Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 154

The deputy mayor of Novosibirsk, Igor Belyakov, was murdered this week. Head of the city government’s department for the consumer market and land relations, Belyakov was killed around 8:00 AM on August 7, after a gunman dressed in camouflage and wearing a black mask opened fire on his car while the deputy mayor was traveling to work from his dacha. After shooting out the car’s tires, the gunman fired into the car, finishing off the wounded Belyakov with a shot to the head at point-blank range. Belyakov’s driver, however, managed to escape into the nearby woods.

Belyakov had a rather controversial reputation. Prior to joining the Novosibirsk mayor’s office, he controlled the “Oasis” supermarket chain and represented the interests of the Mikrodin and Interkon-invest companies in the city. In the mid-1990s, Belyakov was arrested on suspicion of extortion and holding people against their will after allegedly detaining supermarket employees he suspected of theft. The charges were subsequently dropped due to a lack of evidence. Belyakov’s accession to the mayor’s office was followed by scandals, including charges that he had falsified his educational credentials and illegally obtained two cottages belonging to a children’s summer camp. He was reportedly the target of seven different criminal investigations. Belyakov also made a number of unpopular decisions as head of the city government’s department for the consumer market and land relations. He ordered the removal of billboards erected by certain commercial agencies, which accused him of working on behalf of their competitors. He also ordered the removal of commercial kiosks from the city’s main streets and launched a reorganization of the region’s main clothing market. In January 2000, police uncovered a plot by a local businessman to assassinate Belyakov.

Despite all this, police said this week they did not rule out the possibility that Belyakov’s murder stemmed from problems in his personal life rather than his business or official activities (Kommersant, August 8-9; Russian agencies, August 7).