Moscow Hitmen Prefer Car Bombs

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 18

An explosion took place in central Moscow on May 25, injuring seven passers by, none of them seriously. The blast, which was caused by an explosive device that had been attached to a lamppost on Zvengorodsky Chausee (Zvengorod Highway), slightly damaged a Saab 9000 standing nearby. reported that police believe the Saab was the target (MosNew,, May 25). However, reported that an unnamed businessman told police that his car, which was behind the Saab, was the bomb’s real target (, May 25). In January 2003, two cars parked at an apartment building on Zvengorodsky Chausee were found to be booby-trapped with homemade explosive devices (, May 25). Also on May 25, Federal Security Service (FSB) bomb disposal experts disarmed an explosive device that was found under a parked Mercedes in the suburban Moscow town of Dolgoprudny. The automobile reportedly belongs to a local judge (RIA Novosti, May 25). Last month, the head of a leading Russian advertising agency was killed when a booby-trapped briefcase was placed on the roof of his car. Four other people, including three passengers in the car and the apparent hitman, also died in the blast (Interfax, April 12).

These and other recent incidents show that while there is a general perception that Russia has evolved beyond the “Wild East” lawlessness of the 1990s, contract killers nonetheless seem to be getting plenty of work. On May 20, the head of the Justice Ministry’s Scientific Center for Legal Information, Marat Gazizov, was shot to death as he left his apartment in Moscow to go to his car (Gazeta, May 21). That same day, Moscow Arbitration Court Judge Konstantin Krokhin was shot and severely wounded in southwest Moscow. MosNews noted that on May 14 authorities had tightened security measures at the Moscow Arbitration Court “in connection with rising crime nationwide” (MosNews, May 21).

Indeed, rising criminal violence has by no means been restricted to the Russian capital. On May 20, Leonid Kalinin, a 45-year-old Chita businessman who also sat on the political council of the local branch of the Union of Rightist Forces (SPS), was killed along with two bodyguards and his driver when unidentified gunmen fired on his car with automatic weapons. According to Gazeta, Kalinin had been a member of an organized crime group and a racketeer in the mid-1990s (Gazeta, May 21).