MOSCOW, January 19 (RIA Novosti) - The lawyer for the family of a Chechen woman murdered in 2000 by Russian army colonel Yury Budanov was shot dead on Monday in downtown Moscow, the Russian Prosecutor General's office said.
"Lawyer Stanislav Markelov was killed near building No. 1 on Prechistenka Street. Documents bearing his name were found on the body," Anatoly Bagmet, an official with the Prosecutor General's office, told journalists.
Budanov, who commanded a tank regiment during the second military campaign in Chechnya, was convicted in the summer of 2003 of strangling an 18-year-old Chechen woman three years earlier and was sentenced to 10 years in jail. He was paroled earlier this month.
Elsa Kungayeva's family had appealed against Budanov's early release, but a court rejected their plea last Thursday just hours after the former officer was released.
A source in the law enforcement bodies said earlier that Markelov was shot dead with a gun fitted with a silencer at around 2 p.m. Moscow time (11:00 GMT) near the Kropotkinskaya metro station in Moscow downtown.
"An assailant ran from behind to Markelov and a woman escorting him, Anastasia Baburova, and shot him in the back of the head from point-blank range. The woman tried to get hold of the suspect, but he shot her too," the source said.
Markelov was killed shortly after he gave a news conference devoted to Budanov's release on parole earlier this month.
Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika took personal control of the investigation into the killing of Markelov, the prosecutor's spokeswoman said.
"The prosecutor general ordered his deputy and head of the Investigation Committee Alexander Bastrykin to strengthen the investigation team and to keep him constantly informed on how the investigation is developing," Marina Gridneva said.
The Russian Public Chamber was closely supervising the investigation, a member of the chamber said on Monday.
"It is very important how the investigation will be conducted in the first hours," lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said.
Visa Kungayev, Elsa's father, said in a telephone interview with RIA Novosti he had no doubts that the shooting of Markelov was directly connected with the Budanov case.
"We are all shocked. We did not expect this. I am sure that he was killed for his professional activities, particularly for the Budanov case," he said.
Kungayev, who lives with his family in Norway, said Markelov had told him that he had been threatened on several occasions recently.
"Last Thursday or Friday I received an SMS from him, in which he said that he had been threatened," Kungayev said.
According to preliminary information, Baburova, who was walking with Markelov and was seriously wounded in the shooting, worked as a journalist with the Novaya Gazeta daily, a deputy head of the Moscow department of the Prosecutor General's Office Investigation Committee, Viktoria Tsyplenkova, said, adding that the information was being verified.
Police have already questioned a number of witnesses and established that the gunman was a white male about 180 cm (5'11") tall wore a black jacket and a green facemask.
A source in the Investigation Committee said that the assassin had waited for Markelov and followed him along the street after the lawyer's press conference.
"The assassin chose a moment when not many people were around, sped up his walk and fired a shot into the back of his head," the source said.