17 years jail for organiser of liberal Russian MP's murder
A Russian court on Friday sentenced the organiser of the 1998 killing of prominent opposition politician Galina Starovoitova to 17 years in prison.
Saint Petersburg's Oktyabrsky district court sentenced former lawmaker Mikhail Glushchenko to 17 years in a tough-regime prison colony for organising Starovoitova's murder almost two decades ago.
The gunning down of the 52-year-old liberal member of parliament in the stairwell of her home was one of Russia's most notorious political killings of the 1990s.
"The court established that Glushchenko along with an unidentified person decided to kill the State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova with the aim of ending her active political and governmental activity," the prosecutor-general's office said in a statement.
A charismatic politician and rights activist, Starovoitova was an MP in the State Duma lower house of parliament and chaired Democratic Russia party. She was also an advisor to Boris Yeltsin during his presidency.
In 2005, a court in Saint Petersburg convicted two hitmen, one of whom was disguised as a woman at the crime scene, and sentenced them to 23 and 20 years, but failed to identify the mastermind.
Glushchenko, a former deputy for the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, was arrested in 2009 over a separate case after being on the run for several years.
His sentence took into account that he is already serving an eight-year sentence for extortion in a separate case after being convicted in 2013.
Glushchenko, who appeared in court in a crumpled grey suit, pleaded guilty to being one of the organisers of Starovoitova's murder and asked for "forgiveness from the Russian people."
- 'He ordered it, we did it' -
Glushchenko said in court the murder was ordered by the head of the powerful "Tambov" criminal syndicate, Vladimir Barsukov, a one-armed mobster nicknamed the "night governor" of Saint Petersburg for his far-reaching influence.
"He ordered it, we did it. If I hadn't done it, they would have killed me. Barsukov is a very harsh person," Glushchenko said in court last week, quoted by Russian media.
Barsukov, also known as Kumarin, is being held in a Moscow jail while he is investigated over numerous crimes. He is already serving time for extortion and corporate raiding.
A string of prominent opposition figures have been killed in Russia over the past two decades including journalist Anna Politkovskaya and activist Natalya Estemirova and political murders often remain unsolved.
In the latest murder, a top critic of strongman Vladimir Putin, Boris Nemtsov, was gunned down near the Kremlin in February. Investigators have so far failed to identify the mastermind.
© 2015 AFP