Who covers up Arashukov and saves him from criminal prosecution?
Unsolved criminal cases that had shocked the region eight years ago have been recently resumed in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic. In March 2010, Aslan Zhukov, leader of the Adyge Khase Circassian Youth Movement, was killed. In May 2010, Fral Shebzukhov, Advisor to the President of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, was shot dead. The both crimes were politically charged – but somehow it looks like that the law enforcement authorities are hindering the solution of these cases by all means, while the main mastermind behind the murders stays under the radar.
The CrimeRussia wrote earlier that a year after the assassination of Zhukov, the direct perpetrator has been identified – Rasul Adzhiev had allegedly shot dead the prominent politician out of jealousy to a woman. Even the court hasn't believed in the ‘domestic' version of the murder and acquitted the remorseful killer. However, in August 2018, Adzhiev has come again to the investigators and named himself the murderer of Zhukov. The operatives resumed the old inquest with renewed vigor because the case is still considered unsolved. There are good grounds to believe that Rauf Arashukov, currently a Senator from the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, is the true mastermind behind the assassination of Zhukov.
Both the witnesses and victim’s relatives claimed that Arashukov, then-Head of the Khabez District of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, was involved in this crime. The law enforcement authorities ignored such statement and hadn’t even verified this version. But The CrimeRussia sources confirmed that Arashukov is the assassin’s paymaster who wanted to eliminate Zhukov due to their political differences. Ambitious Arashukov was eager to become the Prime Minister of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic; he intended to secure the support of youth movements, stage a mass rally near the Government House in Cherkessk, and then provoke the seizure of the building in order to put pressure on Boris Ebzeev, President of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic.
Aslan Zhukov, who had wielded great power and authority among the youth, refused to participate in this conspiracy, and a conflict escalated between the two men. The leader of the Youth Chapter of Adyge Khase Circassian Non-Governmental Organization was killed on March 14, 2010 in his own car parked in the garage. The crime remained unsolved for an entire year. Then Rasul Adzhiev was arrested and explained his deed by jealousy to the woman dating Zhukov. But that woman claimed that she was not familiar with the killer and had never met him before. On the other hand, she told the investigators that Zhukov had discussed with her his problems with Arashukov and expressed concerns for his life.
The other high-profile murder was committed two months later. On May 12, 2010, Fral Shebzukhov, Advisor to the President and candidate for the Prime Minister of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, was shot dead. According to his brother Murat, the candidacy of Fral Shebzukhov was agreed with Aleksander Khloponin, Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District, and supported by Deputies of the local Parliament. However, the official appointment procedure wasn’t carried out yet.
Fral Shebzukhov approached his home at the intersection of Lenina and Srednyaya streets by car; his brother was waiting for him there. The Toyota Land Cruiser Prado driven by the politician stopped, the brothers said hello to each other, and then a VAZ-2114 without license plates approached them, and unknown masked people with a bat and handguns jumped out of it.
Fral Shebzukhov’s car (a photo from the case file)
Murat Shebzukhov was hit several times with a bat, and Fral Shebzukhov started calling for help and attempted to escape. But one of the assailants has drawn a revolver and shot the running man. One bullet was sufficient to kill the Presidential Advisor. The attackers fled the scene, and the law enforcement structures failed to capture them hot on the trail.
According to the case file, “Murat Shebzukhov was questioned as a witness and told that on May 12, 2010, at some 17:45, he was near the home of his brother Fral Shebzukhov on Srednyaya street in Cherkessk. Fral Shebzukhov approached in his car and stopped near Avangard (Vanguard) Cafe. Then a black VAZ-2114 without state license plates quickly approached from behind of his brother’s car. Three men, whose heads and faces were covered by skully hats with holes for eyes, jumped out of the vehicle. One of them had a bat in his hand, others had pistols. They pointed the pistols at Fral and Murat Shebzukhov and yelled: “Hang on!”. The third man approached and hit him [Murat] with a bat. Then Murat shouted his brother to run away; Fral Shebzukhov ran to the traffic lane of Lenina street, and one of the men followed him. The two other men ran after the brother as well. He [Murat] had called for help and run after them; then the first man pointed the pistol at him and yelled: “Hang on!”. He [Murat] stumbled on the street curb and fell to the ground; at that moment, one of the men kneeled on one knee, pointed his gun at running Fral Shebzukhov and made one shot. After the shot, Fral Shebzukhov fell to the ground, while the three assailants stepped into the VAZ-2114 and fled. He [Murat] had tried to help Fral Shebzukhov; he stopped a passing by Gazel minibus and took the victim to the emergency medical station. However, upon arrival, the medics have pronounced Shebzukhov dead”.
The Investigations Directorate in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) has instituted a criminal case under paragraph “g” of part 2 of Article 105 (murder) and part 2 of Article 222 (illegal storage of firearms) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.
Boris Ebzeev, President of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, named this crime a political murder. "For me, the assassination of Fral Shebzukhov is a personal sorrow. Today, the entire republic follows to his grave. I testify to the Almighty God that he was a very wise, professional, and decent man. There are people of the light and day, there are also people of the darkness and night. Unfortunately, people of the darkness sowing the seeds of evil and hatred sometimes prevail because people of the light are disconnected. But the evil deed must be punished, and I believe that the criminals will be caught and suffer the deserved punishment. It is a duty of the investigation to produce versions. Personally, I have no doubt that this murder is politically charged," – Ebzeev said.
Fral Zul-Karneevich Shebzukhov was born in 1961 in Zhako village of the Karachay-Cherkess Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1980, F. Shebzukhov enrolled in the Higher School of Komsomol of the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League in Moscow. After the graduation in 1985, was appointed a department head in the Karachay-Cherkess Regional Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League. After graduating from the Moscow Law Academy as a Jurist and Legal Theorist, left the politics and joined the law enforcement authorities. Since 1990, worked as an investigator and senior investigator at the Ust-Dzheguta District Department of Internal Affairs. In 1994, became the police chief of Moskovsky neighborhood of the Ust-Dzheguta district. Then was transferred to the Investigations Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) for the Karachay-Cherkess Republic and appointed the Head of the Department for Investigation of Organized Criminal Activities and Banditry. Advanced through ranks to a lieutenant colonel. In 2005, returned to the civil governmental service and became the Head of the Administration of the Adyge-Khabl District. Three years later, was appointed an Advisor to the President of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic.
Despite the positive feedback from former colleagues of Fral Shebzukhov, his ties with the law enforcement structures, and authority among the regional politicians, the investigators failed to solve the murder hot on the trail. Only two years later, on March 1, 2012, the suspects have been captured in the course of a joint operation of the Investigations Directorate in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic of the ICR, Directorate for the Karachay-Cherkess Republic of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation, and MIA for the Karachay-Cherkess Republic. The following local residents have been detained: Magomed Dzhubuev, Nazim Kushcheterov, Alik Tatarkulov, and Sultan Dzhankezov. Criminal cases have been instituted against them and a probe launched into their possible involvement in other crimes. In total, the suspects were involved in 8 armed robbery episodes – but only two of those have been proven.
The same gang under the leadership of Dzhubuev has committed an assassination attempt against Natalia Nagornova, Deputy Head of the Administration for the Karachay-Cherkess Republic of the Federal Treasury. The woman received two gunshot wounds but survived by a miracle. One of the bullets hit the purse with her official ID. Nagornova was promptly delivered to a hospital where medics managed to save her life.
Official ID of Nagornova hit by a bullet (a photo from the case file)
Initially, the criminals had repented and described in detail their roles in the contract killing. However, there were some discrepancies. For instance, Tatarkulov claimed that he allegedly was not aware of the victim’s name and called Rustam Kopsergenov the assassin’s paymaster. Kopsergenov fled Russia and supposedly was hiding in Turkey in that period. Their accomplice Timur Tulparov also managed to escape and was put on the wanted list. Most importantly, based on the testimony of Tatarkulov, they were not supposed to kill Shebzukhov.
After the arrest, Tatarkulov provided the following explanation: "At that time, all the three of us have put on black knitted hats with holes for the eyes. Then Dzhubuev and Tulparov went out of the car, while I remained inside it. Tulparov had a wooden baseball bat in his hand; Dzhubuev had a black pistol resembling a Nagant revolver. I saw from the car Tulparov approaching the target man and hitting him with the bat – but the man put out his hand, and the bat hit his hand. At that time, I got out of the car and went to Tulparov. Dzhubuev was standing near the car. Then the man started running away from us towards Stavropolskaya street. Dzhubuev had chased the attacked man for some time; when he was some 20 meters from us, Dzhubuev has crouched and made a shot in his back. At that time, I and Tulparov noticed that the man fell to the ground; I don't remember his position. In the car, I started expressing my displeasure with Dzhubuev because our plans hadn't included the actions he has committed – but he kept silence. Then all of us entered the car and fled the crime scene. Upon arrival to Kosmonavtov street, I went out near the circle, while Dzhubuev and Tulparov drove away. Prior to leaving, I told Tulparov and Dzhubuev not to tell anybody about the incident and my involvement in it. On the next day after committing the above crime, I heard in the news that the man attacked by us was Fral Shebzukhov. I also heard that this man died from the gunshot wound and that he had pretended for the post of the Prime Minister of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic. Later, during a meeting with Nazim Kushcheterov, he told me that we are supposed to get a reward for this crime in the amount of 500 thousand rubles. ($7.3 thousand). In addition, in the course of the conversation with N. Kushcheterov, I became aware that it was him who had instructed Dzhubuev and Tulparov to commit this crime. According to Kushcheterov, Rustam Kopsergenov had asked him for this service. N. Kushcheterov also said that R. Kopsergenov had promised to secure for him a chair in the Government of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic via the Arashukov family to have our insider there. I am not aware who had asked R. Kopsergenov to do the above service".
According to the detained suspect, the criminals were not going to kill Shebzukhov. The paymaster had asked just to "warn" him. One can only speculate what the candidate for prime minister had to be "warned" about. According to the most probable version, Fral Shebzukhov had to decline the high post in the government. Everything went wrong when Fral Shebzukhov started running away and calling for help. Then, according to Magomed Dzhubuev, the man has turned around and made a gesture as if he was about to draw a gun. Allegedly, Dzhubuev had to shoot Shebzukhov proactively. They hadn't touched the politician's brother and fled by car. The pistol used to kill Shebzukhov was thrown into a river.
Magomed Dzhubuev has testified that the ‘order’ to attack Shebzukhov was received from Kopsergenov in the interests of Arashukov. According to him, the Senator claimed that this man was hindering his “affairs”. Dzhubuev was not aware who Fral Shebzukhov was.
Testimony of Dzhubuev (a document from the case file)
However, later the suspects have withdrawn their testimonies. With the support of their attorneys, the four bandits started claiming that the law enforcement authorities had put pressure on them and denying their guilt in both crimes. The cases pertaining to the attempted murder of Natalia Nagornova and assassination of Fral Shebzukhov have been merged together as two episodes committed by the same criminal group.
On February 27, 2013, the Supreme Court of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic has delivered a verdict in the murder of Fral Shebzukhov.
The court has found all the defendants guilty under Article 209 (banditry), Article 105 (murder), Articles 30 and 105 (attempted murder), and Article 222 (illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, or bearing of firearms) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Magomed Dzhubuev, Nazim Kushcheterov, Alik Tatarkulov, and Sultan Dzhankezov have been sentenced to 14–19 years in a maximum security penal colony.
Revolver used to kill Shebzukhov (a photo from the case file)
However, the court verdict hasn’t answered the main question: who had hired the thugs – even just to beat the politician with bats? On December 9, 2017, fugitive Rustam Kopsergenov has been captured. However, the supposed assassin’s paymaster turned out to be just an intermediary.
Karaulny Telegram channel (@karaulny) reported in December 2017 that Kopsergenov has named Rauf Arashukov the mastermind behind the murder of Shebzukhov.
The CrimeRussia source familiar with the investigation has also confirmed this. After the arrest, Kopsergenov confessed that Rauf Arashukov had given him 500 thousand rubles. ($7.3 thousand) as a reward for the assault on Shebzukhov.
Albert Chukov, Head of the Senator’s Security Service, provided a similar testimony. According to Chukov, he heard by word of mouth from people close to Arashukov that the Senator had hired bandits to “scare and beat” Shebzukhov. However, the thugs have exceeded the scope of the ‘order’ and killed the victim.
At the time of the murder, Chukov had accompanied Arashukov, and the Senator reportedly was very nervous. Upon becoming aware of the murder of Fral Shebzukhov, Chukov has immediately resigned.
Kopsergenov told the operatives that he knows Arashukov since 2009. The two men had common interests, they had even planned to make hadj to Mecca together. Arashukov ordered Chukov to make a travel passport for Kopsergenov and intended to cover the cost of the expensive pilgrimage. But ultimately, their plans fell through for some reason.
However, the investigators had never expressed any interest to the politician whose name was repeatedly mentioned by the defendants and witnesses. According to The CrimeRussia sources, Rauf Arashukov enjoys ‘patronage’ of powerful enforcement functionaries and top managers of big companies providing support to him and turning a blind eye to facts indicating his involvement in the murders. Our sources provide the following names.
Artur Zavalunov, Head of the Legal Department of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation
Colonel general of justice Boris Karnaukhov, Deputy Chairman of the Main Investigations Directorate in the North Caucasus Federal District of the ICR
Aleksander Tereshchenko, Prosecutor of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic
Kazbek Bulatov, First Deputy Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Karachay-Cherkess Republic of the ICR
Timur Betuganov, Head of the Center for Combating Extremism of the MIA for the Karachay-Cherkess Republic
Kirill Seleznev, Head of the Department 614 of Gazprom Public Joint Stock Company and General Director of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Limited Liability Company. Raul Arashukov, father of Rauf Arashukov, is an Advisor to the General Director of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Limited Liability Company.
Retired FSB colonel Igor Barinov, Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs and Deputy of the 4th, 5th, and 6th Convocations of the State Duma (i.e. since 2004) from Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party
Yaroslav Zamychkin, Deputy Head of the Presidential Domestic Policy Directorate (Andrei Yarin’s deputy)
It became known that, using his extensive connections, Rauf Arashukov has passed the lie detector test – its results were falsified, while the procedure was carried out with gross violations. This is how Arashukov tried to get an alibi and divert suspicion from himself. A decision is currently pending about the institution of a criminal case against Irina Nikolaeva, Expert of the Center for Psychophysiological Studies in Krasnodar, who had carried out the test. In addition, pressure is put on the criminals convicted for the murder of Shebzukhov and currently serving their terms in the Chelyabinsk region to force them to withdraw the testimonies against Arashukov.
The investigators handling the case against Rustam Kopsergenov charged with complicity in the murder of Fral Shebzukhov, Advisor to the President of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, are now trying to submit the indictment to the court as soon as possible in order to avoid carrying out additional probes into the newly discovered evidence. However, the Prosecutor’s Office of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic refused to approve the indictment and transfer the case against Kopsergenov to the court. According to Rosbalt sources, all materials having references to Arashukov, including Kopsergenov’s interrogation files, have been separated into a different inquest – as a result, no such materials remain in the case file that was supposed to be submitted to the court. The Prosecutor’s Office is concerned about the safety of these materials and considers such manipulations ungrounded. The investigation had to verify all the testimonies, make relevant conclusions, and then either criminally prosecute Rauf Arashukov or issue a verdict that he has nothing to do with the murder of Fral Shebzukhov.
However, according to The CrimeRussia sources, the law enforcement authorities continue monitoring Rauf Arashukov and gathering evidence for a criminal case against him.
Presumably, it concerns the US response to Ukraine’s help in the investigation against Joseph Biden, Trump’s main rival in the 2020 presidential election, who allegedly was in collusion with Kiev during the previous campaign.