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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Hockey Boss's Murderer Gets 19 Years Behind Bars




After convicting Vyacheslav Pchelintsev of killing the Russian hockey boss, a city court sentenced him Tuesday to 19 years in prison and also locked up his five accomplices.


Pchelintsev was paid $25,000 to kill Valentin Sych, the president of the Russian Hockey Federation, reported the Kommersant newspaper.


Sych was gunned down outside his dacha two years ago in a murder that shocked the Russian sports world. It is one of the few high-profile contract killings to be solved.


Kommersant said the man behind the killing was former top hockey referee Alexander Artyemev, who was among the six men found guilty March 19. He was sentenced Tuesday to 15 years in prison.


In a report March 20, Kommersant said Artyemev bungled his first attempts to put a contract out on Sych and then even Pchelintsev overslept on the day he initially planned to carry out the killing.


The slaying is believed to be related to control of the lucrative tax breaks once given to the hockey federation, which allowed it to profit from imports of tobacco and alcohol.


In 1994, Sych fought a bitter battle over control of the hockey federation, accusing the then federation president, Vladimir Petrov, and hockey league president Robert Cherenko of working together to funnel off thousands of dollars in federation funds.


"They're the biggest thieves," Sych, who had taken over as head of the federation, said in a 1995 interview with The Moscow Times. "All they're concerned with is lining their own pockets."


Chernenko was detained in 1997 in connection with Sych's murder and held for several months before being released for lack of evidence.


But in a speech at his trial Artyemev claimed that he was only an intermediary and Chernenko was the real mastermind behind the killing, NTV reported.


In his first attempt to have Sych killed, Artyemev paid Azeri gangsters $10,000 to carry out the murder, but they took the money and went back to the Caucasus, Kommersant said.


Having learned his lesson, Artyemev told the next candidate that he would pay him only after the deed was done, but he refused, the newspaper said.


Finally he turned to Pchelintsev, a childhood friend of Artyemev's brother-in-law Dmitry Romanchikov, who overslept on the intended day but then killed Sych on April 22, 1997.


Romanchikov was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Other convicted accomplices - Arif Ismailov, Alexander Koletskov and Yury Sergeyev - received 12, 11, and four years, respectively.


"The lads got what they deserved," said an official at the office of the current president of the Russian Hockey Federation. "The court proved it."


One other suspect, Khalif Yusibov, is still wanted by police.


Russian sports has a series of contract killings in recent years. Three months after Sych's death, the general director of the Spartak Moscow soccer team, Larisa Nechayeva, was gunned down.


On Dec. 31, 1998, the chairman of the SKA St. Petersburg hockey club and his bodyguard were shot dead in an entryway in St. Petersburg.


Most recently, in January, an official from Lokomotiv St. Petersburg and his girlfriend were shot dead at the official's home.