MOSCOW (AP) — The organizer of a brutal attack that left a Russian environmentalist activist in a coma was sentenced Friday to four years in prison.
The Moscow Region court ruled that Andrei Kashirin will serve his sentence in a maximum-security prison after he pleaded guilty to hiring a man to kill Konstantin Fetisov in November 2010. Fetisov spent three months in a coma and was left severely disabled.
The man who attacked Fetisov with the baseball bat was found mentally unfit to stand trial and was sent to a psychiatric hospital. Kashirin will be released in December 2014, taking into account the time he already has spent in custody, and serve an additional year of house arrest.
Fetisov was part of a group fighting against the construction of a highway through the Khimki forest near Moscow. Several people with high-profile political connections reportedly stand to profit from the highway's construction, including Arkady Rotenberg, a billionaire who once taught President Vladimir Putin judo.
Road construction is widely acknowledged to be one of the most corrupt sectors of the Russian economy, with numerous opportunities for kickbacks. Developers pay kickbacks to win contracts, then skimp on materials and skim the profits, sharing some cash with corrupt officials, while bribing inspectors to look the other way.
Fetisov's wife, Marina Myagkova, told the Interfax news agency she was more concerned with the other defendants in the case, particularly former Khimki municipal property department head, Andrei Chernyshev.
Chernyshev is accused of organizing the killing but investigators have failed so far to name a person who ordered it. Three other defendants are also accused of playing various roles in the attack. Pro-forest activists have frequently come under threat from criminals. Mikhail Beketov, a journalist who also campaigned against the highway, was left brain-damaged after an attack in 2008. A year later, a group of activists camping out in the forest were chased away by men with Nazi tattoos.
Evgeniya Chirikova, the leader of the environmentalist group Fetisov belonged to, is a key figure in the Russian protest movement and was recently named one of the world's top 100 thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine.