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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Bykov Finally Gets His Day in Court

Itar-TassBykov, standing in the defendant's cage, refused to testify at the trial on Monday.
After a yearlong investigation and three months of delays, a Moscow court on Monday opened the trial of Krasnoyarsk metals magnate Anatoly Bykov, who is charged with plotting the murder of former business associate Vilor Struganov.

The high-profile hearings opened under tight security at the Meshchansky district court. Dozens of armed police officers and court guards swarmed the court premises and a sniffer dog was brought in to check the building for explosives.

Bykov, who has been awaiting trial in the Lefortovo prison since October 2000, stood in the steel-barred defendant's cage. Clad in a sleeveless jacket and tight jeans, he flashed his trademark, toothy-white smiles and oozed self-confidence.

"What a bureaucracy," Bykov said, sighing loudly, as judge Vladimir Nikitin questioned prosecutors, defense lawyers, Struganov and himself in opening day formalities. "That's why courts are overloaded with cases."

Struganov -- who was brought in for the trial from Krasnoyarsk, where he was recently arrested on charges of plotting two explosions -- rarely lifted his gaze from the floor. Struganov, his eyes rapidly blinking with the nervous tic that earned him the nickname Tsvetomuzyka, or Strobelight, sat jammed between two guards in civilian clothes.

He could not recall his address when asked by the court.

"Somewhere at Varshavskoye Shosse, I don't remember the numbers," he said, his eyes on his suede boots.

Most of the day was consumed by reading Bykov's indictment -- a confusing tale of real and fake murders, business rivalries and invisible ink.

According to investigators, Bykov, then the head of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant, and Struganov parted ways after Struganov joined forces in 1999 with the Chyorny brothers, Bykov's main rivals in the aluminum business.

A conflict between the two businessmen began when Bykov was detained later that year in Hungary at the request of Russian law enforcement. Russia had issued a warrant for Bykov's arrest on suspicion that he was involved in money laundering, gun-running and contract murders.

Struganov visited Bykov in a Hungarian prison in December and asked him to sell some or all of his 28 percent stake in Krasnoyarsk Aluminum, according to the indictment. The request made Bykov furious.

Bykov was extradited to Krasnoyarsk in April and released from a jail there on Aug. 24, 2000, under orders not to leave town.

However, while still in jail in March, Bykov, "experiencing enmity to Struganov, based on the distrust," ordered his driver and bodyguard Alexander Vasilenko to kill him, said prosecutor Svetlana Yemelyanova, reading the indictment.

The Federal Security Service helped stage Struganov's murder in Sept. 29 of that year in a sting operation to catch Bykov. Four days later, Vasilenko, wearing a hidden microphone, went to Bykov's apartment and told him that the order had been fulfilled. As proof he had killed Struganov, Vasilenko brought his gold Rolex watch and several business documents smeared with invisible ink by FSB officers.

Bykov was arrested Oct. 4, and the watch and documents were found in his apartment. Although he denied any involvement in the attempted murder, the recording of his conversation with Vasilenko and the ink residue on his hands suggest otherwise, investigators said.

Bykov's five defense lawyers said they will argue that the case is a frame-up, relying heavily on the fact that Vasilenko has retracted the testimony he gave investigators.

The start of the trial was delayed three times as lead defense lawyer Genrikh Padva attempted to get permission to submit as evidence written and videotape recordings of Vasilenko declaring Struganov had forced him to testify against Bykov at gunpoint.

He made the statements in Cyprus in December and is now hiding in France, Nikitin said, citing an FSB report released at a previous hearing in January.

"It is in Struganov's interest to have these documents in the case because he is the only party who hasn't seen them," Padva told the court.

Struganov reacted indifferently. "I don't care," he said, giving what was his standard answer to most questions at Monday's hearing.

The court allowed the videos and documents into evidence after watching three of the tapes.

Padva also asked for permission to summon additional witnesses, including four State Duma lawmakers and a high-ranking police officer from Krasnoyarsk. Two of the Duma deputies were Yegor Salomatin and Vladislav Demin of the LDPR faction who had brought Vasilenko's statements from Cyprus.

Padva said the witnesses would give more details about the relationship between Bykov and Struganov.

Struganov's only objection at the hearing was to permitting private television stations to film in the courtroom, an allowance favored by Bykov and his lawyers.

"These stations can be easily bribed and will influence the court and the witnesses," said Struganov, adding that he has nothing against state-controlled ORT and RTR television.

The judge forbade video and audio recordings in the courtroom and only permitted reporters from the printed media to stay.

Bykov refused to testify after the reading of the indictment.

"I don't admit any guilt," he said. "Let the prosecution prove what I am being charged with."

The court then recessed until Tuesday.

If convicted, Bykov faces up to seven years behind bars. The trial is expected to take at least several weeks.