Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Russian Killed Outside Trial in Ukraine

Russian Businessman Shot Dead by Sniper Outside Extortion Trial in Ukraine

KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- A Russian businessman allied with Ukraine's president was killed by a sniper Tuesday as he was escorted from a courthouse during a break in his extortion trial, a government official said.

Maksim Kurochkin, 38, was hit by a bullet fired from a building next to the court, said Volodymyr Polishchuk, an Interior Ministry official. A police officer guarding the businessman was seriously wounded.

Ukrainian media reported that Kurochkin had repeatedly asked the court to release him on bail, saying he feared for his life and claiming that he had survived 18 assassination attempts, including a November 2004 car bombing that seriously wounded his bodyguards.
Kurochkin had been charged with extortion in connection with a fight for control of a southeastern Ukraine goods market.

Three other businessmen connected to Kurochkin and the market were shot dead earlier this month as they rode in a car, Polishchuk said. The director of the market was killed in October.
Kurochkin's trial had been closely watched because of his ties to pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych. During the bitter 2004 presidential campaign and Orange Revolution protests, Kurochkin ran an organization called the Russian Club that supported Yanukovych.
Kurochkin, who was arrested in November at Kiev's airport, had said the charges against him were fabricated.

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