Slain Oplot leader was making good money. What do we know about murder of Evgeniy Zhilin committed two years ago in Gorky? 

Slain Oplot leader was making good money. What do we know about murder of Evgeniy Zhilin committed two years ago in Gorky?
Anyone could hire a killer to dispatch Evgeniy Zhilin Photo: The CrimeRussia

The assassination of Evgeniy Zhilin – who was gunned down on September 19, 2016 in Veterok (Light Breeze) Restaurant located on Rublevo-Uspenskoe highway, in Gorky-2, Moscow region – still remains unsolved. In February 2018, the law enforcement authorities have tracked down the supposed killer – Ukrainian citizen Nikolai Didkovsky. In April, it was announced that the assassin was murdered as well. Recently the investigation suggested that the mastermind behind the assassination of Zhilin was some woman owing him $400 thousand. The CrimeRussia performed its own inquest into this mysterious crime.

Killer with Ukrainian passport 

The Main Investigations Directorate in the Moscow Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) put on hold the investigation of the murder of Evgeniy Zhilin, leader of Kharkiv-based Oplot (Stronghold) nongovernmental organization, committed on September 19, 2016 in the Odintsovo district of the Moscow region. The investigators identified the possible mastermind behind this crime. According to the operative data, Evgeniy Zhilin was killed because of debts, while the assassin’s paymaster was some woman. By the way, at the time of the crime, security cameras have recorded some woman alongside the killer.

It is necessary to note that Gorky-2 is an elite cottage community; its entrance is guarded, and a traffic control post and a police center are located nearby. The killer was sitting at one of the tables and waiting for the victims. After their arrival to the establishment, he opened fire. Andrei Kozar', bodyguard of 40-year-old Evgeniy Zhilin, was hospitalized with severe wounds. According to the experts, the shots were fired from a Makarov pistol; three 9 mm shell cases have been found on the scene. In total, five shots were fired: three into Zhilin and two into Kozar' – who had tried to shield his boss. According to witnesses, the killer wore a weird sunhat, yellow glasses, and gloves; he had facial cosmetics and fake mustache. The imposed amber alert was unsuccessful.

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ЕEvgeniy Zhilin was a well-known figure with checkered reputation

Only in February 2018, the investigators have tracked down the alleged killer – Ukrainian citizen Nikolai Didkovsky. According to the law enforcement authorities, “hard evidence has been collected; in addition, Andrei Kozar’, friend and bodyguard of Zhilin, injured during the attack, has recognized him”. Allegedly, Kozar’ has identified Didkovsky on photos shown to him. The personnel of Veterok Restaurant have also identified that person on photos as the assassin – despite the disguise a la Mikhail Boyarsky.

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Veterok Restaurant where Evgeniy Zhilin was killed

In April 2018, a source of Rosbalt.ru has briefly reported that Didkovsky was killed as well. 

Recently, it became known that some woman allegedly familiar with Zhilin had borrowed a large amount of money from him and hired Didkovsky to avoid repaying the debt. Sources in the Main Investigations Directorate in the Moscow Region of the ICR reported that, in the course of searches in the mansion belonging to slain Zhilin, a dozen of promissory notes have been found, including a note from a woman owing him $400 thousand. Her name was not disclosed because she has been put on the wanted list as a suspect in a murder. Nikolai Didkovsky, believed to be hiding in an EU country, has also been put on the wanted list. Following a motion brought by the investigation, the Odintsovo Court of the Moscow Region has charged him with murder, attempted murder, and illegal storage of firearms and arrested Didkovsky in absentia. Nothing is known about the personality of the supposed killer. The CrimeRussia reviewed possible versions explaining the assassination of Evgeniy Zhilin.

Shadows from the past 

The first version pertains to the Kharkiv period in the biographies of Evgeniy Zhilin and his friend and bodyguard Andrei Kozar’. On August 11, 2010, Vasily Klimentiev, founder and Editor-in-Chief of Novy Stil’ (New Style) Kharkiv newspaper, disappeared without a trace. He left home with an unknown man in a silver BMW and never returned back. His body was not found. Evgeniy Zhilin was designated one of the primary suspects in this crime. At that time, he was already reinstated at the Administration for Combating Organized Crime for the City of Kharkiv of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Ukraine. Earlier, from March 2005 to December 2007, he was in detention on suspicion of blasting the vehicle of Kharkiv Mayor Gennady Kernes in October 2003.    

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Zhilin used to serve in the MIA

Klimentiev has published in his newspaper an open letter to the Kharkiv Prosecutor claiming that the reinstatement of Zhilin at the MIA was illegitimate. However, no evidence indicating the involvement of Zhilin in the murder of Klimentiev was found.

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Missing Vasily Klimentiev

On the other hand, the investigation established that the last person who had seen Klimentiev alive was above-mentioned Andrei Kozar’ – a friend and colleague of Zhilin.

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Andrei Kozar’, colleague and bodyguard of Zhilin

The MIA Department for the Dzerzhinsky District of Kharkiv has instituted a criminal case for premeditated murder. In March 2011, Andrei Kozar’, former officer of the MIA Administration for Combating Organized Crime, has been put on the wanted list. In 2012, Vasily Farinnik, then-Head of the MIA General Investigative Administration, confirmed that Kozar’ is a suspect in the Klimentiev murder case. Later, the Ukrainian media wrote that he was allegedly suspected of several more murders.

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Andrei Kozar’

Andrei Kozar’ managed to flee to Russia. He maintained contacts with Evgeniy Zhilin who had remained in Ukraine until the 2014 uprising. After the rebellion, Zhilin has also immigrated to Russia, and their ties became even stronger. It is known that Kozar’ had a residential registration in Kaluga. And it can’t be ruled out that somebody wanted to take revenge on Zhilin for the death of Vasily Klimentiev. 

Political version 

After the tragedy in Veterok Restaurant, it was suggested that the murder of Evgeniy Zhilin was politically charged. It is necessary to keep in mind that Zhilin was the leader of Oplot (Stronghold) – a radical pro-Russia organization created on the basis of an MMA club of the same name.

Members of Oplot had actively opposed Euromaidan under the leadership of Zhilin; their input into Russian Spring was pretty significant. Zhilin was an authoritative organizer and ‘founding father’ of the first wave of resistance in Donbass.

For instance, in February 2014, Evgeniy Zhilin had openly called for armed resistance against the Kiev authorities at the conference of supporters of the Party of Regions held in Kharkiv after the uprising, thus, focusing disappointed anti-maidan activists on the further struggle.


Speech of Zhilin at the conference

Late Aleksander Zakharchenko was in charge of a structural subdivision of Oplot in Donetsk at that time – i.e. was a subordinate of Evgeniy Zhilin.

In addition, Zhilin had repeatedly criticized Kharkiv native Arsen Avakov, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. Some authoritative Ukrainian politicians, who had to flee the country after the rebellion, believe that Evgeniy Zhilin was murdered as per instruction of Arsen Avakov.

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Arsen Avakov, Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine

On October 27, 2018, Ukrainian citizen Sergei Mikhailichenko (Johnson), a native of Kharkiv, has been arrested at Matveev Kurgan border post while trying to enter the Russian Federation from the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and remanded in custody in Rostov-on-Don. He was one of the Oplot leaders and an actual deputy of Zhilin. In 2014, the Ukrainian authorities have charged Mikhailichenko in absentia with murder and abduction and issued an Interpol warrant against him. The Ukrainian MIA is currently seeking his extradition.

“...He had supported those remaining in Kharkiv, helped the Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, continued pursuing the case of Oplot, and assisted young athletes of the DPR and Crimea... Even after fleeing Kharkiv, the team led by Zhilin still had significant influence on processes ongoing in the city. I have no doubt that Evgeniy Zhilin was killed as per instruction of Arsen Avakov,” – Oleg Tsarev, a prominent Ukrainian politician, has commented on the arrest of Mikhailichenko.

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Sergei Mikhailichenko (Johnson), an actual deputy of Zhilin

According to Tsarev, Arsen Avakov has arranged a revision of a solved case pertaining to a crime committed in 2013. The perpetrator has already been convicted and currently serves his prison term. Sergei Mikhailichenko was a witness for the victim in that case. 

Of course, the political version of the murder has strong grounds. But it is necessary to keep in mind that after the immigration to Russia, Zhilin ceased all political activities. Officially, he was an advisor to DPR President Aleksander Zakharchenko for economic matters – but this was just a goodwill gesture of Zakharchenko who had friendly ties with Zhilin. In addition, Zakharchenko became the DPR President with the support of Oplot, and Zhilin had lobbied his candidacy in Moscow in 2014.

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Evgeniy Zhilin and Aleksander Zakharchenko

Zhilin had visited Donbass from time to time, posed in uniform and with weapons on the front lines – but, unlike Andrei Kozar’, who used to be a deputy battalion commander of the People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), he had never directly participated in the military conflict.

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In other words, Evgeniy Zhilin hadn’t affected the processes in Lugansk and Donetsk People’s Republics in any way. Instead, he has ‘entrenched’ in Moscow and the metropolitan area.

Business skills of Evgeniy Zhilin 

Zhilin was a successful businessman. Oplot (Stronghold) nongovernmental organization established by him had a charitable fund, law firm, audit company, information agency, and fight club. Using his ties with supreme functionaries of the Ukrainian MIA and Security Service (SBU), Zhilin managed to transfer the majority of his assets to Russia. In June 2014, he has registered in Moscow Oplot – an interregional  sports–patriotic nongovernmental organization. In August 2015, he has registered another Oplot specializing in training of children in martial arts. A month before his death, Zhilin established Oplot Limited Liability Company and Rus’ (Russia) Limited Liability Company. Evgeniy Zhilin, Anatoly Orban, Andrei Aleksakhin, and Andrei Blinnikov were the cofounders of these two enterprises in equal shares (25% each). After abandoning the politics, Zhilin became a pretty wealthy person and, according to his friends, had never made a secret of the fact that he was ‘making money'. For instance, Andrei Kozar' told operatives during questioning that Zhilin had a company in Kharkiv shipping Ukrainian goods to Donbass. Taking the ‘holes' in the boundaries between the two states and friendly ties between Zhilin and Aleksander Zakharchenko, this is quite possible. However, The CrimeRussia sources in the LPR neither confirm the involvement of Zhilin into any shipments nor his complicity in coal smuggling. On the other hand, the sources don’t rule out the possibility of some isolated incidents – but, according to them, this could not be the reason behind the murder of Zhilin. 

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It is known that members of Oplot – mostly, young men relocated from Ukraine and Russians who have joined them – used to ship large amounts of money throughout Moscow and the metropolitan area – i.e. acted as private cash couriers. Zhilin could have conflicts with competitors providing similar services because he has entered the already-divided market. But again, it is unlikely that he was killed because of this. 

Vicious criminal cycle 

According to one of the versions, Evgeniy Zhilin had tried to ‘collect’ a debt of $6 million from Maksim Yurchenko, son of Kharkiv criminal ‘authority’ Vladimir Yurchenko (Seva). Seva was killed back in 1998 in the course of a criminal war with Crimea-based Bashmaki (Boots) organized criminal group. Members of Bashmaki sneaked into the medical institution where Seva was undergoing treatment and hacked him to death with axes. Some sources claim that, in the ‘turbulent 1990s’, Yurchenko was a thief-in-law and allegedly maintained friendly ties with Shakro Molodoy – but The CrimeRussia was unable to find a person with such name in the lists of crowned thieves. 

After the death of Seva, his son Maksim Yurchenko became a ‘shady’ businessman siphoning off large amounts of money from Ukraine and Russia to Europe. According to some information, he was ‘patronized’ by some Yuri Vasilenko – a close associate of thieves-in-law Shakro Molodoy and Tyurik.

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Yuri Vasilenko

In the first half of 2016, a Kharkiv businessman – owner of a chain of trade and entertainment centers – asked Yurchenko to smuggle $6 million to Europe. Vasilenko and some European business guarantor undertook this task. However, the money disappeared. The defrauded businessman could not solve this issue on his own and addressed an old friend – Evgeniy Zhilin – for help. 

A series of criminal squabbles began. Zhilin took the offensive and started seizing, via his ‘athletes’, agricultural enterprises in the Kharkiv region belonging to businessmen close to Vasilenko. According to Zhilin, the assets were seized to compensate losses sustained by his friend. As a result, Zhilin was killed – at least, a source in Kharkiv claims so. Rosbalt.ru reports that the operatives have allegedly established that, shortly before the murder, a relative of Yuri Vasilenko was spying on Zhilin. Furthermore, he has reportedly supplied the three direct perpetrators of the crime (the assassin, woman, and driver) with firearms and car. 

It is known that Vasilenko was involved, jointly with his business partner – 45-year-old Eduard Akselrod, in the murder of authoritative Russian–Ukrainian businessman Maksim Kurochkin (Maks Besheny (Maks the Frantic)) in Kiev in 2007. Allegedly, they have also retained assassins to gun down Denis Voronenkov, ex-Deputy of the State Duma. In November 2017, Eduard Akselrod (Lepa) was found dead in his car in a Kharkiv yard. Shortly before that, he started collaborating with the SBU that has designated thief-in-law Tyurik the mastermind behind the murder of Voronenkov 

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Eduard Akselrod

Reportedly, Tyurik had tried to make Vasilenko a crowned thief and appoint him the overseer of the Kursk and Belgorod regions – while Kursk thief-in-law Viktor Panyushin (Vitya Pan) had opposed this. 

Zhilin and colonel Zakharchenko 

There is also a version claiming that Evgeniy Zhilin had joint ventures in shady financial services with MIA colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko. It is not a secret that underground cashing-out businesses are controlled in Russia by organized criminal groups and high-ranked law enforcement functionaries. Zhilin joined the ‘law enforcement gang’ in the person of MIA fixer Dmitry Zakharchenko. According to that version, after the arrest of the ex-Head of Department “T” of the MIA General Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption, Zhilin lost his ‘patron’ and encountered serious problems with clients and competitors. By the way, Zhilin was killed a week after the arrest of Zakharchenko.    

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Some sources link Zhilin with billionaire colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko

An acquaintance of Zhilin says that, a few months before the tragedy, the leader of Oplot had to launder several million dollars via fictitious contracts with companies incorporated in the Bahamas. But because of some mishap, the money ended up in limbo. In addition, colonel Zakharchenko has been detained.

The clients lashed out at Zhilin who was unable to ‘settle’ the situation alone.

On September 22, 2016, Evgeniy Zhilin was buried near the tomb of his father at a village cemetery in the Shebekino district, Belgorod region. Two years after his death, the murder of Zhilin still remains a mystery. Based on the above versions, anyone could hire a killer to dispatch the Oplot leader, including the woman owing him money. But The CrimeRussia believes that this is unlikely – taking the professional organization of the crime, its mastermind must be a very powerful figure.


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