MOSCOW -- The long-awaited trial of an alleged Russian ultranationalist leader accused of high-profile, murderous hate crimes has begun.
Ilya Goryachev, the leader of the ultranationalist Russian Image movement and a suspected ideologue of the nationalist group BORN, is charged with murder, organization of an extremist group, establishing an illegal criminal group, and illegal-weapons distribution.
Goryachev pleaded not guilty at Moscow City Court on June 2, the first day of his trial.
Prosecutors accuse Goryachev of involvement in the murders of Moscow City Court Judge Eduard Chuvashov in April 2010, human rights lawyer Stanislav Markelov, and Novaya Gazeta journalist Anastasia Baburova in January 2009.
Goryachev is also suspected in the killings of three antifascist activists and four Russian citizens from the Caucasus, including former Thai boxing world champion Muslim Abdullayev.
Goryachev was extradited from Serbia in 2013 at Russia's request.
In April, the Moscow Oblast Court sentenced two BORN members to life in prison and one to 24 years in jail after convicting them of killing Chuvashov.
Another member of the organization was acquitted in that trial but is serving a 10-year prison sentence for the killing of a Russian antifascist activist.
Two other BORN members, Nikita Tikhonov and Yevgenia Khasis, are serving sentences of life and 18 years, respectively, for their involvement in the killing of Markelov and Baburova. They were sentenced in 2011.
Goryachev's lawyer, Mark Feigin, insists that his client is innocent and that the charges against him are based on questionable testimony by Tikhonov. According to Feigin, investigators cut a deal with Tikhonov in 2011 under which he would testify against other BORN members.
With reporting by rapsinews.ru