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Russian MMA fighter behind neo-nazi gang sentenced 

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A mixed martial arts fighter who formed a neo-nazi gang that murdered an Armenian man was handed a lengthy prison sentence for his crimes.

Nikita Fedonenko, a 24-year-old MMA fighter who represented the Omsk regional branch of the Russian MMA Union, was found guilty of extremism, robbery, murder, and intentional infliction of minor bodily harm based on racial hatred and sentenced to 18 years in prison.

Fedonenko was arrested and charged in 2016 with “causing grievous bodily harm that negligently caused the death of a person”. According to news agency “SuperOmsk,” Fedonenko attacked Vahe Zalibiakan, an Armenian immigrant ten years his senior, and sent him to the hospital, where he died of his wounds. The report added that when police searched the fighter’s apartment, they encountered “paraphernalia similar to the ones used by skinheads.”

Since his detention, investigators have uncovered the details behind Fedonenko’s attack, as well as a list of other crimes that the fighter is guilty of, including the formation of a neo-nazi gang in his native Omsk. The gang committed several robberies targeting minority groups in Russia, primary those from Central Asia and the Caucasus. It was one of those attacks that led to Zalibiakan’s death.

However, once it was deemed unsafe for the gang to commit public attacks on minority groups, they brought in a 17-year-old woman named Regina Mikulichev to attract potential victims. According to reports, Mikulichev contacted men on social media and lured them to secluded places to be attacked by her fellow gang members. It remains unclear how many victims they succeeded in luring into violent beatings before being arrested in 2016.

The trial began in May 2018. Mikulichev was sentenced to six years in prison for her role in the nationalist group, while fellow member Alexander Bezborodov was sentenced to 16 years.

In 2013, Fedonenko took second place in the “Cup of the Golden Helmet”, a tournament in honor of USSR coach Vladimir Zborowski where the prize is the title of Master of Sports in Pankration. The fighter represented the Omsk Academy of the Ministry of Interior, where he studied.

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