Don’t shoot each other, fellas. Domestic fight turning into a Western
Street lamp light creeping nervously on the pavement.
Bright spot highlights frames out of the darkness: red ragged cordon tape ripples at the wind, a pool of blood, and a few more drops. Flashlight beam is focused on the signboard “Deputatskaya Street”.
A high private house behind an iron fence. This is what the scene of a crime reminiscent of the 90s looks like. This is where a domestic quarrel developed into a massive fight with shooting. As a result, two people were killed, and six people were injured.
September 3, six cars pulled up on Deputatskaya Street in Yekaterinburg; they were mostly expensive foreign cars; two dozen young men got out; they were extremely agitated. Four men went towards them from the gate of the house: three older men (all in their 40s), namely Oleg Shishov, Aleksandr and Aleksey Dutov, and son of Aleksandr Dutov, 22-year-old Aleksandr. They all would become the main characters of the drama, which has been all over the Russian news.
Since the news of the brawling with two fatalities broke throughout the media, the story has been dubbed “Hollywood fighting”. The name is explained by the scene of action, i.e. street, just like in the movies. However, the whole story is more reminiscent of Bollywood movies, the Indian counterpart of the dream factory.
A form flees in the lamp light, as if in a noir genre movie. Slightly swaying, a man emerges from behind the corner and gravely walks down the road. He comes up to the house and throws a casual glance on our camera man. A middle aged man with a flat-top, short coat, expensive leather suitcase, and good shoes.
“Turn away the camera. I can see you shooting, I’m no fool,” the man shouts. Military in his posture.
After calming down a bit, he starts talking. He is confident, making no unnecessary movements, and failing to introduce himself.
“Young fellas arrived. Thinking they rule the world, they had a lot of nerve coming for a showdown with guns. And then our people charged in, men who had fought in the Special Forces. They had guns two. They ended up shooting each other, and that was it,” he succinctly concluded.
“I won’t tell anything else until Oleg (Shishov) is free,” the man added, and then left.
It is difficult to call the neighborhood where it all went down the outskirts of Yekaterinburg, rather it is its side: narrow streets, high private houses, they are all capitalism roundabouts with villas and barracks side by side. Here, a two-storey mansion is in harmony with a wooden house from the movie Spring on Zarechnaya Street. A comfortable place to live when you love privacy and hate panel megacities; the locals call it both a village and a gypsy settlement.
What happened here in the night of September 3 on Deputatskaya Street did not look like a sitcom about life in a populous city; rather, it resembled a Wild West shootout or a poorly made film about showdowns in Russia in the 90s.
A car stops in the center of Yekaterinburg. Three men get out, including Oleg Shishov, Aleksandr Dutov, and their lawyer. Oleg is smiling at cameras; he is wearing a black shirt with white flowers and a brown jacket carelessly thrown over it. He walks around the car and pulls something wrapped in a sheet out of the trunk; the roll resembles a carbine.
He carefully picks up the carbine swaddled in a sheet and walks towards the central police building. Beetle-browed Aleksandr walks beside him; he is wearing a leather jacket; he has his right hand in his pocket, carrying a plastic bag with his left hand. Oleg and Aleksandr together with their lawyer disappear in the regional police station house; some time later they leave the building in front of the cameras.
It looks like some kind of show. Shooters themselves reach out to the press, openly smiling and explaining their actions with manly behavior; this is the only way to engender sympathy in strangers, after all. But maybe it only seems so.
We meet Oleg and Aleksandr two days after they have turned themselves in to police. We have appointed the meeting to the late night in a law office in Yekaterinburg.
Oleg stands smiling, wearing the same shirt and a chupryna, a Cossack style of man's haircut with a lock of hair sprouting from the top. There is a shiner under his left eye. A ring on his finger features a golden snake with three large gems.
“It’s been hell of an absurd conflict. Nobody wanted a war,” Oleg says with certainty.
Twitching his broad shoulders and frowning sternly, Aleksandr stands next to him. Their duo could easily star as Asterix and Obelix.
Oleg tells his version of the conflict, which resembles a Latin American drama. He is Aleksey Dutov’s family friend; together they did military service in the Rus Special Forces. Aleksey Dutov has a brother Aleksandr, who has a wife Marina, with whom Oleg is also friends.
Marina and Aleksandr have a daughter Diana; Marina has another daughter, Alisa, from the previous marriage. Her daughter Alisa has been dating a gypsy Dmitry for almost a year; it has made her family really nervous. However, the daughter has become pregnant, and they humbled themselves. It was making them nervous mainly because both Oleg and Dutovs family call themselves Cossacks and serve in the Cossack army; they humbled themselves because children and love are often above all the weird stereotypes about people.
The conflict broke out on Marina Dutova’s birthday. Oleg is real tight-lipped about what happened, narrowing down to the fact that gypsy Dmitry and Cossack Oleg had a clash of characters and told each other to eff off, which is not something you see in the Latin American soap operas. According to Oleg, he and Dmitry parted without any obligations.
In Oleg’s words, in the evening of September 3, Aleksandr called him and told that there were people after him.
“I was at home at the time, wearing nothing but a robe, chilling. Then my friends called me, saying I need to get dressed because there is someone after me. I asked them who they are talking about. I didn’t believe them at first. All I managed to do was throw off my robe and leave the house,” Oleg tells.
Three of his friends had pulled up to his house (Aleksey, Aleksandr, and his son), and then six cars with unexpected visitors showed up. According to Oleg, he had a hunter’s carbine Vepr at his house; which his friend Aleksey later grabbed and went to “meet” the young men.
“People got out of cars and stood side by side. Hired fighters were at the avant-garde,” Oleg explained. The conversation did not go very well, and the visitors allegedly tried make a forced entry at the gates, by which Oleg with his friends stood, protecting the family.
“They tried to take away the barrel. This is when the first shot was fired. Then the ruffle began. The eyewitnesses, who should be interrogated, saw them collecting guns from their own men.”
Oleg says that he saved the family by posturing over the house, because nobody knew the story’s possible outcome. His friend Aleksandr tacitly assents. It is kind of odd that he avoids questions about his daughter. When asked about his daughter, and why he and his family let the massacre take place, he calmly replies, that “there are some questions to which there is no answer.”
24-year-old Dmitry, Alisa’s groom, does not talk to the press. Gypsies, whom Oleg blames for triggering the conflict, have been out of contact, not answering the phone and ignoring the requests for meetings. Then they suddenly called, offering to meet.
His name is Yanek. We have met in front of the Investigative Committee building on Shchorsa Street in Yekaterinburg. Dmitry, Alisa’s civil husband, has been under interrogation, and Yanek has been waiting for him outside. Talking about the movies, Yanek is more like a young Michael Corleone; a 19-year-old man riding an expensive Toyota Camry, humble, smiling, and non-poor. He says his second name is Knyazev; his mother has changed her gypsy surname Ogli, which is very common in Yekaterinburg.
“No, I do not study yet. I have finished school. My father helps me,” Yanek smiles. He tells his version of the conflict between Dmitry and Oleg.
“Oleg sits down beside him and puts a hand on his shoulder. Dima starts to move, and Oleg begins swearing at him. Then Alisa’s father sits down between them to set them apart and says ‘Oleg, you are wrong, apologize to that person,’ to which the former replies ‘Why should I apologize to some gypsy boy?’”
Yanek claims that Oleg was the cause of the conflict, as he was the one to fix an appointment with Dmitry.
“Then Oleg called Dima, saying ‘You blew the meeting. Are you hiding or something? I will come for you!’” tells Yanek.
He then reveals that passengers of the six cars that arrived on Deputatskaya Street were mainly acquaintances. Dmitry’s brother Ruslan was taking lessons at the Khrabr club, so he invited a few people from that club; two of them have died. According to Yanek, those who arrived by cars had no guns. Oleg was the one to provoke violence, because he was standing with arms at the gate.
“He pointed the gun at us. What could we do? He was pushed, and Alisa’s father began thumbing back the hammer. It was clear he was about to shoot. We tried to take away his gun, and he began shooting into the ground. We scattered while he was firing at us,” Yanek recalls. “Here, take a look.”
The young man turns to the car and shows three bullet holes on the trunk.
“He was shooting. A guy fell down beside me, because he had hit him in the leg. I did not see anything, just heard the bullets whistle, and people fell. That's not how things work around here.”
For Yanek, all Roma people are brothers; Dmitry, his brother Ruslan, and three more people are family to him. Gypsies were in the minority among the young people who came to the gate of Oleg’s house, others were friends from sports sections, whom they had asked to help.
A detached view on the story
The Khrabr club, in which martial artists work out, is located near Yekaterinburg center, on Tsvilling Street; it is positioned as patriotic. It is difficult to say at what age young boys turn into fighters, or vice versa, but let us not get episodic; the fact is that the average age of Oleg Shishov’s “attackers” was 18.
The martial arts club on Tsvilling Street is easy to find; it is located at the fighting community building under a tricolor flag, in rented premises. Inside, walls are painted with pictures of Russian victories, such as the Battle of Kulikovo, Suvorov’s triumphs, and other things. We are met by a disturbed hall owner.
“This is a bad publicity for us,” he says. “I’ve been here since the morning, because I knew someone would come. Our job is to promote patriotic education. We have many awards. There are twelve sports groups. As for the club, whatsename, the Khrabr one, it has been leasing a single mat since early September. They are just folks, schoolboys, about fifteen people. Their coach, Oleg, about 50, looks like a serious man. They’ve only had like two training sessions, and then I heard about the shootout on the Sunday news. They’ve never showed up again.”
Then we made a call to Oleg, the coach of the deceased and injured boys. He refuses to meet, but says he knows nothing about the showdown and the fact his trainees could have defended someone's interests.
“I told them to join the army. How could this happen?” Oleg says in a trembling voice.
Two 17-year-old sports group trainees are currently at the Yekaterinburg hospital. One has an intravenous drip; he had been wounded in the arm. In his words, once he learned that his friends were going for a showdown, he decided he would support them.
“We stood behind the car, and somebody out there was talking. They began to shoot, and I tried to hide; squatting, I opened the back door and climbed into the car; that’s where they hit me. I was driving, not thinking anything, and I do not think anything now,” the young man said philosophically.
He looks frustrated, as if his girlfriend has just dropped him; there is an absent smile on his face.
“That was ridiculous,” he adds.
Oleg, Aleksandr, and Aleksey, that is, those who were defending the house, call themselves Cossacks. Moreover, Oleg had been the Ataman of the Prostor khutor (its territory located at the current Roma settlement) for two years; last year he was dismissed, but the community still supports him.
We meet in the center of Yekaterinburg, on Belinsky Street. We enter the building, in which Cossacks rent a premise; it is a regular two-room apartment used as an office. The Orenburg Cossack army is quartered here, they explain. They (“the entire brotherhood”) all are going to stand by Oleg.
Three people sit at the table, including Georgiy Sobolev, Vitaly Abroshchikov, and Mikhail Aganin. All three are Yesauls; two of them also deputize for Ataman, who is ill at the moment, as they say. They look like members of Komsomol comrades’ court in a movie promoting socialism. We ask them about Oleg.
“He always explained everything in a civilized manner. Up until someone acted aggressively towards peaceful people; this is when Oleg would stand up for the weak. I would add that he is a man who is always evolving, exploring the Cossack traditions.”
The Cossacks do not reckon for one second that Oleg could be the one to trigger the conflict. Moreover, they blame gypsies for beginning the confrontation, particularly, the Ogli family, who is also involved in drug trafficking. They believe that Dima and Alisa’s love story is but an attempt to strengthen their influence in business.
“Apparently, he is trying to infiltrate the Cossack environment. So that the Cossacks do not hinder the distribution of drugs,” the Cossacks say.
“If you want to hear a scoop, ask the neighbors how long it took the police to arrive after the first call. You’d be surprised.”
“So how long did it take?”
“At least twenty minutes. Ambulance was the first to arrive.”
In daylight, the Deputatskaya Street is indeed slightly reminiscent of the Wild West; the narrow streets, inaccessible mansion houses, barbed wire on fences; one can imagine a gunfight between saloon people taking place on the street. A perfect place for a High Noon remake.
Although, Oleg’s neighbors would not want anything like that to happen again. Hiding behind their iron doors, they do not talk to press; however, sometimes one can hear some really strange things coming from behind those doors; things that are at odds with the two main versions of what happened.
“If you ask my opinion, I would say that both sides are to blame. Go to an open country and shoot each other there. We do not need Hollywood movies here; my daughter was taking classes on the second floor, what if she could have got hurt? For I know Oleg had evacuated his wife a day before the conflict. And the fact they were standing at the gates carrying guns. They are fools. None of them called the police, the neighbors did.”
“That was ridiculous”, “What will happen next”; we have heard these phrases from all the parties to the conflict. People, because of whom a domestic quarrel turned into a spaghetti Western, seem to believe that there will be a sequel; the only question is the genre. A lyrical reconciliation of the feuding families, a drama of repentance, a forensic detective or a crime drama about revenge and retribution, anything would do.
Another question, that the participants of this bloody story have reminded us of how fragile our life is, and how quickly the civilized life and seemingly normal and peaceful relations, to which we are accustomed, can turn into a mess.