Cultural and social figures from Russia's Altai Republic criticized on Monday a non-guilty verdict in the trial of three high-ranking officials whose alleged hunting of endangered animals led to a deadly helicopter crash two years ago.
Earlier in the day a court in the remote Siberian republic acquitted officials charged with poaching endangered mountain sheep.
"It is unfair. Altai's sacred animals have been killed, but no one was punished," Altai cultural activist Akai Kynyev said. "If ordinary people were in the defendants' place, they would have been found guilty."
"It was clear what the outcome would be as soon as the trial started," Andrei Yedyeshev, a senior representative of the ethnic Altai group said.
A Mi-17 helicopter carrying government officials crashed near Altai's Chernaya mountain in January 2009, killing seven people, including the Russian president's envoy to the State Duma, Alexander Kosopkin, and a federal environmental official.
Four people survived the crash, including the republic's deputy prime minister, Anatoly Bannykh, who resigned after the crash; deputy head of the Institute of Economics and Law Nikolai Kapranov, and State Duma official and businessman Boris Belinsky.
KOSH-AGACH (Altai Republic), May 23 (RIA Novosti)