. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trial Starts In Case of Slain Priest

For the first time in more than five years since the murder of one of Russia's most respected spiritual leaders, a court began hearing testimony this week in the trial of Alexander Men's alleged killer.

Igor Bushnyev, 50, an unemployed worker, has twice confessed to murdering the liberal priest by striking him on the head with an ax. Later however, he withdrew his statements, saying he had been blackmailed by senior government officials.

While Men was murdered early in the morning Sept. 9, 1990, by an unknown assailant in the village of Semkhoz, about 70 kilometers east of Moscow, Bushnyev insists he was in Moscow at the time. Men's family has repeatedly said they believe Bushnyev to be innocent, and that the murder was a political one.

According to Friday's Izvestia, the case against Bushnyev looks more and more like a fraud, which implicates leading figures in the Interior Ministry.

Bushnyev's confession states the following: On the evening of Sept. 8 he and his girlfriend were traveling by train from Moscow through Zagorsk (now Sergiyev Posad) when a group of youths attacked him and dragged him unconscious to a station platform.

After searching for his girlfriend in a nearby village he grabbed an ax, continued his search for an hour and went home. The next morning he continued his search in Semkhoz and, mistaking Men for one of his attackers, killed him. He then returned to Moscow, only to find that his girlfriend had been run over by a train.

However, Izvestia writes, Bushnyev's confession makes it clear that he did not know the scene of the crime, and his description of how he got there is incompatible with geographic reality.