Ultranationalist Link Seen in Judge’s Killing

A Moscow City Court judge was shot dead as he was leaving his apartment in central Moscow to go to work Monday in the first killing of a federal judge in six years. Eduard Chuvashov, 47, was most likely targeted because of his tough verdicts in trials involving ultranationalists, a law enforcement source told Interfax, without elaborating.

The unidentified gunman shot Chuvashov in the chest and head at about 8:50 a.m. Monday in the hall of his apartment building at 24 Strelbishchensky Pereulok outside the Vystavochnaya metro station, the Investigative Committee said in a statement. He died on the spot.

A street surveillance camera captured a video of Chuvashov’s killer, a tall man of Slavic appearance aged 25 to 30, the deputy head of the Moscow branch of the Investigative Committee, Pyotr Titov, told RIA-Novosti. Moscow City Court chairwoman Olga Yegorova laid flowers at the crime scene. In late February, Chuvashov sentenced nine members of an ultranationalist group, including leader Alexei Dzhavakhishvili, to prison terms ranging from 6 1/2 to 23 years after a jury convicted them of committing six ethnically motivated murders in 2007 and 2008, the Moscow City Court said.

An ultranationalist web site, Rus-Obr.ru, on Monday quoted Chuvashov as saying at the court hearing against Dzhavakhishvili’s group that “Russians have such a mentality that they must be hanged and killed sometimes.”  Last Thursday, Chuvashov added two years to the 20-year prison sentence of a member of an ultranationalist gang headed by Artur Ryno and Pavel Skachevsky, the court said.  Investigators said the circumstances of Chuvashov’s killing resembled that of human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, who was gunned down on a central Moscow street in January 2009 and who had also defended victims of hate crimes, Interfax reported.

Two ultranationalists have been arrested on suspicion of killing Markelov. On Monday, Chuvashov was supposed to attend a closed-door hearing into the case of Vladimir Belashev, who was sentenced to 11 years in prison in April 2002 on terrorism charges for bombing a statue of Tsar Nicholas II in 1997 near Mytishi, 15 kilometers northeast of Moscow, and unsuccessfully planting bombs at Zurab Tsereteli’s statue of Peter the Great in the Moscow River and a gas distribution unit in the Moscow region. Chuvashov also participated in an ongoing corruption case against senior Federal Drug Control Service officer Alexander Bulbov, the Moscow City Court said. In November, Chuvashov was on a panel of judges who ruled to extend the custody of Bulbov, who was detained on Oct. 1, 2007, on suspicion of paying $50,000 per month to an Interior Ministry official to tap the telephones of powerful businessmen, senators and prominent journalists, the court said on its web site.

Bulbov – who faces 10 years in prison on charges of illegal wiretapping, abuse of office, money laundering and extortion in a case that analysts believe is linked to a government power struggle – was released two days after the hearing. In early March, investigators extended their inquiry into Bulbov until June 11, RIA-Novosti reported. Chuvashov’s death was the first killing of a federal judge since Natalya Urlina, a judge with the city court in Dolgoprudny, a Moscow region town, was gunned down by an unidentified assailant in August 2004, RIA-Novosti said.  Chuvashov was appointed to the Moscow City Court in March 2008. Before that he worked for six years as a federal judge with Moscow’s Gagarinsky District Court.

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