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Court reduces sentence for organizer of arms firm head murder

MOSCOW, June 8 (RIA Novosti) - Russia's Supreme Court ruled Thursday to reduce a life sentence against the organizer of a killing of the head of the country's leading weapons manufacturer to 25 years in jail.

Igor Klimov, 42, acting director general of the Almaz-Antei consortium manufacturing air defense weapons, was killed early on June 6, 2003, in central Moscow when he was attacked by two men while leaving home. The men shot him but fled when they saw Klimov's wife. Klimov managed to grab the weapon from his killers but died at the scene.

The court thereby upheld a request by prosecutors for a 25-year jail term for Yevgeny Mankov, the leader of a six-person gang behind Klimov's murder, who had been sentenced to life on October 7, 2005.

"I think that 25-year sentence is better for Mankov than a life sentence," the prosecutor said.

Before his appointment as head of Almaz-Antei in August 2002, Klimov - a St. Petersburger like President Vladimir Putin and with a background in foreign intelligence - had worked in the presidential administration.

The Supreme Court also reduced by three months sentences against two other members of the gang, former police major Vladimir Stepanov and Alexander Nikitin, from 23 and 24 years, respectively. The 22-24-year sentences for the remaining three gang members remained unchanged and start Thursday.

The court said Mankov had organized a group that specialized in contract killings.

"The court concluded that it was an organized gang," the verdict said.

The person who ordered the killing remains unidentified, and the judge said a separate inquiry had been launched.

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