In October 1995, a bomb blast in Donetsk killed the head of a business clan, Akhat Bragin, and five of his associates. Bragin’s crew clashed with dozens of mobsters and uncooperative businessmen across the oblast during the early 1990s. Bragin, known as “Alik the Greek,” had survived several attempts on his life. He became a leading boss in Donetsk and the president of the Shakhtar Donetsk soccer club. Rinat Akhmetov succeeded Bragin as head of the football club and today is Ukraine’s richest man.
The investigation into the explosion made little progress until the spring of 2000, when a member of a rival group admitted to having a hand in the explosion and other contract killings. An international arrest warrant was issued for former Donetsk police officer Vyacheslav Synenko, who had moved to Greece with his family in 1999. He was extradited in March 2005 and the subsequent trial saw the Donetsk Appellate Court sentence him to life imprisonment in connection with the explosion. Synenko later pleaded innocent and appealed the verdict. On Sept. 4, the Supreme Court found evidence of his involvement insufficient and overturned the conviction. The case was returned to the lower court for a new trial and, hence, for an investigation to commence anew.