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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Arrests in Missile Designer's Murder

YEKATERINBURG, Ural Mountains -- Police arrested six people Thursday in the murder of Russia's leading missile designer, including his business partner and a 29-year-old hired hit man.


Valentin Smirnov, 62, who developed Russia's state-of-the art air defense missiles, was shot in the head in the staircase of his apartment building in Yekaterinburg on March 20.


The murder shook the city. Authorities pledged to find the culprits, although only a fraction of Russia's contract murders are ever solved.


Law enforcement officials told reporters that Thursday they arrested Smirnov's colleague, whom they accuse of ordering the murder, the killer and four go-betweens.


They said Yury Pinzhenin, 44, who led a private company created under Smirnov's Novator design bureau, hired the gunman because he feared Smirnov would reveal Pinzhenin's thefts to the authorities. Smirnov, the company founder, had tried to persuade Pinzhenin to return stolen money and called the police when he refused.


Pinzhenin contacted the go-betweens, who found a 29-year-old local gang member to carry out the killing.