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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yanukovych Ally Slain Outside Court

APKurochkin, also known as "Mad Max," standing in a courtroom in Kiev on Tuesday shortly before being shot dead.
KIEV -- A Russian businessman allied with Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych was shot dead by a sniper as he was being escorted from a Kiev courthouse by police.

A police officer who was guarding Maxim Kurochkin, 38, was seriously wounded in the incident, which occurred during a break in his extortion trial Tuesday, Kiev police chief Volodymyr Polishchuk said.

He died on the spot after being hit by a bullet fired from a building neighboring the Svyatoshynsky District Court, Polishchuk said.

Police said Wednesday that they had found the suspected murder weapon, a sniper rifle, on the roof of the building, and that two male suspects had been spotted leaving in a Mazda car, Channel 5 news reported.

Yanukovych said Wednesday that he knew of no political motives in the killing, Unian news agency reported.

Deputy Interior Minister Mykola Kupiansky said police were "cooperating with our counterparts from Russia to identify the people who may be involved in the crime," Unian reported.

Kurochkin, who ran the Russian Club, an organization uniting Russian and Ukrainian political analysts and journalists supporting Yanukovych during the 2004 presidential campaign, was arrested in November at Kiev's airport. His trial has been closely watched because of his ties to Yanukovych. Kurochkin had said the case, which involved the privatization of a Kiev hotel and a Dnipropetrivsk area goods market, was fabricated.

Ukrainian media reported that Kurochkin had repeatedly asked the court to release him on bail, saying he feared for his life and claiming that he had survived 18 attempts on his life, including a November 2004 car bombing that seriously wounded his bodyguards.

AP, MT