Several other incidents this past week showed the decree to which Russian society continues to have a law-and-order problem. General Vitaly Gamov, commander of the Russian border guards on Sakhalin Island in Russia’s Far East, died in a Japanese hospital several days after his apartment was firebombed, severely burning both him and his wife. The attack is to have been carried out by the “fishing mafia”–poachers in the waters off Russia’s Far Eastern coast who make billions of dollars trading in black-market seafood, which is sold mainly in Japan. Gamov had recently ordered that local fishing boats install equipment so their whereabouts could be monitored, a move that was clearly bad for the illegal fishing business.
Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders, the international press freedom advocacy group, called on the Russian authorities this week to investigate the May 20 murder of Aleksandr Plotnikov, co-owner of a daily newspaper in Tyumen, Siberia. The victim was apparently locked in a battle with the other owners for control over the newspaper when he was shot to death, apparently by a hired gun. Late last month, the chief editor of a newspaper in Tolyatti, the highly criminalized Russian auto-industry town located in the Samara region, was shot to death in an apparent contract killing. Hit men are also being employed in sectors previously untouched by organized crime. On May 21, Andrei Petukhov, the general director of the insurance company SOGAZ, a subsidiary of the state-controlled Gazprom natural gas monopoly, was murdered along with his driver at a suburban Moscow dacha compound. The Moscow police reported today that Aleksandr Osipov, who for twenty-five years hosted a popular children’s television program, was found shot to death in his car. A police spokesman said that Osipov had been involved in “entrepreneurial activity” in recent years and thus it could not be ruled out that his murder was a contract killing.