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Kiev court balks at extending detention for alleged Donetsk racketeer
Journal Staff Report

KIEV, Aug. 2 – Boris Kolesnikov, a powerful Donetsk official who had been in custody since April charged with racketeering and other crimes, was released Tuesday after a court declined a request from prosecutors to extend the arrest.

The Kiev Court of Appeals ruled Kolesnikov may be released, but must stay in Donetsk while the prosecutors continue investigation into his alleged involvement into racketeering and ordering an assassination. The prosecutors sought to extend the arrest by five months.

Immediately after the ruling, Kolesnikov left the court for an airport and flew to Donetsk on a special charter plane. He was later hospitalized in a Donetsk hospital, with local doctors citing heart problems and high blood pressure.

The development is a major setback for law enforcement agencies that have claimed to have enough evidence linking Kolesnikov to racketeering and several assassination attempts.

The Internal Affairs Ministry on Tuesday had no comment on the ruling.

The Kolesnikov case is one of the top high-profile cases that the law enforcement agencies have used to illustrate alleged corruption under the previous government of former President Leonid Kuchma.

“The allegations were groundless and very soon I will be able to prove it,” a smiling Kolesnikov told a television channel Tuesday after the court ruling was announced.

The ruling was cheered by some 50 Kolesnikov supporters outside the court.

Kolesnikov, then the head of Donetsk region council, is suspected of extorting shares of Beliy Lebed, the biggest department store in Donetsk, in 2002. The previous owner of the store, Boris Penchuk, suffered three assassination attempts and was treated in a hospital with his feet apparently amputated due to the attacks, Internal Affairs Minister Yuriy Lutsenko has said.

The Kolesnikov investigation is one of several high-profile cases aimed against a powerful Donetsk business group which includes Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine’s wealthiest man and Kolesnikov’s biggest ally.

Akhmetov left Ukraine last month after law enforcement summoned him for questioning in connection with the shooting of a gang leader 17 years ago.

Akhmetov’s brother, Ihor, was earlier named by Lutsenko among the current owners of Beliy Lebed store, and he had been also reported to be outside of Ukraine. (nr/ez)




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