Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 52

With yet another shooting in broad daylight, Moscow seems to be appropriating the reputation of Russia’s second city, St. Petersburg, as the capital of gangland violence. Bashir Kodzoev, a State Duma deputy with the pro-Kremlin Unity faction, was shot at 2 o’clock in the afternoon after coming out of an office building in central Moscow, just a short distance from the Kremlin and from Petrovka 38, the Moscow police headquarters. Kodzoev, who was shot in the chest and arm, was said to be in satisfactory condition yesterday following surgery. His driver and bodyguard, Yury Sazonov, a police captain, was also shot, and died at the scene. The gunman was found on the third floor of a nearby apartment building. Police called the shootings a classic contract murder attempt which would have cost those who ordered it some US$100,000-$200,000. Indeed, while some members of the Unity faction–including its leader, Boris Gryzlov, and another top official, Aleksandr Gurov–spoke of their wounded colleague in exclusively positive terms, Aleksandr Kotenkov, President Vladimir Putin’s representative in the Duma, noted that Kodzoev should have been in the Duma at the time the shooting took place, given that the lower parliamentary chamber at that time was considering a motion to vote no confidence in the government of Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov. “I can say one thing for certain: If he had gone to work and been in the [Duma] meeting hall, none of this would have happened,” Kotenkov said. Kodzoev is deputy chairman of the Duma’s committee which deals with problems of Russia’s North and Far East.

The presidential representative’s hint that Kodzoev may have been involved in nefarious activities was not without basis. Bashir Kodzoev and his brothers left Ingushetia in the mid-1980s and settled in Irkutsk, where they became highly successful and wealthy businessmen. One of his brothers, Magomed, however, was convicted of embezzlement. In 1997, Bashir became Ingushetia’s permanent resident in Irkutsk Oblast and also worked as the deputy director of the Irkutsk Ceramics Factory. Shortly before the December 1999 parliamentary elections, the Irkutsk Oblast police charged Bashir and another of his brothers, Murad, with large-scale embezzlement in connection with several cases dating back to the first half of the 1990s. These cases involved, among other things, several cases of alleged large-scale fraud, including allegations that a firm belonging to Murad had failed to repay a credit to the state’s Sberbank, and a case involving the theft of fifty-three train cars carrying sugar. Viktor Ilyukhin, a Communist member of the Duma’s Security Committee, was quoted today as saying that Bashir Kodzoev had both large-scale oil and gold operations in Irkutsk and “serious conflicts with competing firms.” Ilyukhin said that Kodzoev’s business activities were “not always clean” and thus that the attack on him was probably the result of “contradictions between business structures.” According to other theories, the murder attempt may have been connected either to a “criminal war” which has been raging in Irkutsk Oblast over the last several years between Azerbaijani and Chechen-Ingush groups, or to the fact that the Kodzoev brothers had openly opposed Ingushetian President Ruslan Aushev. Investigators also indicated that the attack might have been connected to Bashir Kodzoev’s work as deputy chairman of the Duma’s committee on the problems of the North and the Far East, which involves such matters as shipments of commodities to residents of remote regions (Kommersant, Moskovsky Komsomolets, Vremya Novostei, March 15).

Whatever the case, the attack on Bashir Kodzoev and his bodyguard was just the latest in a recent string of apparent contract hits in the Russian capital. On March 11, Yury Vlasov, head of the Moscow regional justice department, and his driver were found stabbed to death in Vlasov’s apartment. The Moscow regional justice department, which is a branch of the federal Justice Ministry, monitors the implementation of federal laws and the work of regional legal and notary offices. On February 28, Anatoly Tikhenko, head of the federal public notary chamber, was shot dead in the entrance of his building in northwestern Moscow. According to one account, Tikhenko had been trying to get professional notaries and realtors to work together to force organize crime groups out of the housing market (Moscow Times, March 12; Vremya Novostei, March 2). Last December, Iosif Ordzhonikidze, a deputy prime minister in the Moscow city government, was seriously wounded by after being shot in broad daylight in central Moscow. His driver was killed in the incident (see the Monitor, December 20, 2000).

Meanwhile, the editor of the Russian version of Playboy magazine, Maxim Maslakov, was shot and wounded last night by an unknown attacker outside the magazine’s offices in the northern Moscow. The motives for that attack were not clear. Playboy is part of Independent Media, the media group which includes the English-language Moscow Times and the Russian business newspaper Vedomosti. In January, Vladislav Maximov, a deputy editor with Vedomosti, was stabbed and seriously wounded outside a Moscow metro station (Moscow Times, March 15, January 26).