Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 7

Segodnya, the daily newspaper of Vladimir Gusinsky’s Media-Most group, published an article today which is likely to raise the Kremlin’s collective blood pressure. The paper reported that yesterday President Vladimir Putin fired Aleksandr Grigoryev, head of the Federal Security Service department for St. Petersburg and Leningrad Oblast. Grigoryev, the paper claimed, had been in a running battle with Viktor Cherkesov, the presidential representative in charge of the Northwest federal district. All three men are veterans of the Soviet and Russian security services and have long been acquainted with one another. Grigoryev and Putin studied together at university. Putin has replaced Grigoryev with Sergei Smirnov, another St. Petersburg special services veteran whom Putin brought to Moscow and appointed as deputy head of the Federal Guard Service.

The more controversial aspect of the Segodnya article concerns the alleged reasons for the bad blood between Grigoryev and Cherkesov. According to the paper, Grigoryev was unhappy over the fact that Cherkesov had as a high-ranking member of his bodyguard unit someone named Sergei Sviridov, who had earlier been connected to Aleksandr Malyshev and Vladimir Kumarin, two of St. Petersburg’s reputed major organized crime bosses. Grigoryev is said to have made his feelings about this known in Moscow. Segodnya also reported that Valery Bolshakov, a former deputy chief prosecutor in St. Petersburg, now works in Cherkesov’s apparatus. Bolshakov, after leaving the deputy prosecutor’s post in 1994, went on to work for Viktor Novoselov, the controversial vice speaker of St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly. Novoselov was decapitated in October 1999 by a bomb which was placed on his car as he waited at a stoplight. Before his death, Novoselov, who had been confined to a wheelchair after a 1993 assassination attempt, maintained close relations with Kumarin, who has been described as the head of the powerful Tambov organized crime group. Segodnya also cited rumors that Grigoryev had opposed several top St. Petersburg officials who wanted to blame all of the city’s many high-profile contract killings on Yuri Shutov, the former St. Petersburg city councilman who is now in prison on charges of murder and running a criminal organization. Grigoryev, the newspaper reported, believes that the Tambov group, not Shutov, was responsible for some of the murders (Segodnya, January 10).

Last year, the French newspaper Le Monde charged that Putin–who served as deputy to the late Anatoly Sobchak when the latter was St. Petersburg mayor–and Trade and Economic Development Minister German Gref–who for a time headed privatization in Sobchak’s administration–had worked as “advisers” for SPAG, German real estate company whose co-founder was arrested in Liechtenstein in May on charges of money laundering and organized crime ties. The newspaper claimed that the manager of the SPAG’s subsidiaries in St. Petersburg was both a friend of Putin’s and tied to Vladimir Kumarin. The Kremlin administration denied that Putin had ever worked for SPAG as a consultant or received a salary from the firm (Moscow Times, May 30, 2000).