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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Student Arrested in Yushenkov Case


Artyom Stefanov is suspected of killing Sergei Yushenkov to avenge his father.

A day after releasing a composite sketch of Sergei Yushenkov's killer, prosecutors on Wednesday arrested a 20-year-old Muscovite who they believe could have killed the lawmaker to avenge his father.

Artyom Stefanov, a student of the Moscow Academy of Enterpreneurship, was arrested in his apartment in northwestern Moscow at 3 a.m. Wednesday and placed in custody for at least 48 hours.

Stefanov is suspected of killing Yushenkov to avenge his father, who was jailed for six months in 1995 after sending a threatening letter to the lawmaker, Interfax said, citing a source close to the investigation. Investigators had said their main line of inquiry was into Yushenkov's party-related finances.

Stefanov might have an alibi. Rossia television showed a friend of his, Pavel Maslovets, saying he had met Stefanov at the Oktyabr Stadium just before 6 p.m. last Thursday. Yushenkov was shot on Ulitsa Svobody at 5:48 p.m. The stadium is a short drive away.

Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov, who was called to the State Duma on Wednesday to report on the progress of the investigation, refused to elaborate on Stefanov's detention.

His subordinates have also been tight-lipped. His spokeswoman, Natalya Veshnyakova, said Ustinov was displeased that the information about the arrest became public.

Deputy Interior Minister Vladimir Vasilyev, who also reported to the Duma, told reporters the grounds for the arrest "were sound and exhaustive."

Stefanov's parents told NTV television that their apartment was searched and that were trying to find out where their son was taken. "They, the men with automatic weapons, took away my son and would not give me any documents," Alexander Stefanov said. Calls to the Stefanov home went unanswered.

Under Russian law, the relatives of someone detained are free to make the detainment public if the case does not involve state secrets, according to lawyer Andrei Soya-Serko.

Yushenkov's colleagues in his Liberal Russia party reacted to the news of Stefanov's arrest with a certain skepticism.

They confirmed, however, that Yushenkov had received a letter from the elder Stefanov eight years ago threatening the safety of his family. Alexander Stefanov was arrested and spent six months in Butyrskaya jail while awaiting trial.

Stefanov admitted he had sent the letter to Yushenkov because of his harsh statements about the military's operations in Chechnya, according to Yuly Nisnevich, Liberal Russia's executive secretary. The court found Stefanov guilty but released him on time served, Nisnevich said, adding that Yushenkov had asked the court to be lenient.

Yushenkov's murder evoked a wave of criticism from fellow deputies, who lashed out at law enforcement agencies for their inability to prevent or solve contract killings. But after the closed-door hearing on Wednesday, most deputies promised their cooperation.

Journalists were barred from the session out of concern that sensitive information would be disclosed, but afterward deputies told journalists that they had not heard anything that had not already been in the press.

Gennady Raikov, head of the People's Deputy faction, said that judging from Ustinov's report, his investigators still do not have any viable explanation for Yushenkov's murder.

Communist Deputy Viktor Ilyukhin told reporters the session was closed because members of the United Russia party did not want any criticism of their leader, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, to be made public. Gryzlov did not attend, sending Vasilyev in his place.

Federal Security Service director Nikolai Patrushev, who also attended the hearing, told reporters that he had rejected a proposal from the head of the Duma's security committee, Alexander Gurov, to create a commission of lawmakers to oversee the investigation.

"Any involvement in the investigation would jeopardize its impartiality. Or, if pressure is exerted on investigators, if they are hurried, it would lead to negligence in their work," he said.

Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznyov said the deputies had not demanded details about Stefanov's detention from Ustinov. "We understand it is classified operational information," he said.