Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 34

Yuri Shutov, a deputy in St. Petersburg’s Legislative Assembly and a prominent businessman, was arrested on February 16 on charges of having organized contract murders. Shutov is accused of running a criminal gang which murdered, among others, Igor Dubovik, a leading lawyer who had ties to St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev last March, and Dmitri Filipov, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Menatep in St. Petersburg and president of the St. Petersburg Fuel Company. Filipov, who was a long-time associate of State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, was killed in a bomb blast last October.

Along with Shutov, St. Petersburg law enforcement officials arrested eleven members of his alleged gang and seized machine guns, pistols, silencers, explosives, electronic detonators and mines. The gang members were reportedly preparing to murder State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Shevchenko (Russian agencies, February 17).

Shutov was infamous in St. Petersburg political circles–and, some charge, in its criminal circles as well. In 1981, he was jailed for stealing state property. He was amnestied after five years, and in 1990 served for several months as an adviser to Anatoly Sobchak, who then headed the Leningrad city council. After Sobchak fired him–the former St. Petersburg mayor has said he got rid of Shutov after learning about his past–Shutov wrote a book attacking his former boss. In 1994, someone broke into Shutov’s apartment and severely beat him with a hammer. Shutov was later arrested on suspicion of running a criminal gang and illegally possessing ammunition, but the charges were dropped. Shutov won a legislative assembly seat in last December’s local elections, running on a ticket approved by St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev (Trud, Tribuna, February 18).

Shutov was an aide to State Duma Deputy Sergei Baburin, a leader of the “national-patriotic” Popular Rule faction, who charged yesterday that Shutov may have been arrested for an article in “New Petersburg,” a newspaper for which he has regularly written. In his column, Shutov accused Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin, who once belonged to former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak’s team, of being a German spy. One Moscow daily today said that New Petersburg is characterized by “chauvinism, anti-Semitism, and a tendency toward political provocations and turning well-known facts inside-out” (Novae izvestia, February 18). Another newspaper today dismissed the political persecution version out of hand, saying that Shutov’s band, which was “very efficiently structured and subject to strict internal discipline,” was well known to the St. Petersburg law enforcement authorities (Moskovsky Komsomolets, February 18). Several media organizations quoted unnamed St. Petersburg law enforcement officials as saying that they will look into the possibility that Shutov’s gang was behind the 1997 murder of St. Petersburg Vice Governor Mikhail Manevich and last November’s murder of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova (Russian agencies, February 17).