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Moscow Cop Gets Life In Prison For Supermarket Shooting Rampage

A TV grab shows former police officer Denis Yevsyukov reloading his pistol in a Moscow supermarket on April 27, 2009.
A Moscow court has convicted a former police officer of killing two people in a supermarket shooting spree and sentenced him to life in prison.

The February 19 verdict came a day after President Dmitry Medvedev fired 18 senior police officials and announced a sweeping reform of the nation's law-enforcement bodies.

A three-judge panel convicted former Moscow police Major Denis Yevsyukov of two counts of murder and 22 counts of attempted murder in the April 2009 shooting spree, which also left seven people wounded.

"We asked the court to sentence [Yevsyukov] to life imprisonment because the purpose of punishment is not only retribution but also restoring social justice, to the extent that it is possible," prosecutor Amalia Ustayeva told reporters.

Igor Trunov, an attorney representing Yevsyukov's victims, expressed satisfaction with the verdict and the sentence, but added that he planned to seek financial compensation for the families of the deceased and those wounded in the attack

"We have appealed to the European Court of Human Rights and we believe that the state has to bear financial responsibility for the actions of its officials, because the [surviving] victims still need medical treatment," Trunov said.

Yevsyukov walked into a supermarket in southern Moscow on April 27, 2009, wearing his police uniform jacket. He then opened fire, shooting randomly at customers and staff, killing a cashier by shooting her in the face. He had also earlier killed a taxi driver who drove him to the store.

According to media reports, he told later told police that the shooting spree "would have been more fun" if he had had a machine gun. He has since expressed regret for his actions, saying he was crazed at the time of the attack. Reports at the time said the shooting took place soon after Yevsyukov had had a fight with his wife.

Reform Moves

The shooting fueled anger at Russia's notoriously corrupt and brutal police force. Images of the 32-year-old Yevsyukov stalking the aisles of the supermarket and firing gunshots were captured by security cameras and frequently replayed on television, shocking many Russian and sparking calls for police reforms.

On February 18, Medvedev tried to address those concerns. He sacked two deputy interior ministers and 16 other top police officials, and halved the number of personnel in the Interior Ministry's head office. He also ordered the number of police officers cut by one-fifth by the beginning of 2012, and changed police recruitment rules.

He also took away from the Interior Ministry responsibility for deporting foreign citizens, carrying out automobile inspections, and housing people detained for drunkenness -- all of which give ample opportunity for abuse and extortion.

"The very fact that this process is up and running after all that has happened over the past two months is positive. It shows that the authorities have recognized that there is a problem and are prepared to take measures to minimize the problem," says Natalya Taubina, the director of the pro-reform advocacy group Social Verdict.

She adds, however, that the authorities appear to lack an overall strategy for reforming the police. "We have the impression that there is not a well-developed concept of reform. To this day, we have not seen such a concept," Taubina says.

Medvedev appeared to be trying to do just that when he ordered the government of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin to submit a new draft law to regulate the Russian police to parliament by December 1. He also gave Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev one month to submit a new plan for battling corruption within the ministry.

Brutality, Bribery, And Corruption

Russia's police have come under increased scrutiny since Yevsyukov's shooting rampage, as numerous other incidents of police malfeasance and violence have come to light.

In October, Viktor Syusyura, the interior minister in the Russian republic of Buryatia, and his deputy were arrested in connection with an alleged contraband jewelry racket.

Also in October, Medvedev sacked the chief of the Tuva region's police force, Viktor Lesnik, after a local policeman killed a fellow officer and then shot himself.

And on January 20, Konstantin Popov, a journalist in Tomsk, died from wounds suffered from alleged beatings while in police custody. One police officer has been arrested in connection with Popov's death.

Police corruption was also highlighted when Aleksei Dymovsky, a police major in the Black Sea port of Novorossiisk, posted a series of videos on the YouTube video-sharing site alleging that police there engaged in routine falsification of evidence and were under pressure to arrest innocent people in order to meet monthly quotas. He also complained of poor working conditions and a low salary.

The videos received more than 1 million hits.

Dymovsky was fired and has since been arrested and charged with fraud and abuse of power, which his supporters call an effort to silence him.

Mikhail Pashkin, head of Russia's Police Union, says rank-and-file police officers are under pressure from superiors who want them to follow orders, regardless of whether they are lawful.

"The authorities want the police to obey them without questions. But the people want the police to obey the law. Unfortunately, our police don't obey the law," Pashkin says.

RFE/RL's Russian Service contributed to this report