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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Afghan Veterans Chief Will Face Trial Soon

Valery Radchikov, the head of a fund for Afghan war veterans will soon face trial for ordering a 1996 bomb blast at a Moscow cemetery that killed 14 members of a rival organization, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Enough "clear evidence" of Radchikov's involvement in the murder has been "accumulated" to pass the case over to a military court, Vladimir Danilov, senior investigator with the General Prosecutor's Office, said in a telephone interview.

The investigator said Radchikov, who lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan, will also be tried on charges of embezzling $2.5 million from the Afghan War Veterans Fund.

Prosecutors believe it was Radchikov who ordered the Nov. 10, 1996 blast at the Kotlyakovskoye cemetery which killed 14, including the head of the Afghan War Veterans Fund, Sergei Trakhirov, and injured another 50.

A remote-controlled device detonated when Trakhirov and his colleagues were attending a graveside ceremony to mark the murder of his predecessor Mikhail Likhodei.

Likhodei and his bodyguard were also killed by a remote-controlled bomb in November 1994.

Radchikov was arrested in April 1997 and charged with ordering both Likhodei's murder and the cemetery bombing.

Danilov said the charge of murdering Likhodei may be dropped within the next few months due to lack of evidence.

If convicted of organizing the cemetery bombing Radchikov could be sentenced to a maximum of 15 years in prison. Danilov said Radchikov's trial may begin as early as next month.

He is being tried in a military court because at the time he allegedly ordered the bombing, he was still serving in the armed forces in the rank of colonel.

Danilov said the court, which has yet to be named, may be unduly sympathetic to Radchikov, because of his distinguished career in the General Staff's intelligence directorate.

Prosecutors believe Radchikov ordered the murders as part of an ongoing feud with the Afghan War Veterans Fund. He set up the fund in 1991 and turned it into a lucrative business importing liquor and tobacco into Russia.

He was forced to quit in 1993 when colleagues accused him of embezzlement. He set up a rival fund which soon became the recipient of millions of dollars in government assistance intended for veterans.

Radchikov's colleagues continue to maintain that he is innocent.

"Why would he want anyone killed if he has his own fund with so much government money running through it?" Yevgeny Maslov, chief administrator at the fund, said Wednesday.