer is Stanislav Markelov. His identity papers were found so there is no further doubt about his identity," said a spokeswoman for the Moscow investigative unit of the Prosecutor-General's office.

She said a murder investigation had been launched.

The murder of 18-year-old Kungayeva in 2000 provoked a storm of protest in Chechnya. Her family said she had been raped and murdered in a drunken rampage by Russian troops.

Russian Colonel Yuri Budanov was arrested in 2000, charged with her murder and jailed for 10 years, the highest-ranking Russian officer to be jailed for war crimes in Chechnya. Budanov was freed early last Thursday. (Reporting by Shamil Baigina, writing by Guy Faulconbridge, editing by Tim Pearce)