"Gangster-Link" Businessman Shot On Steps Of Ukraine Court House

KIEV, Ukraine -- A Russian businessman accused of extensive underworld links was shot and wounded on the steps of a Ukrainian court house, the Channel Five television channel reported on Tuesday.

Maxim Kurochkin, Russian businessman and alleged criminal boss, also known as Max Besheny ('wild'), is seen during a court hearing on charges of extortion in Kiev, Ukraine, Tuesday, March 27, 2007. After this photo was taken, an unidentified man shot Kurochkin dead during a break in the court proceedings in the courtyard of the court.

Maxim Kurochkin, reportedly one of Ukraine's wealthiest tycoons with wide interests in real estate and the hospitality industry, was hit by a single bullet as he exited a court house in the Sviatoshin district of the Ukrainian capital.

A security officer escoring Kurochkin towards an automobile was also hit. The assailant escaped, and Kiev police were engaged in a city-wide manhunt by early evening.

Separate ambulances delivered both Kurochkin and the bodyguard to Kiev city hospitals. Police cordoned off the crime scene and were not commenting on the severity of either victim's injuries.

Mob attacks and even killings are not unheard of in the Ukrainian capital, but hitmen almost always ambush their targets near homes or in parking lots, rather than in public view.

Ukrainian border police arrested Kurochkin, 37, in November after he arrived in the country by aircraft.

Ukrainian prosecutors subsequently accused the Moscow-born entrepreneur of using gangster tactics during the 1990s to acquire control of many of Ukraine's higher-end hotels, particularly in Kiev and along the Crimean peninsula's southern coast, a prime summer resort region.

Kurochkin's case has been closely followed in Ukraine, in part, because of possible ties between the Russian's hotel empire, and Ukrainian government officials who according to prosecutors handed over ownership of dozens of state-owned hotel in exchange for bribes.

Kurochkin through lawyers has denied the accusations, and claimed he is the victim of a political vendetta pursued by the Ukrainian government, because of his outspoken public support of ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

Source: DPA