YEKATERINBURG, February 26 (RIA Novosti) – A court jailed two people, including a much-decorated Soviet Afghan war veteran, for 4 ½ years each on Tuesday after they were found guilty of a bizarre plot to seize power in Russia’s Urals city of Yekaterinburg.
The court found that Leonid Khabarov, 65, a former Soviet-era colonel, and inventor Viktor Kralin had conspired with seven other people to murder a number of regional officials and blow up power lines in order to “create panic among the population.”
Six of the group would then take control of city administration buildings in a bid to mobilize support, which the plot organizers expected would lead the Kremlin to concede power to them.
The plot’s mastermind, Alexander Yermakov, was earlier found to be suffering from schizophrenia and committed to a psychiatric ward.
The other members of the group, including a pensioner and a computer programmer with no previous military experience, were given suspended sentences ranging from two to six years for their parts in the plot.
Defense lawyers for Khabarov and Kralin earlier alleged the charges were falsified, pointing to the prosecution’s failure to provide details of the plot.
The indictment accused the men of attempting to illegally purchase weapons “in an undetermined place, in undetermined circumstances, acting in conjunction with undetermined individuals.”
Khabarov was a member of a nationalist organization formed by Сolonel Vladimir Kvachkov, 64, who was jailed for 13 years earlier this month over a separate coup plot.
Kvachkov was arrested on the coup charges in December 2010, a day after Russia’s Supreme Court had found him not guilty of a 2005 attack on Anatoly Chubais, the then head of the Unified Energy System company and an architect of the 1990s privatization of state assets.
Both Kvachkov and his lawyer alleged after this month’s verdict that Chubais had ordered the new charges as “revenge.”
Chubais denied the claim in a blog post, but called Kvachkov a “dangerous fascist extremist who is ready to sacrifice people's lives for his mad ideas.”
Protest leader Sergei Udaltsov, currently under house arrest, is also expected to stand trial this spring for his part in another alleged coup. Udaltsov and two other leftist activists were charged after the pro-Kremlin NTV channel aired footage that supposedly showed them discussing plans to overthrow President Vladimir Putin with a Georgian politician. They face up to ten years behind bars if found guilty of the charges, which they deny.