Case against general Muzraev: “Now you know who is boss here”
Lieutenant general Mikhail Muzraev, ex-Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Volgograd Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) removed from office at the end of 2018, was considered the ‘shadow governor' of the region. By his capacity and influence, Muzraev was on par with Vladimir Kadin assassinated in 2011 or even surpassed him. Muzraev had wielded unlimited power in Volgograd and repeatedly demonstrated it.
The Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation suspects Mikhail Muzraev, ex-Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Volgograd Region of the ICR, of a terrorist attack. The lieutenant general was remanded in custody for two months. According to the investigation, he had covered up a criminal group that has committed an assassination attempt against Andrei Bocharov, Governor of the Volgograd Region, in November 2016. This refers to the weird arson of the Governor’s home in Latoshinka settlement. According to sources, not only had Muzraev covered up this organized criminal group – but also was its member and think tank.
Governor Andrei Bocharov claims that the arson was an attempt to kill him: “This incident, this crime is very serious and scary for me and my family. The entire family could be burned alive”.
No more official comments were provided by the Governor. Afterwards, Bocharov has been evading this topic and direct questions about the incident. But based on his actions, the Governor is fully aware who had committed the arson and why – and he has got the fiery ‘message’.
The home that was set on fire is located on two lots. The property includes several other structures as well. Interestingly, the Governor is not the homeowner – he has mentioned this in an interview. Allegedly, Bocharov rents this home at his own expense. According to one of the versions, this was not an arson at all: a day before the incident, Governor Andrei Bocharov and newly-appointed Vice Governor Aleksander Sivakov were making barbecue and accidentally spilled lighter fluid on the wall, which caught fire.
Mikhail Muzraev, Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Volgograd Region of the ICR, has personally taken charge of the investigation. For almost three years, there were no reports about its progress. Only in May 2019, a video was published showing a person running on the lot with some item in his hand and then showing from a different angle flashes of fire and a man running away. For some reason, the video was not published in 2016.
The FSB identified five persons involved in the attempted assassination of the Governor of the Volgograd Region. Three suspects were detained in 2017; one of them fled to the USA and currently serves a term for a crime committed there. On May 23, 2019, ‘authoritative’ businessman Evgeny Remezov, the mastermind behind the attack on Andrei Bocharov, was arrested in Moscow. In addition, criminal ‘authority’ Vladimir Zubkov (Zubok) was detained in Volgograd in the framework of this case.
It is necessary to note that ICR operatives had searched residences of Zubkov and his close relatives back in October 2017. A probe was launched on the basis of some documents found there, and the name of Muzraev was mentioned in it.
It is unknown when was the arson case transferred from the ICR to the FSB and why. Some experts believe that general Muzraev was charged under paragraph “a” of part 2 of Article 205 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (act of terrorism committed by a group of persons in preliminary conclusion or by an organized group) to make sure that the crime is investigated by the FSB, not the ICR.
Roman Grebennikov, ex-Mayor of Volgograd (2007–2011) believes that the charges laid against Murzraev would be reclassified soon and new details pop-up in his case. Grebennikov explains the arson of the Governor’s residence by political intrigues. The crime was committed shortly after Bocharov’s nomination for the second term.
"How can I believe in an assassination attempt that was not committed? How can I believe that somebody had tried to kill the regional head in such a stupid way? For what purpose? As far as I understand, Andrei Bocharov and Mikhail Muzraev had excellent relations. I think that the official statements are missing something," – Roman Grebennikov says. He does not believe the version explaining the crime by a conflict between Muzraev and Bocharov. The Investigations Directorate in the Volgograd Region of the ICR under the command of the lieutenant general has instituted plenty of cases against regional officials – but people from the close circle of the Governor were never prosecuted. Framed-up cases were mostly used to neutralize those opposing the joint plans of the Governor and Head of the Regional ICR Directorate.
One of such undesirable persons was Mikhail Tsukruk, Head of the General Administration for the Volgograd Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation (2006–2008). In 2008, a criminal case was instituted against Tsukruk under Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers). According to his lawyers, upon arrival to Volgograd from Buryatia, Tsukruk launched a struggle against the existing corruption schemes and gathered plenty of compromising materials against local prosecution officials – who decided to deliver a preemptive blow.
To refresh background: the ICR was separated from the Prosecutor General’s Office in 2011. At that time, Muzraev was a Deputy Prosecutor of the Volgograd Region; he was in control of the Department for Supervision of Criminal Investigations and the Investigations Directorate of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Volgograd Region.
In an interview to REN TV, Tsukruk said that Muzraev had committed numerous crimes. The ex-Head of the MIA General Administration for the Volgograd Region has identified severe violations in the region, including production and transportation of illegal alcohol, poaching, and technical condition of the public transit. According to Tsukruk, the region was plagued by corruption – and a criminal group consisting of high-ranked law enforcement officials, including Mikhail Muzraev, was responsible for that. Not only had Muzraev covered up his subordinates – but also permitted them to use brutal interrogation techniques.
Florid Salim’yanov, Head of the State Traffic Safety Inspection of the MIA General Administration for the Volgograd Region, was the main prosecution witness in the case against Mikhail Tsukruk. He was accused of bribe-taking and died during the investigation. The official cause of his death was ruptured spleen – but, according to the unofficial version, Florid Salim’yanov died from ruthless interrogations in the Investigations Directorate in the Volgograd Region of the ICR. Mikhail Tsukruk believes that the testimonies of Salim’yanov were made under pressure.
Death Certificate of Florid Salim’yanov >>
According to Tsukruk, not only had the ICR general framed up cases against unwanted law enforcement officers opposing his corruption schemes – but also enjoyed the support of criminal ‘authorities’.
“In the course of operative actions, subordinates had reported to me close contacts between Muzraev and our targets. My agents received information about a forthcoming criminal congregation dedicated to Mayor Evgeny Ishchenko. We were surprised to hear that Muzraev was also invited to that congregation. The criminals discussed how to remove the Mayor from office. He was inconvenient for them,” – Tsukruk said. In order to engage him in the struggle against Mayor Evgeny Ishchenko, “one of the supreme regional law enforcement functionaries” brought to his home $5 million asking to “step aside”. Tsukruk refused – and a criminal case was instituted against him.
According to the Department for the Southern Federal District of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation, the Head of the MIA General Administration for the Volgograd Region has requested his subordinates to provide funding for repairs of the Hospital of the MIA General Administration for the Volgograd Region; as a result of this illegal request, district MIA departments and other subdivisions have transferred over 2 million rubles ($31.7 thousand) to the non-budgetary fund of the MIA General Administration for the Volgograd Region.
«They brought me to the office of Mikhail Kanduevich who said: “Now you know who is the boss in the region,”» – Mikhail Tsukruk recalls. Ultimately, the ex-Head of the MIA General Administration for the Volgograd Region was sentenced to two years conditionally and prohibited from holding supreme positions in the MIA for three years. Tsukruk claims that he still has no idea what was his guilt.
Evgeny Ishchenko, ex-Mayor of Volgograd (2003–2006) calls Mikhail Muzraev a mafia boss and compares him to criminal ‘authority' Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin. According to Ishchenko, the Head of the Regional ICR Directorate had kept all regional politicians on the hook and promptly neutralized undesirables. This was done not only through the institution of criminal cases. For instance, Mikhail Korotkov, Chairman of the Regional Court, was forced to resign after the discovery of the dead body of a criminal in his country home. Then it became known that tiles installed in his house were stolen somewhere in the center of the city. Finally, the vehicle belonging to the judge and driven by his driver knocked down and killed a pedestrian. Korotkov had filed complaints with the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General's Office – but ultimately had to resign.
“This person had abused his powers for years. He did that masterfully. Being in charge of the Regional ICR Directorate, he has illegally instituted not tens – but hundreds – of criminal cases and locked up many innocent people. He did that absolutely consciously. Roughly speaking, he was getting rid of anybody opposing him or playing an independent game,” – Evgeny Ishchenko says.
After his resignation in late 2018, Mikhail Muzraev transferred to Moscow and became an Advisor to ICR Chairman Alexander Bastyrkin. The total number and functional duties of Advisors to the ICR Chairman are unknown. No information about them is available on the ICR web site. It is known that Bastyrkin and Muzraev were on good terms. The current state of relations between the ICR general and Volgograd Governor remain unknown. It cannot be ruled out that Andrei Bocharov decided to capitalize on the diminishing of Muzraev's influence in the region and exclude him from local criminal schemes – or even avenge the arson (if this really was a ‘message' from Muzraev).
Mikhail Muzraev and Alexander Bastyrkin
‘Authoritative’ businessman Evgeny Remezov has reportedly testified against Muzraev. The investigation believes that Remezov had tried to burn the Governor because of their conflict over Volgograd Central Market. The budget was losing millions of rubles, and the new Governor, Andrei Bocharov, decided to put the things to order. Some premises were seized from Remezov through court action. In May 2019, Remezov was arrested in the framework of the arson case; Vladimir Zubkov and Mikhail Muzraev were detained later. According to the investigation, Remezov had plotted assassination of the Governor and addressed Muzraev for help – in the past, the general had successfully ‘dealt’ with many undesirable people.
Vladimir Zubkov (Zubok)
Interestingly, despite his great power in the region, Mikhail Muzraev had neither overwhelming wealth nor real estate, expensive cars, bags full of cash, collections of elite watches, nothing. The FSB hasn't published the operative footage recorded in his home. The investigators are currently checking the general for complicity in other crimes – so, more cases may be instituted against him any time soon.
Russians have been standing for their rights more aggressively since the controversial pension reform, worsened financial situation and social unrest against the background of the elections to the Moscow City Duma.