MOSCOW, July 21 (RIA Novosti) - The main suspect in the murder of a top Russian banking regulator has started a hunger strike after being placed in an isolation cell, a courtroom source said on Monday.
Prosecutors arrested banker Alexei Frenkel in January last year in connection with the murder of first deputy Central Bank chairman Andrei Kozlov. Frenkel is being held in Moscow's Matrosskaya Tishina pre-trial detention center.
According to the source, Frenkel said during closed hearings on Monday that he had been placed in an isolation cell on July 19 and had rejected food ever since. He did not specify the reason for his isolation.
"Frenkel announced during the hearings that he had spent a total of 75 days in isolation, breaking all records," the source said.
A state penitentiary service official confirmed that Frenkel had been put in an isolation cell for 15 days after he was found in possession of a mobile phone. However, he said detention center authorities knew nothing of his hunger strike.
"Frenkel was put in an isolation cell for 15 days on July 19 for violating confinement rules, namely possessing a cell phone," the official said.
Frenkel "had made no statement on a hunger strike when he left the detention center for the court session in the morning. Probably, the decision was made in the courtroom," the official said.
Frenkel has faced disciplinary measures at the detention center on several occasions. In January, he was put in an isolation cell for 15 days for "systematic violations of regulations." In November last year he was placed in the ward for 10 days for passing notes between cells. A month earlier, he got 15 days in the ward for drinking alcohol.
Kozlov, who oversaw bank licensing and led efforts to close down dozens of banks, including over money laundering, was shot dead along with his driver in September 2006. Kozlov had closed down Frenkel's VIP Bank three months prior to the murder.
Frenkel, along with restaurant owner Liana Askerova, whose testimony led to his arrest, and Boris Shafrai, a Ukrainian businessman, are accused of organizing the murder.
Another four people have been charged with involvement in the murder. Another suspect is on an international wanted list.
Investigators said Frenkel paid $300,000 for the murder, and that the perpetrators received between $3,000 and $8,500, and the intermediaries over $80,000 each.