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'Accomplice' Of Suspect In Russian Duma Deputy Killing Arrested

ST. PETERSBURG -- An alleged accomplice of a former Russian Duma deputy suspected of involvement in the killing in 1998 of politician Galina Starovoitova has been detained in St. Petersburg, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Criminal investigators say that Sergei Kovalev, known in criminal circles as "Uzbek," is suspected of helping to organize the killing of three Russian citizens -- including former Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Shevchenko -- in Cyprus in 2004.

Police officials in St. Petersburg told journalists that Kovalev claims to have followed former Duma deputy Mikhail Glushchenko's instructions in threatening Shevchenko and his family in an effort to extort $10 million in 2003.

Glushchenko, 53, was an active member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia in the Duma in the 1990s. He fled Russia in 2000 after media reports of his possible involvement in the killing of Duma deputy Starovoitova, a well-known reformist politician and minority rights activist.

Glushchenko was arrested in St. Petersburg in June 2009 on suspicion of organizing the Cyprus killings when he returned to Russia from abroad and tried to apply for a new passport.

Yevgeny Vyshenkov, the deputy director of the Investigative Journalism Agency in St. Petersburg, told RFE/RL it is too early to draw any conclusions from Kovalev's statements. Vyshenkov said Kovalev's alleged confessions might be part of a deal he made with investigators.

But Vyshenkov added that Kovalev's arrest is important as it allows police to keep Glushchenko in detention while the investigation continues.