Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 217

Inevitably, the Moscow press and rumor mill were rife with possible “versions” of the murder and attempted murder. One version involves the elections for St. Petersburg’s legislative assembly, set for December 6. The campaign has been, as one democratic activist put it, “extremely dirty,” replete with “disinformation,” anti-Semitic propaganda and “double” candidates–candidates put forward with the same names as their democratic opponents. A party sharing the name of Yabloko, led by Grigory Yavlinsky, has even appeared. Some observers say these candidates are being put forward by criminal groups.

Four months ago, Starovoitova and State Duma Deputy Yuly Rybakov formed a bloc called “Severnaya Stolitsa” (Northern Capital), to help unite the democrats, which in turn formed an electoral bloc called “Soglasye” (agreement). Both Starovoitova and Linkov reportedly received a number of threats, and in September, their office was the object of an apparent attempt to place a listening device. Starovoitova recently announced her plans to run in next February’s election for governor of Leningrad Oblast, adjacent to St. Petersburg. The oblast, as a newspaper noted today, has ports and oil pipelines which “represent no small interest for criminal structures which wanted least of all to see the principled leader of Democratic Russia in the post of governor” (Segodnya, November 23).

Severnaya Stolitsa’s newspaper last week published an investigative report alleging that State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, a member of the Communist Party from St. Petersburg, had formed a electoral slush-fund in the form of an “Academy of National Security.” On Sunday (November 22), Seleznev told Russian Public Television that these allegations were “complete nonsense.” Seleznev said he was “indignant to the bottom of my heart” over the murder, but that Starovoitova’s allies should not turn it into a “political show.” Last month, Dmitri Filipov, one of Seleznev’s close friends and the head of the St. Petersburg Fuel Company, died from a bomb blast in his home; several weeks later, Mikhail Oshorov, Seleznev’s aide in St. Petersburg, was shot in the head but survived. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who was leading a congress in Moscow of the opposition Popular Patriotic Union, said Starovoitova’s murder showed the weakness of the government in the face of “banditry.” “We will be demanding that emergency measures to establish order in the country are immediately taken,” Zyuganov said (Russian agencies, November 21).

Former St. Petersburg governor and Starovoitova ally Anatoly Sobchak said yesterday that roots of the murder were in the “criminalization” of the St. Petersburg authorities (NTV, November 22). Sobchak, who was interviewed in Paris, was charged last September with bribery and abuse of power during his tenure. His supporters say the case was politically motivated, initiated by allies of Vladimir Yakovlev, the current governor of St. Petersburg. Boris Nemtsov, a former first deputy prime minister, told radio station Ekho Moskvy he believed the murder was either carried out by “Russian Nazis” or connected to the December 6 elections. Nemtsov said a “criminal order” exists in St. Petersburg. And while Nemtsov said he believed that neither the president nor the government nor the special services were involved in the murder, he added that Russia’s special services have in recent years been “privatized by communists, Nazis [and] oligarchic structures” (Russian agencies, November 22).

Some of Starovoitova’s allies all but accused the communists of having carried out the murder. Yegor Gaidar, head of Russia’s Democratic Choice, called the communists “Nazis” and reminded viewers of the methods the Nazis used. Gaidar expressed outrage that Zyuganov had called for “emergency measures,” and cited the murder of Sergei Kirov on the orders of Josef Stalin, which was the prelude to the Great Terror of the 1930s. Gaidar said that instead of emergency measures, there must be strong laws against crime (RTR television, November 22). Anatoly Chubais, another top member of Gaidar’s party, said there is a “close link” between the anti-Semitic remarks made last month by Albert Makashov, a communist deputy in the Duma, and Starovoitova’s murder. Oleg Sysuev, deputy head of Yeltsin’s administration told Ekho Moskvy that Starovoitova had asked for a meeting today to discuss the dangers of political extremism. Several television channels reported that following the scandal surrounding Makashov’s remarks, Communist deputies had asked for the addresses of democratic deputies in order, ostensibly, to sue them (Russian agencies, November 21-22).