Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 35

A senior Russian law enforcement official said yesterday that Yuri Shutov, the St. Petersburg legislative assembly deputy arrested on February 16 on suspicion of involvement in high-profile murders, may have been behind the assassination of Democratic Russia leader Galina Starovoitova last November. Interior Minister Serge Stepashin said specifically that investigators are looking into the possibility that Shutov “may have participated in the contract killing of State Duma Deputy Galina Starovoitova” (Russian agencies, February 18). Law enforcement agents arrested eleven others on February 16–allegedly members of Shutov’s gang–and seized a stockpile of guns, ammunition and explosives. The gang was allegedly preparing to murder State Duma Deputy Vyacheslav Shevchenko, a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party.

Shutov reportedly came into conflict with both Starovoitova and Mikhail Manevich, the St. Petersburg vice mayor who was in charge of St. Petersburg’s privatization process and who was murdered in August 1997. Earlier that year, the State Duma had put Shutov in charge of the St. Petersburg branch of a parliamentary commission investigating the legality of privatization. Neither city hall nor the local legislative assembly, however, recognized the commission’s authority. Ruslan Linkov, former press secretary to Galina Starovoitova, has subsequently said that Shutov used the commission to extort stakes in St. Petersburg businesses from their owners. According to Linkov, Manevich told Starovoitova that Shutov had threatened him after some businessmen targeted by Shutov appealed to Manevich for help. Linkov says Manevich had promised to give Starovoitova documents concerning Shutov’s activities on August 19, 1997. On August 18, Manevich was assassinated. Linkov also says that Starovoitova, shortly before she was murdered last November, said she planned to delve back into Manevich’s accusations against Shutov, who had entered the race for the local legislature (Segodnya, February 18; Moscow Times, February 19). Linkov was severely wounded in the shooting attack which killed Starovoitova.

Yesterday, State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev categorically denied a claim which former St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak made on February 17, that Shutov had worked as an adviser/consultant to Seleznev. Seleznev described Sobchak’s statements, which Sobchak made during an interview with NTV, as “malicious slander.” Seleznev admitted, however, that when the heads of the Duma’s commission investigating privatization urged that Shutov run the commission’s St. Petersburg branch, he [Seleznev] gave his approval (Russian agencies, February 18).

Police reportedly suspect Shutov of being behind last October’s murder of one of Seleznev’s long-time friends and allies–Dmitri Filippov, the chairman of the board of Bank Menatep St. Petersburg, who was also president of the St. Petersburg Fuel and Heating Company. That company is partially owned by the local authorities. In 1997 St. Petersburg Governor Aleksandr Yakovlev appointed Shutov to represent city hall on its board.

Since Shutov’s arrest on February 16, Yakovlev’s political opponents, including the local branch of the Yabloko movement, have pointed to the fact that Yakovlev endorsed Shutov’s candidacy in last fall’s local legislative race. On February 17, the governor released a statement in which he denied knowing last fall that there was a criminal case against Shutov and suggesting that Shutov might be innocent (Moscow Times, February 18).

Investigators believe Shutov’s gang may also have been behind the murders last year of local attorney Igor Dubovik, who was an adviser to Yakovlev, and Nikolai Bolotovsky, who was the chairman of the board of directors for the local defense contracting firm Istochnik (Moskovsky komsomolets, February 18).