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Published: Tuesday November 19, 2013 MYT 11:40:02 PM
Updated: Tuesday November 19, 2013 MYT 11:40:56 PM

Russia sentences gang leader to life for 16 murders

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A Russian gang leader and two accomplices were sentenced to life in prison on Tuesday for 16 murders including the killing of 12 people at a farm in the south of the country.

Sergei Tsapok, 37, and the gang killed a local farmer, his family, including four children, and visitors in the farmer's home in the Krasnodar province village of Kushchevskaya in 2010, the court said in a statement.

Investigators believe Tsapok suspected the farmer, Server Ametov, was involved in the killing of Tsapok's brother. The assailants set Ametov's home on fire to hide traces of the attack.

Earlier this month, a Krasnodar jury convicted Tsapok and five gang members of 16 murders as well as sexual assault and robbery. Two of the five were sentenced to life, two to 20 years in prison and one to 19 years in prison.

Russia had the highest murder rate in Europe in 2011, with over 13,500 homicides in a population of about 140 million, according to the latest United Nations statistics. Kremlin critics say corruption undermines crime prevention.

President Vladimir Putin, prime minister in 2010 when the Kremlin was conducting a police reform aimed to rid its ranks of corrupt officers, called the killings at the time a "failure of the whole law enforcement system".

The reform effort has done little to improve public trust in law enforcement agencies, which many see as a threat rather than protection.

(Reporting By Alexei Anishchuk; editing by Ralph Boulton)

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