Russia’s Investigative Committee on Aug. 24 charged Sergei Korotkikh, a controversial neo-Nazi from Ukraine’s Azov regiment, with murder, Irina Sofinskaya, a spokeswoman for the committee, told Russia’s Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper.
Korotkikh was charged under a hate crime article – killing two or more people based on ethnic, religious or political hatred.
The Investigative Committee applied for arresting Korotkikh, who is based in Ukraine and wanted by Russia, in absentia. Korotkikh, who is of Belarusian descent, used to live both in Russia and Belarus.
Korotkikh, also known by his nicknames Malyuta and Botsman, has a highly controversial background. He has been accused of having links to Russian and Belarusian intelligence agencies, and many people around him have been killed or died in suspicious circumstances in Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. These include Belarusian activist Vitaly Shyshov and Belarusian journalist Pavel Sheremet.
Korotkikh has denied all accusations of wrongdoing.
“Russia’s Investigative Committee decided to congratulate me in an original way on Ukraine’s Independence Day by spreading a new batch of fake news,” he wrote on Telegram on Aug. 24. “I think it’s too early to explain that any independent investigative (news) agency will expose these fakes immediately.”
Murder of immigrants
The Investigative Committee did not elaborate in which murder case Korotkikh had been charged. Most likely the charges refer to the murder of two immigrants by neo-Nazis near Moscow in April 2007. These included Shamil Odamanov, a native of Russia’s North Caucasian republic of Dagestan, and an unknown Tajik citizen.
According to a 2015 investigation by Israeli documentary maker Vladi Antonevycz, the 2007 murder could have been perpetrated by Korotkikh and his allies Maxim Martsinkevich (Tesak) and Dmitry Rumyantsev. Korotkikh and Rumyantsev denied the accusations.
Russia’s Kommersant newspaper also reported in 2020, citing law enforcement sources, that Russian investigators suspected Korotkikh of being involved in the 2007 murder.
At that time, Korotkikh and Rumyantsev led the National Socialist Society, a neo-Nazi group, while Martsinkevich headed Format 18, another group of skinheads.
In the same year – in July 2007 – Martsinkevich was arrested on hate crime charges after publicly calling for killing all liberals and giving a Nazi salute at Moscow’s Bilingua club.
In August 2007 anonymous neo-Nazis who said they were the National Socialist Society’s military wing published a video in which they cut off Odamanov’s head and shot the Tajik citizen. They also declared war on immigrants and called for releasing Martsinkevich and appointing Rumyantsev as the president of Russia.
During a separate trial over multiple murders of other immigrants, members of the National Socialist Society said later that Rumyantsev gave orders to kill the immigrants.
In September 2020 Martsinkevich was found dead in a Russian prison right after he allegedly gave testimony on Korotkikh. Russian authorities claimed the death was a suicide but skeptics argue it was a murder.
Russia’s Investigative Committee said that Martsinkevich had admitted to multiple murders, including the 2007 murder of Odamanov and the Tajik citizen, before he committed suicide.
Antonevycz and Russia’s Baza investigative journalism project have also published what they say is a note written by Martsinkevich to a friend. In the alleged note, Martsinkevich said he confessed that both he and Korotkikh had taken part in the 2007 murder.
“In Krasnoyarsk they broke me 100%,” the note reads. “I told them everything. Including the Armenian, dacha and the prostitute who was later killed…. I also admitted to killing the Tajik and the Dagestani…. I didn’t have any chance to prove that it wasn’t me. I told them that Malyuta (Korotkikh) cut off (Odamanov’s) head.”
Russian media also published another alleged note by Martsinkevich in which he retracted his testimony.
“I succumbed to pressure and gave false testimony on myself and my friends about our participation in the death of the Tajik and the Dagestani,” the note reads. “I don’t have anything to do with this crime, and I don’t know who did it.”
Antonevycz and several Telegram channels have also published leaked videos of interrogations in which Marstinkevich described the murders in which he allegedly participated. Specifically, Martsinkevich describes the way he and his accomplices murdered two immigrants in 2003, cut off their heads and then threw them away in Moscow’s Golyanovo district.
In his book Destrukt, Martsinkevich described numerous situations when he brutally beat up, crippled and robbed immigrants and hip hop fans on a weekly basis. In 2007 he also said at Moscow’s Bilingua discussion club that he sought to kill Tajiks and blacks who come to Russia.
Moreover, he has filmed numerous neo-Nazi propaganda videos with both staged and genuine assaults on immigrants.
In 2011, 13 members of the group led by Korotkikh and Rumyantsev – the National Socialist Society – were convicted for 27 murders and 50 assaults that took place in 2008.
Murders in Ukraine
People around Korotkikh in Ukraine have also been killed or died in suspicious circumstances. Korotkikh has denied being involved in any of the deaths.
Specifically, Korotkikh has admitted to being acquainted with Vitaly Shyshov, head of the Belarusian House – a Belarusian opposition group in Kyiv – and having links to the Belarusian House.
On Aug. 3, Shyshov was found hanged in a park on the outskirts of Kyiv in what appears to be a murder camouflaged as a suicide. According to one of the versions circulated in Ukrainian media, infighting at the Belarusian House was the cause of Shyshov’s death.
Another acquaintance of Korotkikh, Belarusian-born journalist Pavel Sheremet, was blown up in his car in central Kyiv on July 20, 2016.
Late on July 19, 2016, on the eve of Sheremet’s murder, six Azov members, including Korotkikh and Azov leader Andriy Biletsky, met with Sheremet near his house. The Azov members later said that they were going to participate in a coal miners’ rally the next day, and sought Sheremet’s advice about the event’s media strategy.
A law enforcement source who was involved in the investigation told the Kyiv Post he did not believe the Azov members’ explanation that they had only discussed the miners’ rally. He said that it would not have made sense for them to go there at such a late hour instead of just calling him on the phone.
Oleh Odnorozhenko, a former deputy commander of Azov, and another source told the Kyiv Post that Sheremet and Korotkikh had a quarrel on the eve of the murder. The second source spoke on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisals.
Korotkikh is a friend and relative of former Belarusian police officer Valery Ignatovych, who had been convicted for kidnapping Sheremet’s cameraman and friend Dmitry Zavadsky, who was killed in 2000.
In January EUobserver, a Brussels-based English-language publication, and the Belarusian People’s Tribunal, an opposition group, published an audio recording in which alleged officials of Belarus’ KGB discussed murdering Sheremet in 2012. Korotkikh studied at Belarus’ KGB Academy in the 1990s.
A law enforcement source who was involved in the Sheremet investigation told the Kyiv Post that the Korotkikh version was one of the most plausible ones but it had not been properly investigated due to the political connections of Azov members to ex-Interior Minister Arsen Avakov. Korotkikh used to work as a top police official under Avakov and calls himself a personal friend of Avakov’s son Oleksandr.
Meanwhile, Odnorozhenko and Larysa Babych, the wife of Azov fighter Yaroslav Babych, have also accused Korotkikh of killing Yaroslav in 2015. Babych, whose murder was also camouflaged as a suicide, was among the Azov members who were radically opposed to Korotkikh and his alleged illegal schemes, Odnorozhenko said.
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