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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

5 Drug Officers Found Guilty of Assaulting Transport Cops

Moscow's Meshchansky District Court has convicted and sentenced five drug police officers for beating up transport police officers during a botched stakeout.

The court convicted and sentenced Alexei Bereznikov, Vasily Ptitsyn, Dmitry Prokofyev -- officials with the city branch of the Federal Drug Control Service -- to five to six years in prison for assaulting the police officers in November, a court spokeswoman said Monday.

Two other drug police officials, Andrei Yurenkov and Alexander Illarionov, were given three-year suspended sentences, the spokeswoman said.

The convictions come on the heels of the arrest of several officials from the embattled agency on charges of illegal wiretapping. Agency chief Viktor Cherkesov, a longtime ally of President Vladimir Putin, wrote in an article in Kommersant last week that the arrest of his subordinates revealed a bitter conflict between the country's special services.

But according to prosecutors' account of the November incident, the beating of the two transport police officers resembled more of a Keystone Cops affair than one of high-level, interagency intrigue.

Posing as dealers, the five officers were attempting to purchase drugs from a supplier in a sting operation when a cell phone, essential for communicating the whereabouts of the supplier, was stolen from a sixth undercover officer, according to a statement by city transport prosecutors.

The sixth officer chased the thief but was intercepted by two plainclothes transport police officers. The five officials caught and proceeded to beat the transport police officers, prosecutors said.

Prokofyev stole 1,000 rubles from one of the transport police officers, while Ptitsyn took a golden bracelet from the other as he was handcuffing him, prosecutors said.

All five officers have appealed the verdict, which was handed down Friday, Kommersant reported Monday.

Drug policy reform activists say Cherkesov's agency -- created in 2003 -- is redundant because the Interior Ministry and Federal Customs Service already have the experience and structures in place to fight drug trafficking.