Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 154

The murder of Novosibirsk Deputy Mayor Igor Belyakov was just one of the more high-profile apparent contract killings in Russia recently. Indeed, despite the widely held view–particularly abroad–that Vladimir Putin’s accession as head of state has been accompanied by an overall increase in stability and a mellowing of Russia’s Wild East-style capitalism, contract killings remain a common occurrence.

Belyakov was not the only high-level official to have been targeted recently. On the morning of July 24, the first deputy prefect of Moscow’s Zelenograd district, Leonid Oblonsky, was shot to death as he was getting into his car. Oblonsky oversaw the district’s retail and wholesale businesses, restaurants and social services, and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov publicly declared that the murder was probably connected to Oblonsky’s “refusal to give certain opportunities to some organization” (Russian agencies, July 24). In December 2000, Moscow Deputy Mayor Iosef Ordzhonikidze was shot and seriously wounded while on his way to work (see the Monitor, December 20, 2000). On July 23, the head of the Federal Service for Financial Improvement branch in Nizhegorod Oblast, Yevgeny Vetkin, was shot to death in the center of Nizhny Novgorod (, July 23). In late June, the head of the Northwest Customs Terminal in St. Petersburg, Vitold Kaiganovich, was murdered in another apparent contract killing. While the Northwest Customs Terminal is formally a private organization, it is said to have close links with the State Customs Committee (Russian agencies, June 25).

Indeed, businessmen and criminals as well as officials are regularly the targets of apparent contract killings. Just today, the director of a shipping company in Vladivostok, Anatoly Khramov, was shot to death in his own apartment. Workers refurbishing a neighboring flat managed to capture the shooter, and police said after questioning the suspect that they were certain that the murder had been ordered. Another apparent attempted contract killing took place in Vladivostok today, when unknown assailants bombed the home of Aleksandr Makarov, a well-known local businessmen who heads a company called “Enterprise.” Makarov received multiple wounds when the bomb, which was filled with nails and attached to the grating of his bedroom window, went off at 4 AM, local time. In Moscow today, an unidentified gunman severely wounded a 30-year-old businessman from Kostroma Oblast, shooting him four times in the stomach before disappearing. Yesterday, police in Mytishi, a small town on Moscow’s outskirts, found the body of Gennady Meloyan, deputy director of the “Stroiperlit” factory, near the factory’s entrance. He had been shot in the chest and head (, August 10). Earlier this week, the director of a metals trading firm in the Pushkin district of Moskovsky Oblast, near the Russian capital, was killed when his Mercedes 600 came under fire. His 21-year-old daughter, who was also in the car at the time of the attack, was also killed, as was his driver (, Russian agencies, July 7). Late last month, a reputed Armenian crime boss was found murdered in central Moscow (, July 27). On July 2, the body of the director of a wholesale food company in the city of Novgorod was found in his Mercedes 280 near Novgorod’s regional airport. He had been shot in the head. In another suspected contract killing the same day, a 45-year-old man who owned several food shops was shot to death in St. Petersburg (Russian agencies, July 2). In late June, a Moscow businessman and his bodyguard were shot several meters from the entrance to the Central Customs Excise building in the capital by an attacker reportedly dressed in black and wearing a mask. The businessman was killed and the bodyguard wounded (, June 20).

Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who has revamped the Interior Ministry’s anti-organized crime units, warned this week that law enforcement was losing the war against organized crime in Russia’s northwest regions (see the Monitor, August 9). The Interior Minister has also personally taken charge of the investigation into the murder of Novosibirsk Deputy Mayor Igor Belyakov. A newspaper noted this week, however, that such high-level attention to specific criminal investigations has generally had little impact on solving the cases. For example, those responsible for the bombing of an underground passageway at Moscow’s Pushkin Square, which took place a year ago (on August 8, 2000) and killed thirteen people, have not been apprehended, despite the fact that President Vladimir Putin personally took control of the investigation (see the Monitor, August 9-11, 2000; November 15, 2000). The paper also noted that the killers of Vladislav Listyev, the television personality murdered in 1995, have yet to be caught. Then-President Boris Yeltsin took that investigation under his personal control (, August 7).

Yet, while the perpetrators of contract murders are rarely brought to justice, they are occasionally tried and convicted. Today the Omsk Oblast court sentenced Igor Klimenok and Gor Avakyan to thirteen years’ imprisonment each for the 1998 murder of Marat Sadykov, a well-known local businessman who headed the “Sibiryak” sports club and was coordinator of the local branch of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Klimenok is described as having been a business “companion” of the victim (Russian agencies, August 10).