Saturday, February 25, 2006

Crime and politics [2]

"The Donetsk clan began its formation in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The first step took place in the settlement of Oktiabrsk in 1988. A local resident, Akhat Bragin, a man of "great authority" in both local official and underworld circles, took control of the local market. At that time, 22-year-old Rynat Akhmetov, a young man of Tatar nationality, was close to Mr. Bragin. Mr. Akhmetov, born in Donetsk in 1966, was noticed by many local men of authority for his quick mind and ability to get things done. Mr. Bragin kept him close and taught him the business of doing business Donetsk-style." 'The clan from Donetsk' - by Roman Kupchinsky

On 15th October 1995 Akhat Bragin, was spectacularly killed in an bomb explosion in the Shakhtar Donetsk football club stadium. Akhmetov, now the richest man in Ukraine, and according to observers, the Partiya Regioniv sponsor and #7 on their VR election list, is the current owner of the now greatly-expanded club.

According to an article on the Ostrov website, and elsewhere, on 22nd February 2006 an appeal court in Donetsk heard the preliminary statement of Vyacheslav Sinenko, a former police major, who is accused of the attempted killing of Akhat Bragin and others by means of an explosive device.

Sinenko [who himself survived and assassination attempt when he was shot in the hip on 5th May 1998] claimed:

  • that he was framed for this crime by the former Donetsk Chief Prosecutor and former Prosecutor-General of Ukraine Gennadiy Vasilyev,
  • that the true organizers of Bragin's killing were associates of Akhmetov,
  • that he was persecuted after collecting and presenting evidence to Vasiliev,
  • that the crime's prime suspect was a man called Rukhmanov, who he had apprehended but who was then released on the orders of Vasiliev,
  • that his own death was "needed by Akhmetov because I held in my possession evidence against one of his 'warriors' Rukhmanov",
  • that when he was in hospital recovering from his assassination attempt he 'spilled the beans' to an investigative TV journalist Igor Aleksandrov, who was murdered in July 2001. [A homeless man accused of killing Aleksandrov himself died in suspicious circumstances.]

Sinenko escaped to Greece, but on 30th March 2004 was detained in Athens and extradited to Ukraine a year later.

At a further court hearing on 23rd February Sinenko gave more details of his defence. He says that at the time of his investigation into the Bragin killing he met V.S Malyshev, the former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Donetsk.

Malyshev told him: "Where the hell are you going with this, you idiot..?" Malyshev is now chief of security at Akmetov's SystemCapitalManagement, and well-placed on the PR parliamentary election list for the March 26th VR elections. Akhmetov is named on a list of witnesses in the trial.

Today Akhmetov's lawyers issued a statement: "The accusations directed at Mr Akmetov that appeared on 22nd February in several internet publications are nothing more than an attempt to accuse him of tragic events that were declared groundless by a court of law a long time ago. The authors of these slanderous and false statements will be held to account."

Update: The Ostrov article quoted above has now been translated into English here.

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