Suspect in McDonald's Bomb Plot Released

An official with the Sport, Tourism and Youth Politics Ministry, detained on suspicion of involvement in several attempted bomb attacks and racist murders, was released Wednesday because of a lack of evidence, a judge said.

Investigators released Pyotr Bashelutskov because of a lack of evidence of his involvement in the crimes, Galina Lebedeva, the judge in the Kuzminsky District Court who was to rule on Bashelutskov's arrest Wednesday, told The Moscow Times.

Bashelutskov was detained on suspicion of involvement in the attempted bombing of a Moscow McDonald's restaurant on Jan. 16 but was let go because he hadn't been charged with any crime and authorities had not extended his detention, a law enforcement source close to the investigation said by telephone. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Bashelutskov heads a section at the administrative and legal support department of the Sport, Tourism and Youth Politics Ministry, according to the ministry's web site. A ministry spokeswoman, Anastasia Ore-khova, refused to comment, citing "orders from superiors."

Also on Wednesday, investigators released a suspected accomplice of Bashelutskov, Yevgenya Zhikhareva, because they lacked evidence of her involvement in any crimes, Lebedeva said.

On Monday, the Kuzminsky court sanctioned the arrest of two men believed to be Bashelutskov's associates, David Bashelutskov and Stanislav Lukhmynin, Moscow City Court spokeswoman Anna Usachyova said by telephone.

The four suspects were detained Saturday by Federal Security Service and Interior Ministry officers investigating several attempted bomb attacks and racist murders, police said.

An FSB spokesman told Interfax that the four were suspected of involvement in the murder of least 10 foreign nationals, at least three bomb attacks and one attempted bomb attack — all carried out in Moscow in 2008 and 2009.

The suspects allegedly planted a bomb in a McDonald's near Kuzminki metro station on Jan. 16, but law enforcement officials disarmed it before it went off. The suspects are also thought to have detonated bombs on railroad tracks in Moscow's southern suburbs on Oct. 5 and Nov. 4 and a Moscow church on Nov. 30, the FSB spokesman said.

Interior Ministry spokespeople on Wednesday referred all inquiries about the case to the FSB. A faxed inquiry to the FSB press office went unanswered as of late Wednesday.

The number of racist attacks in Moscow soared by 300 percent last year, city police head Vladimir Pronin said Wednesday, Interfax reported. In 2008, Moscow saw 90 attacks on foreigners of non-Slavic appearance, which left 47 dead and 46 gravely injured, Pronin said.

Sixteen racially motivated attacks have occurred in Moscow so far this year, he said.