Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Mad Max croaked in Kyiv court-house

Today 'Mad' Max Kurochkin, a 38 year old Russian 'kriminalniy avtorytet/businessman' was shot dead by a sniper in the yard of the the Svyatoshinsky district law court in Kyiv. He died almost instantly after the bullet ripped through his heart. The man's career exceeds the wildest imagination of any 1930's gangster movie script writer, and his violent death exposes the dirty underside of Ukrainian business and politics.

Apart from a multitude of criminal activities including a violent battle for control of the massive 'Ozerka' market in Dnipropetrovsk , he had been linked to the killings of several businessmen. He was the owner of substantial assets in Ukraine including major hotels, Crimean sanatoria, and power utility companies - oblenergo's.

His biggest claim to fame was as executive director of the 'Russian Club' which actively supported Yanukovych's presidential campaign in autumn 2004. Other members of the 'club' included Gleb Pavlovsky - possibly the Kremlin's top political technologist, Kuchma's eminence gris Viktor Medvedchuk, and Russian ambassador in Ukraine Viktor Chernomyrdin. At that time Kurochkin had survived an attempt on his life from a car bomb explosion. This man was big trouble.

He had been detained since last November and had been charged with extortion. Kurochkin's business partner, Dnipropetrovsk central market head Volodymyr Vorobyov was shot dead at the end of last year. Several days ago a bullet-ridden Toyota Landcruiser containing three corpses was found near Kyiv, one of them was that of Kurochkin's personal bodyguard.

During his last court appearance he appeared to be deranged, and today, moments before his death, he declared to journalists that an attempt would be made on his life.

There will be much speculation about who ordered the 'hit' - there is certainly no shortage of suspects. He could have been a serious embarassment to top politicans, and a dangerous rival to 'big name' businessmen who gained their wealth by the same violent means as Kurochkin. The lack of protection from law enforcement officials could be considered criminal too.

Presidential secretariat head Viktor Baloha tonight delivered a line that may have come straight from one of those 1930's gangster movies: "The death of the accused on the eve of the court's verdict is a professional challenge to the police. The path from the courtroom should lead either to prison or to freedom, not to the cemetery."

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