Turbulent time. High-profile murders of the 1990s 

Turbulent time. High-profile murders of the 1990s
In that period, banditry was a respected profession, while disputes with opponents had been settled with sniper rifles Photo: The CrimeRussia

The last decade of the 20th century – an epoch of radical democratic reforms, repeal of socialist taboos, and sudden dizzying freedom – has come down in the modern history of Russia as another ‘time of troubles’. The ‘changes to the better’ sometimes looked pretty ugly. One of the symptoms of the new era was an orgy of banditry. The CrimeRussia recalls the most high-profile murders of the ‘turbulent 1990s’.

During the infancy period of the market economy, the state was unable to regulate properly the booming private sector. Criminal groups had taken advantage of the situation and wrested total control over the businesses – while waging ruthless wars with each other for spheres of influence.

Disputes with business partners had been settled not in the arbitration court, but by blowing their brains or even worse – the opponent could be thrown into a river in a barrel full of concrete. Businessmen unwilling to pay the racketeers, principled politicians, truth-seeking journalists – many of them have become victims of the criminal mayhem.

The escalation of illegal weapons trade had also contributed to the explosive growth of gangsterism. Firearms could be purchased, single-piece or in wholesale amounts, directly from conflict zones or armories of the former Soviet republics, including the Russian Ministry of Defense ridden by corruption at that period. Most advanced and expensive weapons were available for sale, including plastic explosives and Vintorez silent sniper rifle.

Blood ran in torrents. ‘Bros’ in raspberry-red blazers had been dispatching each other in thousands, often together with relatives and unwitting witnesses. But the numerous organized criminal groups never had shortage of new recruits – in the situation of mass shutdowns of enterprises and growing unemployment, young people possessing fighting skills were eager to become members of Orekhovskaya or Solntsevskaya gangs. Their lives had rarely lasted for long – but new ‘bros’ replaced fallen comrades. Thriving ‘weights rooms’, martial arts clubs, special services, and the army, unable to pay its servicemen decently, provided enough new reinforcements.

According to retired lieutenant general Aleksander Gurov, who used to be the Head of the General Administration for Combatting Organized Crime of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation in the 1990s, the average number of pre-mediated murders in Russia had been reaching 32 thousand per year in that period. Upon seizing control over the business, the organized crime and corrupt officials attempted to influence the politics and mass media, mercilessly killing those who dared to oppose them. 

Otari Kvantrishvili. Following the brother’s steps

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The murder of Otari Kvantrishvili, a prominent businessman, criminal lord, and public figure, is considered one of the most high-profile contract assassinations in the last decade of the 20th century.

He was the founder of the Sportsmen of Russia Party, Vice President of Association XXI Century, and Head of the Lev Yashin Fund for Social Protection of Athletes; owned shares in a number of commercial companies and casinos.

His close friends included Iosif Kobzon, Aleksander Rozenbaum, and Soviet sport legend Mikhail Mamiashvili, the current Head of the Wrestling Federation of Russia. In his free time, liked steaming in sauna.

On April 5, 1994, in the evening, he was shot dead by three sniper rifle rounds when exiting Krasnopresnenskie bathhouse in Moscow. The murder of Kvantrishvili had caused a great stir.

Political activities of Kvantrishvili and his diverse business interests have resulted in numerous speculations about the motives behind the murder and assassin's paymasters. They could be, for example, Chechen organized criminal groups or enforcement structures – that allegedly were hostile to the Sportsmen of Russia. Some sources stated that the assassination had been contracted by international drug dealers. A number or gangs – Solntsevskaya, Izmailovskaya, or Lyuberetskaya – could be interested in the elimination of Kvantrishvili, who used to conflict with them on business matters. The crime has been officially solved 12 years later; it turned out that Orekhovskaya gang has dispatched Kvantrishvili – who had crossed the road to its leader. The criminal ‘authorities’, who used to be friends, had a dispute over the Tuapse Oil Refinery, and Sergey 'Sylvester' Timofeev decided to eliminate the competitor.

As per his order, Aleksey 'Lesha-Soldat' Sherstobitov, the official killer of Orekhovskaya gang who just started his bloody service for Sylvester, has shot the influential businessman.   

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Lesha-Soldat has become a writer and staged his marriage in the penal colony a la American gangsters

The murder of Kvantrishvili has become the ‘trademark’ of Lesha-Soldat, who had acquired incontestable authority and special powers in the gang. Otari Kvantrishvili was buried on Vagankovskoe cemetery, near the tomb of Vladimir Vysotsky and next to his older brother Amiran Kvantrishvili – another famous criminal lord killed by assassins a year before. His murder still remains unsolved.    

Dmitry Kholodov. Revenge for Pasha Mercedes

The high-profile murder of Dmitry Kholodov, a military columnist in Moskovsky Komsomolets, committed in 1994 remains officially unsolved. However, the explosion of a booby-trap mine in the editorial office of the newspaper has attracted public attention to the corruption among the senior command of the Russian army and mass larcenies of military equipment in the elite Western Group of Forces. 

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On October 17, 1994, Kholodov, being in his office, has opened a case taken from a baggage locker in Kazansky railway terminal after a call from an unknown person stating that the case contains uncontestable evidence that Russian military had been selling weapons to Chechen separatists. There was a huge blast, the ceiling collapsed, and a fire started in the building. Dmitry Kholodov died at the scene. The experts were unable to identify precisely the type of the explosive, but one of the versions stated that it was a plastic explosive. Later it was found that such explosives had been stolen from a special forces military base in Chuchkovo.

A former marine, Kholodov used to write about the Russian army; during the several years of his work in Moskovsky Komsomolets, he had visited all the conflict zones. He was especially concerned with the corruption in the Ministry of Defense and managed to obtain exclusive information compromising superior military command – about generals’ cottages worth millions of dollars, illegal sales of weapons from armories, embezzlements in the military social fund, uncontrolled conveyance of pieces of art and construction materials from the German Democratic Republic, etc.

In 1993–1994, Moskovsky Komsomolets has published several articles by Dmitry Kholodov dedicated mostly to Pavel Grachev, then-Minister of Defense. As a result, the military ministry has banned the journalist from its official briefings and started shutting down all his information channels. One of the articles stated that Grachev had acquired in Germany two Mercedes Benz S500 cars at public expense – after which, the readers have nicknamed the Minister of Defense Pasha Mercedes.

In response, Grachev called Kholodov an 'enemy from within' at a TV show hosted by Vladimir Posner. According to the Prosecutor General’s Office, he had repeatedly requested Evgeny Podkolzin, the Airborne Forces Commander, to “deal with the journalist and newspaper”.

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Kholodov’s office in Moskovsky Komsomolets after the blast   

Four special forces officers were among the suspects in that case: Pavel Popovskikh, former Intelligence Chief of the Airborne Forces; Vladimir Morozov, Commander of the Special Squad of the 45th Airborne Regiment; and his deputies Aleksander Soroka and Konstantin Mirzayants. Grachev was summoned to the court as a witness and stated that he had never meant physical elimination of Kholodov. The court had been examining the case against the military officers for 4 years. Initially, the officers had confessed – Mirzayants even assembled a similar booby-trap mine in the presence of investigators. However, later the defendants have withdrawn their confessions. On June 26, 2002, the Moscow District Military Court has acquitted all the defendants for lack of evidence. Then the acquittal judgment was cancelled, the case had been sent for reinvestigation, but two years later, the defendants have been acquitted again and monetary compensations paid to them.

There is also a version that there was something more serious between Pavel Grachev and Dmitry Kholodov rather than just a personal animosity. Lieutenant general Aleksander Lebed, a prominent military commander and later Governor of the Krasnoyarsk Krai, – who had resigned from the army due to a bitter conflict with Grachev – has stated at a meeting with writers in 1997 that Kholodov was blasted because he had come too close to a shady deal involving theft of more than 1,600 tanks during the disbandment of the Western Group of Forces.

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Pavel Grachev, former Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation

According to Lebed, the Minister of Defense had sold these tanks to third world countries through colonel general Burlakov, his henchman in the occupation forces, – while the First Chechen War with its sadly remembered tank massacre in Grozny – which precise casualties are still unknown – had been initiated by the Minister to write-off the missing tanks. It is necessary to note that Grachev had never attempted to refute this and other accusations. Neither was he prosecuted criminally. 

Sergey ‘Sylvester’ Timofeev, henchman of Yaponchik

Sergey Timofeev, the founder and leader of one of the most powerful Moscow criminal groups of the 1990s, was the archetype for Sasha Bely, a character from Brigade cult TV series. He outlived Otari Kvantrishvili – murdered by killer Lesha-Soldat at his order – only for a little while.

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Sylvester, a former tractor operator and fan of martial arts, had started with protection racketeering of thimble-riggers; by 1993, he has become an acknowledged leader of the criminal Moscow and consolidated under his rule scattered ‘brigades’ operating in southern parts of the capital. The criminal business of Orekhovskaya gang had encompassed all possible spheres – from diamond trade and real estate to oil production. Special attention had been paid to the banking – by the middle of the 1990s, Orekhovskaya gang controlled at least 30 banks. It expanded its activities to the regions – for instance, Sylvester has transferred the control over Domodedovo Airport to Urals-based organized criminal groups in exchanged for the right to participate in privatization of major metallurgical enterprises.

Criminal ‘stars’ of the 1990s did not thrive for long. The habit of Sylvester to dispatch en masse all competitors opposing his leadership – using associates from Kurganskaya and Medvedkovskaya gangs – had brought him plenty of enemies.

Timofeev understood this and had been preparing escape routes. After a trip to the USA – where the leader of Orekhovskaya gang allegedly had a meeting with ‘crowned thief’ Yaponchik and unofficially received from him reins of power over the criminal Moscow – Sylvester has married Olga Zhlobinskaya and soon received an Israeli citizenship.

However, he did not get a chance to quit the banditry. On September 13, 1994, he was blown up in his new Mercedes S 500 on the 3rd Tverskaya-Yamskaya street. Members of Orekhovskaya gang were wondering who could be behind such a high-profile assassination? The revenge upon Sylvester could be taken by people close to Otari Kvantrishvili or by henchmen of Berezovsky – whom Orekhovskaya gang tried to kill 3 months earlier but unsuccessfully. There were rumors that the assassin’s paymaster was Yaponchik himself – because his son had a conflict with Timofeev – or associates of Globus, another authoritative ‘thief-in-law’, murdered at the order of Sylvester by Aleksander Solonik, a famous killer from Kurganskaya gang.

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Blown Mercedes of Sylvester 

The assassination of Sylvester was a devastating blow to the leadership of Orekhovskaya gang. An internal quarreling had started resulting in a series of murders of ‘contenders to the throne’. Sergey ‘Osya’ Butorin has ultimately won this battle and became the gang leader in 1995. Six years later, after the extradition of Butorin to Russia from Spain, it turned out that it was him who had dispatched his boss Sylvester in the ongoing struggle for survival and power. After the imprisonment of Osya, three former members of Orekhovskaya gang had testified against him – because they did not fear him anymore.

Aleksander Solonik. A Greek myth

The most notorious Russian killer, whose biography was used as the basis for dozens of books and movies, had started his career in a most law-abiding way – he even studied for six months in the Gorky Higher Police School. Then he quit and worked as a grave digger on a cemetery in Kurgan. There he had met his future colleagues from Kurganskaya gang. Due to obvious reasons, they were frequent visitors at the cemetery. 

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Aleksander Solonik after arrest

In 1987, after getting his first 8-year sentence for a rape, Solonik had audaciously escaped by breaking the window frame in the visitation room of a holding facility. A few months later, he was caught in Tyumen, but escaped again, this time – from the Ulyanovsk Correctional Labor Colony no. 8. The cumulative prison term for the rape and escape would be really large – so there was no way back for Solonik. He liked firearms and shooting and accepted his first contract from Kurganskaya gang – assassinate Nikolai Prichinin, the leader of Ishimskaya organized criminal group.

Kurganskaya gang had striven to establish itself in the wealthy Moscow. Salonik has also relocated closer to the capital and started accepting contracts from his compatriot gangsters on a regular basis – while always remaining in the shadows. He was also actively collaborating with Orekhovskaya gang and performed several assassinations by personal orders from Sylvester.

Solonik has become famous nationwide after an incident on Petrovsko-Razumovsky market: during a routine document check, he has shot four policemen and a private security guard from an automatic Glock pistol. During the chase, the killer has got a bullet to a kidney and was arrested.

During the search in the Solonik’s apartment, a whole armory has been seized – from pistols unknown in Russia to a grenade launcher and expensive foreign-made sniper rifles. According to operatives of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department, large groups of MIA officers had been coming to see this arsenal. Then the investigators had been surprised again: without any pressure, Solonik started making confessions and admitted over 20 murder episodes. His defense attorney Aleksey Zavgorodny told later that the killer, kept in the hospital of Matrosskaya Tishina Pretrial Detention Facility, was demoralized due to the wound and feared revenge from colleagues of the slain policemen. In addition, the operatives had convinced Solonik that it would be better for him to assume as many murders of criminal ‘authorities’ as possible. Allegedly, the court would take into consideration his image of a ‘killer of criminal lords’. There is a version that the investigators have stealthily ‘hung’ a dozen of ‘cold cases’ on the assassin – who was willingly admitting everything. Ultimately, Solonik has confessed to 30 episodes, including murders of the stepson of Ivankov-Yaponchik and famous ‘crowned thief’ Kalina. However, upon recovery from the wound, the killer decided not to wait until the court (he had already ordered from the detention facility a Versace suit for the trial) recognizes his achievements in the battle against the organized crime – and escaped, for the first time in the entire history of Matrosskaya Tishina. The escape has been performed in the best traditions of Hollywood – including a bribe of $500 thousand to the guard, mountaineering equipment, and a dummy left in bed under the blanket. 

40099775_91645sm.jpg Two years after the escape, Aleksander Makedonsky (Alexander the Great; Solonik had this nickname because of his skills in Macedonian shooting), under the name of Vladimir Kesov, has settled in a luxury villa in Lagonissi, Greece with his girlfriend Svetlana Kotova, a model and beauty queen.

However, the leaders of Orekhovskaya gang – ruled after the death of Sylvester by brothers Pylev and Sergey Butorin – were not happy with the talkativeness of the Kurgan killer in the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department. In addition, he was too self-determined and often disobeyed Orekhovskaya gang. Solonik had same feelings to them. He attached portraits of brothers Pylev and Osya to the walls of his basement and sharpened his shooting skills on them.

But Orekhovskaya gang managed to do it first. On January 31, 2007, Aleksander Solonik and Svetlana Kotova were strangled in their villa (one of the brothers Pylev insisted to use a garrote for the murder). Then the killer’s body had been left at a dump site, while Miss Russia 1996 dismembered and put into a case that was buried in the forest. It became known later that this was done by Aleksander Sharapov, Aleksander Sasha-Soldat Pustovalov, and Aleksey Gusev. Contrary to the rumors stating that Solonik is alive and somebody else was killed instead of him, the body was unmistakably identified by scars. At the same time, Viktor Golovanov, former Head of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department, believes that the legendary killer Aleksander Makedonsky was a myth. And, contrary to the legend, he could not shoot from both hands. Criminal investigation operatives stated that he was an ordinary Kurgan gangster, almost an underling, – and all the ‘exploits’ had been attached to him due to his talkativeness after the arrest.

Explosion on Kotlyakovskoe cemetery. Echo of the Afghan war

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On November 10, 1996, Russia was shocked by a blast at a memorial meeting on Kotlyakovskoe cemetery involving at least 150 people. A home-made bomb with explosive weight of 2 to 5 kg (the experts were unable to provide a more precise figure) was buried in a tomb in a way designed to hurt maximum number of people by shards of the granite tombstone destroyed by the blast. As a result, 14 people died and over 30 were wounded.

Initially, the explosion was considered a terrorist attack; however, a criminal motive behind the massacre has been identified soon.

The meeting on the cemetery was dedicated to the memory of Mikhail Likhodei, a former leader of the Russian Fund for Disabled Veterans of the Afghan War, murdered two years earlier, on November 10, 1994. Mikhail Likhodei was a prominent public figure; he had exposed with a scandal Valery Radchikov, a former Head of the Fund and colonel of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, who used to launder money for criminal groups through the charitable organization controlled by him.

Not only did Likhodei depose Radchikov, but also had been striving for his criminal prosecution – and was murdered for this. Later Radchikov managed to register a similar fund with an identical name – which also had tax privileges. As a result, there were two different funds for veterans of the Afghan war, with different chairpersons and parallel financial flows. According to various sources, the amounts going through the funds reached dozens of millions of dollars.

The victims of the blast included the new Head of the Fund Trakhirov, his wife, Elena Krasnolutskaya, the Financial Director of the Fund, and the widow of Likhodei. The crime committers have been found very soon – veterans of the Afghan war Andrei Anokhin and Mikhail Smurov had planted the bomb near the tomb of Likhodei and detonated it remotely.

During the investigation, the suspects have initially admitted their guilt stating that Radchikov had forced them to do this threatening to dispatch their relatives and friends. Then the defendants have suddenly withdrawn their confessions and in 2000 were acquitted by the court. When it came to the second trial, only Smurov was in the dock: Radchikov, the mastermind behind the massacre, died in a car crash by that time, while Anokhin absconded abroad.

Mikhail Manevich. Personal enemy of Deputy Shutov

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Mikhail Manevich, Vice Governor of St. Petersburg murdered on August 18, 1997, has become the first high-ranked official in the post-Soviet Russia who died by a killer’s hand.

The Chairman of the Committee for Municipal Property Management of the St. Petersburg Administration was exiting the home with his wife in a service car. The killer opened fire from the attic and gravely wounded the Vice Governor with several bullets. His wife has suffered a minor injury; the driver was not hurt.

Anatoly Chubais had sworn several times on behalf of the government to find the killers of Manevich; Vladimir Putin had inquired on the investigation progress.

Officially, the crime is considered solved. In 2009, Aleksey Gardotsky, a member of an organized criminal group controlled by Yuri Shutov, a Deputy of the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg, has confessed to the killing of the Vice Governor; he told that he had gunned down the car with Manevich from a Kalashnikov submachine gun with a scope sight, while Andrei Zaripov, a brother of Yuri Shutov, was giving him instructions by radio.

Shutov and four members of his gang were sentenced to life in prison; the convicted leader of the organized criminal group died in Bely Lebed (White Swan) penal colony in 2014. However, some investigators believe that Manevich was killed by a different ‘brigade’. In 2011, Rosbalt wrote that a number of expert assessments support this version. The gang of assassins led by Andrei Chelyshev was one of the most professional in St. Petersburg. Some sources claimed that it was linked with Russian secret services. 

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Gunned down car of Manevich

Some people in the Prosecutor General’s Office believed that the Vice Governor was a victim of the war for the Sea Port of St. Petersburg – waged between shady businessman Ilya Traber and Shutov. Traber was a friend of Manevich; influential criminal lord Konstantin ‘Mogila’ (Grave) Yakovlev, the ‘watcher’ of Aslan ‘Ded Khasan’ Usoyan in St. Petersburg, had been supporting him and receiving a slice of the profits generated by the port.

There is another version stating that Manevich had been obstructing the ‘legalization’ of several ‘crowned thieves’, who had settled in St. Petersburg. Allegedly, Manevich impeded the participation of Aslan Usoyan, Vladimir ‘Tyurik’ Tyurin, and Aleksey ‘Lesha Pitersky’ Gudynya in the privatization of major enterprises in the North-Western region.    

Galina Starovoitova. Subcontracted murder

The murder of Galina Starovoitova, a Deputy of the State Duma, in the lobby of her home in St. Petersburg is considered one of the most complicated contract killings of the 1990s. The Deputy was actively involved into the lawmaking, and many figures could be interested in her death. Starovoitova received threats and had been taking steps to ensure the safety of her family.

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On November 20, 1998, Starovoitova has returned to St. Petersburg from Moscow; her aide Ruslan Linkov met her in the airport. But there were other people waiting for her as well. According to the investigation, upon the unexpected arrival of Starovoitova by a flight different from the originally-planned one, Sergei Musin, a member of Bryanskaya organized criminal group, has notified Yuri ‘Yura Bryansky’ Kolchin, a former warrant officer of the Chief Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, – later he was sentences to 20 years behind bars as the technical organizer of the murder. Kolchin gave the command to two killers from Tambov – Oleg Fedosov and Vitaly Akinshin – who gunned down Starovoitova and Linkov in the lobby of her home located on Griboedova channel. The aide was seriously wounded but survived; Starovoitova died on the scene.

The investigation had lasted for more than six years; both the direct perpetrators and mastermind behind the crime had been identified. In addition to Kolchin, the court has sentenced killer Akinshin to 23.5 years behind bars in 2005; accomplices Pavel Stekhnovsky and Vyacheslav Lelyavin have been sentenced a year later: Stekhnovsky got two years for mediation in the acquisition of weapons; Lelyavin got 11 years in a maximum security penal colony for complicity.

Three years later, the investigation of the murder case has been resumed due to newly discovered evidence. The convicts started confessing about the real mastermind behind the assassination of Starovoitova – whose role was earlier concealed. It was a legalized member of Tambovskaya gang – Mikhail ‘Misha Khokhol’ Glushenko, a businessman and Deputy of the State Duma representing the Liberal-Democratic Party of Russia. In November 2013, the investigators have charged Glushenko – who was serving a term for extortion at that time – with the murder of Starovoitova. He was the one who had ordered the members of Tambovskaya gang to kill her.

However, it became known in 2014 that Glushenko never wanted Starovoitova dead. According to him, he never had conflicts with her. The former Deputy has made a plea deal and surprisingly turned in a person for whom Starovoitova was a serious obstacle in the legalization of his criminal business and gaining control over the Legislative Assembly of St. Petersburg. Glushenko has admitted his complicity in the crime but stated that the real mastermind behind it was Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin, the ‘night governor’ of St. Petersburg and one of the leaders of Tambovskaya gang. According to Glushenko, Kumarin – who held a superior position in the gang hierarchy – had ordered him to kill Starovoitova in a private conversation and never promised any reward for this.

Currently Kumarin is serving a 23-year term for extortion and attempted murder; now he has to stand a new trial for the murder of Galina Starovoitova. 

Sergei Shevkunenko. Gangster from cinema

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Still from “Dirk” movie

Sergei Shevkunenko, a 14-year-old son of the Director of the Second Artistic Association and Assistant Director of Mosfilm Studio, has become a national ‘star’ after the release of “Dirk” TV movie based on a book by Anatoly Rybakov. The candidacy of Sergei for this role had been approved by the writer himself – who saw his character in Shevkunenko; schoolgirls of the whole Soviet Union were mooning after Misha Polyakov, a charismatic pioneer of the 1920s. On the wave of success, a sequel – “The Bronze Bird” – has been filmed immediately after the first part. Most popular producers were offering Sergei roles in their movies.

However, by the time of filming “The Lost Expedition”, where Shevkunenko played alongside famous stars of the Russian cinema – Abdullov, Kaidanovsky, and Simonova, he already had a police record for two years. His mother Polina Vasilyevna was very worried about her son – he preferred bad associations, tried alcohol at an early age, and liked fighting. One of the fights has resulted in his placement to a special vocational technical school; then he has got the first sentence – 4 years behind bars. After the release, he became a light electrician at Mosfilm Studio in a hope to return to the cinema – but nobody wanted to film the former convict. Even the assistance from director Eldar Ryazanov, a family friend, did not help. However, thugs from Mosfilmovskaya street had respected him and nicknamed ‘Artist’. Shevkunenko maintained close relations with them and became involved into criminal affairs. Soon he was sentenced again for a theft.

In total, he had spent over 14 years in prison and stood five trials. According to officers of penitentiary institutions, Shevkunenko had never mended his ways; he was a ‘denier’ and ‘enforcer’ and had been frequently incarcerated in the disciplinary cell for regime violations and disobeying the penal colony administration.

Last time Shevkunenko was released in 1994; he has gained much authority in the criminal world by that time and quickly created an organized criminal group. Mosfilmovskaya gang started protection racketeering of businesses located in that district jointly with its allies – Osetinskaya organized criminal group led by ‘crowned thief’ Nikolai ‘Tsika’ Bizikachvili.

The ‘bros’ nicknamed Shevkunenko Chief; he was a close friend of Tsika. It can not be ruled out that he was killed by a Slavic gang having a feud with the Caucasian ‘mafia’ because he was the main Slavic ally of Osetinskaya. The murder occurred on February 11, 2015. Chief has parted with the bodyguards and entered the lobby of his home on Pudovkina street. The killer was waiting for him and immediately started shooting. Shevkunenko was wounded in abdomen but managed to get into the elevator, where he got another bullet through the door. The assassin has finished him off in the apartment opened by a key taken from the victim. But first the killer shot dead his mother, who had got in his way trying to protect her son.

Vladislav List’yev. Death for advertisement

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Vladislav List’yev, a famous journalist and first Director of ORT (Public Russian Television) TV Channel, was an iconic figure of the Soviet and Russian TV. The entire country knew the author and fist host of such TV shows as Vzglyad (Outlook), Pole Chudes (Field of Miracles), and Tema (Topic).

On March 1, 1995, the General Director of the primary Russian TV channel was shot dead by two killers in the lobby of his home on Novokuznetskaya street. The assassins have ignored a large amount of cash and valuables that the TV anchor had with him; therefore, the investigators ruled out robbery as a possible motive. There could be plenty of other motives though, including political intrigues and even family affairs (e.g. jealousy). However, over time, the findings of the investigation allowed to identify the primary version – a conflict over the TV advertising. Today, there are no doubts that List’yev was killed because of a 4-month moratorium on advertising he had imposed at the channel belonging in almost equal shares to the state and businessman Boris Berezovsky. The ‘Channel One’ was privatized in February 1995. Journalist Paul Klebnikov, Editor-in-Chief of the Russian Forbes, wrote in his book that Berezovsky had got control over the ‘Channel One’ for next to nothing – he had invested only several hundreds of thousands dollars into it.

The temporary ban on advertising had been imposed in the situation when ORT TV Channel, poorly funded by the government, started actively making money on ads, including not only advertisement of goods. ‘Sponsored’ TV spots, shows, and movies had been produced; any shady person could become a TV personality for money. The entire TV advertising had been handled at that time by Reklama-Holding company belonging to Boris Zosimov and Sergei Lisovsky (currently a member of the Council of the Federation). Such a monopoly was unacceptable for List’yev who had in sights potential partners willing to pay more than $100 million paid by Lisovsky. Therefore, the moratorium on advertising imposed by List’yev had instantly deprived Lisovsky and Berezovsky of huge profits. Lisovsky was a witness in the List’yev murder case; he never tried to hide from the investigation and always denied any guilt. Still, some experts believe that it was him who had organized the murder of List’yev through criminal ‘authorities’, including Igor ‘Dushman’ Dashdamirov, a leader of Solntsevskaya organized criminal group. It is believed that ‘Dushman’ had hired brothers Ageikin, the supposed actual perpetrators of the crime.

There is another version of the murder proposed in a book by Aleksander Litvinenko, a former officer of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. According to Litvinenko, FSB and KGB (Committee for State Security of the USSR) general Aleksander Korzhakov could contract the assassination of List’yev to conceal larcenies of advertising profits and use of these funds for the presidential campaign of Oleg Soskovets, the First Deputy Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation. However, this version had never been confirmed. In 2013, Konstantin Ernst, the General Director of ORT TV Channel, had suddenly recalled again the primary version linked with Lisovsky.

In his interview to the Internet version of Snob magazine, he named Sergei Lisovsky the assassin's paymaster in the murder of List’yev – but the interview has been removed almost immediately, while Ernst said that he had never told anything like this to journalist Evgeny Levkovich. The murder of Vladislav List’yev still remains unsolved. Its limitations period has expired in 2010.    

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