Drugs, corruption in Russian Railways, or revenge? Motives behind murder of investigator for special cases Evgenia Shishkina
A week after the murder of Evgenia Shishkina, Senior Investigator for Special Cases of the Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Russia, numerous versions of the crime have been suggested. An interdepartmental center established as per order of Alexander Bastyrkin is reviewing all the criminal cases handled by Shishkina – these inquests may shed light on the motive behind her murder. Some versions contradict each other, but the investigators have no doubt that Shishkina was killed in connection with her professional activities.
Assassinations of investigators for special cases are pretty rare in Russia – the last such crime was committed 20 years ago: on October 20, 1998, Oleg Pronin, killer of Orekhovskie gang, shot dead Yuri Kerez’, Senior Investigator of the Prosecutor’s Office, responsible for the conviction of many gang members. “I became involved in such affairs that I am not happy with this,” – Yuri Kerez’ told friends shortly before his death. His murder is frequently compared with the tragic death of MIA lieutenant colonel Evgenia Shishkina committed near her home – in the framework of her official duties, Shishkina could cross the path to many criminals interested in her elimination.
Evgenia Astsaturovna Shishkina, Senior Investigator for Special Cases of the MIA Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District, was killed on October 10, 2018, at some 7 a.m., in Archangelskoe township, Krasnogorsk district, Moscow region. The woman was going towards her car parked at a closed lot when supposedly two unknown persons fired at her two rounds from an IZh-71 traumatic pistol converted into a combat firearm. The first bullet hit the chest of Evgenia Shishkina; the second one hit her neck. This wound became lethal for the woman. She died in the arms of her husband – retired MIA lieutenant colonel Oleg Shishkin – who has left the house a few minutes later. Initially, the criminal case was instituted under part 1 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (murder) – but later in the day, after the transfer of the case to the Central Headquarters of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), it has been reclassified under Article 317 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (encroachment on the life of an officer of a law-enforcement agency). An investigation center has been established as per personal order of ICR Chairman Alexander Bastyrkin; in addition to ICR officers, it involves operatives of the MIA and Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation.
Scene of the murder of Evgenia Shishkina
Убийство с уведомлением
Murder with notification
Similarly with Yuri Kerez’, Evgenia Shishkina was aware of the danger impending over her. According to sources in law enforcement structures, she had been received threats since fall 2017. The investigator had requested the command twice to provide state protection to her and had the permission to have the service weapon with her all the time. Shishkina was afraid not only for herself – her son was living in a secret place unknown even to her colleagues. According to Mash (@breakingmash) Telegram channel, the state protection was granted to the investigator shortly before her death; while, according to a well-aware source of Gazeta.ru, Shishkina has declined the state protection offered to her.
Scene of the murder of investigator Shishkina
The CrimeRussia source in law enforcement structures believes that it is highly unlikely that the request of Shishkina to provide state protection to her was declined – especially after the arson of her car and institution of a criminal case following that incident. However, it is quite possible that Shishkina could decline the state protection.
“The state protection is provided by a special MIA administration; it involves an entire complex of measures. For instance, two officers can be assigned to the person under protection to accompany him/her everywhere. Each step must be agreed with them. In addition, the MIA administration can carry out operative actions to protect the subject. This form of protection is tiresome and may depress the protected person,” – The CrimeRussia source told.
Still, Evgenia Shishkina had serious reasons to be worried – in January 2018, an assassination attempt was committed against her, but the investigator rushed from the car to her home, barricaded herself in the apartment, and called the police. In the meantime, the assailants have set ablaze her Lexus. A criminal case has been instituted for the arson – but it still remains unsolved. Shortly after that incident, a post of some “Krasnogorsk resident Olga Starushkevich” claiming to be a journalist of Meduza.io news portal went viral on VKontakte social network.
Starushkevich published a photo of the burnt Lexus and wrote that the assailants have taken revenge on Evgenia Shishkina for a bribe allegedly taken by the investigator from relatives of a person charged with drug trafficking and not ‘worked out’. Starushkevich claimed that that Shishkina was taking bribes on a regular basis and shared the money with her commanders, thus, making a skyrocketing career in 2015–2017. To prove her allegations that the investigator was involved in corruption crimes, Starushkevich wrote that Shishkina has purchased a new Lexus instead of the burnt one shortly after the incident.
Cherchez la femme
According to Life.ru source in law enforcement structures, the post of Starushkevich was an obvious information attack published using a fake account created shortly before the incident and, apparently, specially for that purpose. Still, the MIA has launched a service audit of Shishkina to verify this information. However, no compromising materials against the investigator were found; furthermore, Shishkina hadn’t dealt with drug smuggling cases for several years by that time.
After the murder of Evgenia Shishkina, the editorial board of Meduza.io informed Snob magazine that they had never heard about “Olga Starushkevich”. However, a day after the crime, the fake account has updated its status by posting: “It is still bad to extort bribes”.
The information about the “skyrocketing career” of Shishkina has been disproved as well – in January 2013, Evgenia Shishkina, then-major of justice and Senior Investigator of the MIA Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District, had commented on the investigation of a criminal case pertaining to frauds with railroad tickets in an interview to Gudok (Whistle) newspaper. Six years later, her position remained the same, and the promotion to a lieutenant colonel does not mean a “skyrocketing” career advancement. People familiar with her refute claims that Shishkina had allegedly lived beyond income and changed SUV cars like socks. They describe the victim as an honest and decent woman and principled law enforcement officer.
Rumors that Shishkina “had lived in a private home in a deluxe cottage community” circulating on social networks turned out to be fake. Her spacious two-room apartment on the first floor of a six-storey brick building is worth some 6 million rubles ($91.2 thousand). One of her colleagues told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper that the family of Shishkina hasn’t purchased that apartment – her husband, a retired MIA officer, received it from the state.
Home where Shishkina lived with her husband
In addition, colleagues say that investigator Shishkina had lived paycheck to paycheck and used the credit card on a regular basis because her family chronically was in need of money. The first Lexus RX270 burned in January was purchased in 2014 for 2.4 million rubles ($36.5 thousand). This is big money for an investigator – but taking the status of a MIA lieutenant colonel and investigator for special cases, having such a car is a pretty normal thing. The other Lexus of the same model built in 2014 was purchased second hand on the insurance proceeds and borrowed funds. Its price was 1.77 million ($26.9 thousand).
Contrary to the claims of “Olga Starushkevich”, the police career of Evgenia Shishkina was pretty mundane and not easy.
She joined the MIA in 2002 as an Inspector of the Special Transportation Department at the Moscow Railroad of the MIA of Russia. Shishkina became an investigator only in 2006 and worked for a while as a “field operative” at line MIA departments of the MIA Railroad Administration for the City of Moscow at Moskva Yaroslavskaya, Moskva Kurskaya, and Moskva Paveletskaya stations. In September 2011, Evgenia Astsaturovna has been appointed a Senior Investigator for Special Cases of the MIA Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District. At this position, she had investigated high-profile economic and corruption crimes and cases against members of organized criminal groups. According to colleagues, Evgenia Shishkina was a meticulous, principled, and “digging to the roots” investigator. She had numerous service awards – according to the official obituary posted on the web site of the MIA Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District, these include Medals for Distinguished Service I, II, and III Class, and badges “Best Investigator” and “For Distinguished Service at the MIA” I Class. The ICR and interdepartmental center are currently figuring out who was displeased with the principled stance of the investigator and her citizen activism.
“The crime was committed in order to obstruct the professional activity of the officer pertaining to the investigation of criminal cases assigned to her,” – Olga Vradii, Senior Assistant to the Director of the Main Investigation Directorate in the Moscow Region of the ICR, has stated shortly after the murder of Evgenia Shishkina.
Following a decision of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, on October 11, the MIA Investigations Department has requested all the cases handled by Shishkina for review in order to collect the evidential base and prosecute persons charged in the framework of these inquests. For legal reasons, the investigation of the murder of Evgenia Shishkina is not officially covered in the media, but, according to sources, the investigation team already has priority versions.
REN TV reported, citing its sources, that according to one of the versions, shortly before her death, Evgenia Shishkina had investigated a case against an organized group of swindlers embezzling money from enterprises selling railroad tickets. Acting as intermediaries, the malefactors had booked expensive tickets to deluxe compartments using other people’s documents and then returned tickets to receive compensations without paying for the booking. The fraudsters used malicious software to pull off the criminal scheme; according to the investigation, the damages sustained by ticket vendors amount to 7 million rubles (106.4 thousand). Evgenia Shishkina has established the involvement of at least 22 suspects in this criminal community. Some of them made plea deals and have already been convicted; the others are waiting for the trial because the case was returned to Shishkina a few months ago to rectify inconsistencies.
Sources of Kommersant newspaper believe that another high-profile case instituted under Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein) and handled by Evgenia Shishkina for the last 1.5 year may be the key to the solution of her murder. Shishkina has established that members of this criminal community consisting of at least 20 people were stealing bonus miles from Aeroflot. The cyber fraudsters were sending text messages to members of the Aeroflot Bonus Program to get access to their personal accounts. The criminals had disabled the protection functions of users’ profiles (text messages after logging-in) and offered their bonuses for sale on respective Internet portals selling airplane tickets with significant discounts.
According to a well-aware source of Kommersant, that investigation was pretty difficult, and suspects charged in the framework of that case are responsible for telephone threats received by Evgenia Shishkina since late 2017 and subsequent arson of her car.
Novaya Gazeta newspaper has carried out its own probe, and it disagrees with the findings of Kommersant. The newspaper claims that the version involving cyber fraudsters is not a top priority for the investigation because the criminal revenues gained by the suspects amounted only to a few million rubles and by the time of the murder of Shishkina, the investigation was nearly completed – so, her elimination could not affect the indictment in any way.
Concurrently, Novaya Gazeta reported that the slain Senior Investigator for Special Cases of the MIA Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District could be directly involved in another, much more important, inquest pertaining to the billions seized from former MIA colonel Dmitry Zakharchenko and implicating Vladimir Yakunin, ex-President of Russian Railways.
According to the newspaper, this case is based on a probe carried out by Alexei Navalny's Anti-Corruption Foundation four years ago. In April 2014, the Anti-Corruption Foundation has addressed Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev requesting to audit the online booking system of Russian Railways and remove its President Vladimir Yakunin from office. The foundation has supported its requirement with documents indicating that Andrei Yakunin, son of the President of Russian Railways, had received a cut from each of more than 15 million e-tickets sold online via legal entities under his control – UFS Travel and Elektronny Bilet (Electronic Ticket). The both companies have been established by Cyprus-based Am Ebookers offshore company whose shares, in turn, belong to Cyprus-based Atlant Services and Verlys Nominiees. Cypriots Vera Lyssiotis and her father Renos Lyssiotis own these legal entities. Viy Managment investment company and a number of its projects, including a chain of hotels built on railway station forecourts belonging to Russian Railways, also belong to them. According to the corporate web site, Andrei Yakunin, son of the President of Russian Railways, is the founder and manager of Viy Managment. Therefore, the Anti-Corruption Foundation has concluded that the family of Vladimir Yakunin is the final beneficiary of companies officially belonging to Cypriot lawyers, and the sales of e-tickets via partners of Russian Railways are controlled by the Yakunin family – the ultimate recipient of the revenues. The profits are gross – according to the Anti-Corruption Foundation, UFS Travel alone has earned on ticket sales some 2.7 billion rubles ($41.1 million) in 2012.
The probe carried out the by the Anti-Corruption Foundation gained traction only two years later – on February 5, 2016, Navalny wrote in his blog that the MIA “has launched an inquest into corrupt activities of Yakunin at Russian Railways” and named the division carrying out that inquest – MIA Administration for Transport for the Central Federal District – and investigator Andrei Stepanov. According to Novaya Gazeta, investigator Stepanov was directly subordinate to lieutenant colonel Evgenia Shishkina in that period.
The investigation was ongoing for more than six months and had no real perspectives until the arrest of Dmitry Zakharchenko, Interim Acting Head of Administration “T” of the MIA General Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption, in September 2016 and seizure of foreign currency amounting to almost 9 billion rubles ($136.8 million) from one of his apartments.
Two days after the arrest of Zakharchenko, The CrimeRussia source in secret services told that operatives of the FSB Administration “M” had reasons to detain him as early as in the end of 2015 – they knew that Zakharchenko was directly involved in mass embezzlements from Russian Railways committed through contracts awarded to companies belonging to Valery Markelov, Boris Usherovich, and Aleksei Krapivin, son of Yakunin’s former advisor.
In early 2018, these three persons had topped the Forbes “Kings of Governmental Orders” Rating with 218 billion rubles ($3.3 billion) received by their companies from Russian Railways. In early September, FSB operatives have arrested Valery Markelov in Sochi for bribing Zakharchenko in exchange for ‘patronage’. Boris Usherovich and Aleksei Krapivin, co-owners of the 1520 Group of Companies, as well as bankers Ivan Stankevich and Yuri Obodovsky, have been put on the wanted list.
Novaya Gazeta wrote that the arrest of Zakharchenko has encouraged the interest of MIA in Russian Railways, including the transport division where Evgenia Shishkina had served. In the course of the inquest into the role of Vladimir Yakunin and his son Andrei in the embezzlement of funds from Russian Railways via the online ticket booking system, lieutenant colonel Shishkina could obtain documents and information dangerous for her. Taking her principled stance, this could be the reason behind her murder. Novaya Gazeta uses the subjunctive mood and makes numerous reservations and suppositions – however, Vladimir Yakunin has already reacted to its journalistic investigation. His representative Grigory Levchenko said that Yakunin is considering the possibility to file a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper if it does not publish a retraction and apology – because the statements expressed in the article “inflict irreversible reputation damages to Yakunin and members of his family”. However, Novaya Gazeta is accustomed to lawsuits – in the person of its Editor-in-Chief Sergei Kozheurov, it has named the claims of Yakunin groundless.
Taking that the investigation is keeping silence, this version cannot be ruled out for now.
The operatives are also checking the ‘revenge version’ – during the years of her service, Evgenia Shishkina has contributed to the conviction of dozens of criminals, thus, making plenty of enemies.
The prevailing opinion that the assassins of Shishkina were not professionals indirectly confirms this version. The killers used a traumatic pistol manually converted into a combat firearm that has exploded in the assassin’s hand at the third shot and, based on numerous blood spots at the scene, injured him. The blood has immediately been sent for DNA testing in order to identify the criminals. Furthermore, according to Kommersant, the killers were caught on the security camera – this makes their identification after the capture pretty easy. On the other hand, it is more difficult to track a traumatic weapon – and seasoned killers could pose as nonprofessionals to mislead the investigation.
The chance to capture the murderers of Evgenia Shishkina is pretty high – taking the existing evidence, public uproar, and eagerness of the investigators. But the situation with assassins’ paymasters remains uncertain – after all, the inquest may lead the operatives to really high levels of power.