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ST PETERSBURG, January 19 (Itar-Tass) — A St Petersburg court on Thursday handed down a verdict in the high-profile case over the murder of Investigative Committee /SK/ employee Dmitry Marininov, who was shot and killed in this city in January 2009. Sergei Kovalchuk, found guilty of masterminding two murders, including Marininov's assassination, and setting up a criminal group, was sentenced to 26 years in a maximum security penitentiary. The prosecutors had asked to sentence him to life imprisonment.
Three other defendants - Sergei Strelnikov, Sergei Ivanov and Igor Zalevsky - charged with murder, drug sales and keeping of firearms, were sentenced, respectively, to 13, 22 and 24 years in prison.
The murder for which Zalevsky was convicted had been committed back in 2003.
The court began to announce the substantive provisions of the verdict on Wednesday. According to the verdict, the murder of the SK investigators was committed in connection with his performing a public duty. The motive behind the crime was his gathering information about the activity of Kirilchuk's group, which engaged in sales of heroin. His actions were "a real threat to the existence of the criminal group," the verdict said.
According to the investigators, Marininov, before his appointment to the SK, was a non-staff employee at an internal security department in police. He had been gathering evidence of the illegal activity by Kirilchuk's group, which sold heroin. Kirilchuk, upon learning it, promised his acquaintances Strelnikov and Ivanov 15,000 dollars for the murder of Marininov.
At around 12:00, Moscow time, on January 15, 2009, when Marininov was repairing a punctured wheel of his car, Strelnikov shot him in the back of the head. Strelnikov fired a pistol with a silencer, whereupon he escaped with his accomplice. Marininov died on the spot.
The investigator said Kirilchuk had given the killers 600 grams of heroin for the murder instead of the promised money.
During the inquest, Kirilchuk denied his guilt and insisted he had nothing to do with the murder or the drug sales. He claimed Sergei Strelnikov had framed him. Strelnikov, who fired a lethal shot at Marininov, is the only of defendant who pleaded guilty.
After the reading of the verdict, Kovalchuk's lawyer Dmitry Dinze said the lawyers would appeal against the verdict. "We want our client to be acquitted. We'll be seeking the decision to overturn the verdict," Dinze said.
In his opinion, the trial lacked competitiveness and the case itself had not been fully investigated. Dinze believes the police who had threatened Marininov escaped punishment. "This version was not probed seriously during the inquest," he underlined.
The lawyers of other defendants confirmed they would challenge the verdict, too.
Meanwhile, prosecutor Maxim Ivanov said "a full evaluation of the verdict will be possible after its careful study."
"On the whole, I'd say the punishment meted out by the court confirms to the degree of public danger this criminal group posed," the prosecutor said.
However, he believes the penalty for Sergei Kirilchuk should be tougher.