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Russian Ride-Sharing Passenger Charged With Murdering Missing Driver

Updated

A man identified as Vitaly Chikiryov as seen in a video posted by the Investigative Committee.

A Russian man with a reported history of violent crime has been charged with killing a woman authorities say gave him a lift arranged through a ride-sharing app.

A Moscow court charged Vitaly Chikiryov on December 31, a day after he was arrested on suspicion of killing 29-year-old Irina Akhmatova, a manager at the fast-food chain Burger King in the Russian capital.

Akhmatova went missing last week after using the BlaBlaCar service to find a passenger to accompany her on a trip from Moscow to Tula, some 190 kilometers south of the Russian capital, authorities said.

Akhmatova left her workplace in central Moscow in her Audi on the evening of December 23, picked up a male passenger at a metro station in the southern part of the city, and then drove toward Tula, the Investigative Committee said on Facebook.

The post early on December 31 said Akhmatova had not yet been found dead or alive but that Chikiryov, 40, had confessed to killing her.

State news agencies RIA Novosti and TASS later quoted unnamed law enforcement officials as saying that Akhmatova's body was found in a strip of woodland in the Serpukhov district south of Moscow.

A video posted by the Investigative Committee showed a man identified as Chikiryov, with a bruised face, being hauled roughly into a room by officers and responding "yes" when asked whether he had killed a woman.

Asked why, he said he was trying to rob her.

The authenticity of the video could not be independently confirmed, and rights activists say Russian law enforcement officers sometimes use physical and psychological abuse to elicit confessions.

Russian media reports said that Chikiryov has been convicted of rape and robbery in the past, but they did not include details.

The newspaper Kommersant said he served in a special Interior Troops unit in the North Caucasus before his first conviction.

Reports said the signal from Akhmatova's phone was last detected near Podolsk, south of Moscow, and that Akhmatova's car was found outside a supermarket in Yaroslavl, 250 kilometers northeast of Moscow, with the exterior washed and the license plates removed.

According to media reports on December 29, BlaBlaCar confirmed that Akhmatova used the app before setting out from Moscow to Tula.

Paris-based BlaBlaCar says on its website that it is "the leading carpooling app in the world" and "connects drivers with empty seats to passengers looking for a ride."

With reporting by Interfax, TASS, Ria Novosti, Kommersant, and Crime Russia
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