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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Trial Over Deputy's '95 Murder Called Off

Leaving one of the first high-profile murders in post-Soviet Russia unsolved, the Moscow regional court on Friday closed the case of the 1995 killing of State Duma Deputy Sergei Skorochkin, ruling that the statute of limitations had expired.

The decision, which came 10 years after the Feb. 2, 1995, murder, was issued as five defendants stood a fourth trial in a court that had acquitted them three times. All of the acquittals had been overturned by the Supreme Court.

Skorochkin, a 33-year-old member of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party who had reputed links to organized crime, was found dead with a gunshot wound to the back of his head in a strip of woods near the village of Sarbyevo, 135 kilometers southeast of Moscow. He was handcuffed.

Prosecutors determined that he had been kidnapped from a cafe near his hometown, Zaraisk, by four attackers armed with Kalashnikov submachine guns and wearing military-style fatigues.

Skorochkin came to politics from business, and numerous media reports connected him to the criminal world. A year before his death, Skorochkin shot dead a Georgian national, Irakly Shanidze, whom he described as a mafia extortionist. A court ruled that he had acted in self-defense.

Police arrested six men on charges of kidnapping and killing Skorochkin, but four of them -- Nikolai Lopukhov, Alexei Yevseyev, Sergei Zorin and Viktor Miskalyov -- were acquitted by a jury in the Moscow regional court in November 1998. The other two, Oleg Lipkin and Teimuraz Kurgin, were found guilty of kidnapping.

Prosecutors appealed both verdicts to the Supreme Court, which ordered a new trial. In December 2000, jurors acquitted all six defendants. Prosecutors appealed again, and the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for all of the defendants except Kurgin, who was a juvenile at the time of the murder and by law could not be tried after five years.

In May 2003, the court acquitted the five defendants, ruling that prosecutors had presented insufficient evidence connecting the men to the murder.

Two months later, the Supreme Court overturned the acquittal after finding procedural violations during the trial, and ordered a new trial. At the start of the new trial Friday, the judge decided to close the case following an appeal by the lawyers for the defense.

The defendants maintained their innocence throughout the trials.

Skorochkin was the third lawmaker to be murdered in post-Soviet Russia. In April 1994, Andrei Aizderdzis, a member of the New Regional Policy faction, was shot dead outside his apartment block in the northwestern Moscow suburb of Khimki. In November 1994, Communist Deputy Valentin Martemyanov died of injuries sustained during a beating near his Moscow home.

Several lawmakers have been killed since, and many of their cases remain unsolved, including those of liberal deputies Galina Starovoitova, Vladimir Golovlyov and Sergei Yushenkov.