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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Trial Ordered for Pichugin

The Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a 24-year prison sentence for a former top security officer with Yukos and ordered a retrial, following an appeal from prosecutors for a tougher sentence, a court spokesman said.

The Supreme Court ruled that Alexei Pichugin should face a new trial with a new judge, court spokesman Pavel Odintsov said.

Last August, Pichugin was sentenced to 24 years in prison for murder, including the high-profile killing of the mayor of an oil town that was the center of the company's operations. The sentence included a 20-year term for a previous murder conviction.

Prosecutors who asked for a life sentence, appealed.

In August, Pichugin was found guilty of organizing the 1998 killings of businesswoman Valentina Korneyeva and Nefteyugansk Mayor Vladimir Petukhov. Pichugin also was convicted of organizing attacks on businessman Andrei Rybin in 1998 and 1999.

Prosecutors claimed Korneyeva was killed after refusing to sell office space in central Moscow to Menatep, a Yukos-related bank. Petukhov was killed on Khodorkovsky's birthday after demanding Yukos pay taxes and other payments he claimed it owed to local, regional and federal governments. Observers, however, have suggested that he was killed as a result of a dispute with local criminal gangs.

Prosecutors have charged that Khodorkovsky's business partner Leonid Nevzlin, who lives in self-imposed exile in Israel, was linked to Pichugin. A new trial for Pichugin could serve as a platform for prosecutors to bring new charges against Nevzlin and demand his extradition.

Pichugin's arrest in 2003 had marked the start of the government's politically charged campaign against Yukos and its jailed founder, Mikhail Khodorkovsky.

The crackdown on Yukos, which led to its partial renationalization and an eight-year prison sentence for Khodorkovsky, was widely seen as a Kremlin drive to silence an opponent and strengthen control of the crucial oil sector.