[JURIST] The Russian Supreme Court [official website] on Wednesday agreed to overturn the 24-year sentence [JURIST report] given to former Yukos [corporate website; JURIST news archive] security chief Alexei Pichugin [Wikipedia profile] for organizing a series of contract killings, including the 1998 murder of Vladimir Petukhov, the mayor of Nefteyugansk [official website]. Prosecutors appealed the sentence, arguing that Pichugin's crimes warranted a lifetime sentence. The charges were filed [JURIST report] in April 2005. The 24-year sentence included a 20-year sentence [JURIST report] Pichugin received after a 2005 conviction for murder and assassination.
Pichugin argued at trial that the charges were a politically motivated effort to connect Leonid Nevzlin [Forbes profile], a former Yukos executive, to the deaths. Nevzlin lives in exile in Israel, and Russia requested his extradition last year. Observers suggest the new trial could allow prosecutors to find new evidence against Nevzlin. The Financial Times has more. AP has additional coverage.