#3 - JRL 7188
May 19, 2003
Former MPs linked to Starovoitova's murder
By Irina Petrakova
The murder of prominent Russian lawmaker Galina Starovoitova in November 1998 may have been masterminded by her colleagues from the State Duma. According to unofficial reports, at least two members of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultra-nationalist LDPR party have been linked to the attack on the lawmaker, who rose to prominence in the 1990s as an outspoken liberal politician and human rights activist.
Galina Starovoitova's murder may have been ordered by one of her State Duma colleagues, an LDPR deputy, whose name investigators refuse to disclose -- it is known only that a certain parliamentarian has already been mentioned in the testimonies of detained assassins.
In particular, the detainees claim that the order to murder Starovoitova came from a deputy of the State Duma of the previous calling, a member of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), who presently lives somewhere in Europe.
Galina Vasilievna Starovoitova, one of the best-known women in Russian politics, was murdered on November 20, 1998, shot dead in the stairwell of the St Petersburg apartment block where she lived. Her aide Ruslan Linkov, who accompanied Starovoitova on that day, was also caught up in the attack. He suffered serious injuries, but survived.
Galina Starovoitova's sister Olga related this information during a live interview for the Ekho Moskvy radio station. She refused to disclose the name of the suspect, but said that presently the relatives of the slain deputy are familiarizing themselves with the investigative materials. They were granted access to the files several months after Olga Starovoitova sued the FSB for denying her the opportunity to see them.
In the opinion of Olga Starovoitova, it is unlikely that the ex-State Duma deputy in question harboured a personal grievance against Galina. Most probably, he was fulfilling someone's order, she claimed. ''Such orders are never issued in writing, that is why, unfortunately, there is no documentary evidence,'' she noted.
If investigators succeed in detaining the former deputy, they may manage to track down the mastermind of the assassination, though Starovoitova's former colleagues are pessimistic about the chances of success.
At present, six people detained on charges of murdering Galina Starovoitova are being held in custody in a St. Petersburg remand prison. Among those detained are the organizers, accomplices and the one who is believed to have carried out the attack on the deputy, the head of the St. Petersburg FSB directorate Sergei Smirnov told the press last week.
All the suspects were detained in autumn last year. According to the St. Petersburg FSB, their capture ''was complicated by the fact that they were in various regions of the country -- St. Petersburg, Pskov, Dyatkovo in the Bryansk Region''. A native of the Bryansk Region, 34-year-old Yuri Kolchin, was, for instance, one of the organizers of the crime.
Four members of Kolchin's gang were charged in November last year. By December 2002 the FSB investigators had managed to gather evidence against two more suspects.
However, the Starovoitova case-file will not be forwarded to court before June 20, after the Prosecutor General's Office extended the term of investigation. A nationwide search for four persons suspected of being implicated in the attack on the deputy is also continuing. Among those on the wanted list are Sergei Musin and Pavel Stekhnovsky, who, investigators believe, fired at Starovoitova.
According to some reports, other individuals on the wanted list are former deputies of the State Duma, LDPR members Mikhail Glushchenko and Vyacheslav Shevchenko. Olga Starovoitova was probably speaking of them on Ekho Moskvy.
Glushchenko and Shevchenko are believed to belong to the so-called Tambov criminal grouping. According to an unofficial version, they asked another member of the Tambov group, Yuri Kolchin (alias Yura Bryansky) ''to settle accounts'' with Starovoitova.
Kolchin, who has two convictions on his criminal record, at that time worked at the privately owned security firm Blagovernyi Knyaz Alexander Nevsky (Faithful Prince Alexander Nevsky). According to the St. Petersburg Agency of Journalistic Investigation, most of the suspects in the Starovoitova murder case belonged to that structure. From the late 80s Kolchin was close to the so-called Tambov criminal grouping and knew Glushchenko and Shevchenko.
At the same time, both Olga Starovoitova, and her sister's former aide Pyotr Kucherenko assume that the LDPR deputies, even if they did take part in organizing the attack, acted merely as intermediaries, and were not the main figures behind the crime. As Kucherenko explained to Gazeta.Ru, Starovoitova was never acquainted with Glushchenko or with Shevchenko and had no contact with them.
Kucherenko believes that the masterminds will not be found in the near future, at least, as long as the incumbent governor of St. Petersburg Vladimir Yakovlev holds his post. "In order to solve that crime, the political will of the authorities is needed," maintains the former aide to Starovoitova. ''So far there is no such will, since the highest-placed officials may be involved in the case.''
Another former aide of the slain deputy, Ruslan Linkov, is of the same opinion. ''The death of Galina Vasilyevna [Starovoitova] was of benefit to people belonging to the political and economic entourage of the governor [Vladimir Yakovlev] and the chairman of the Russian State Duma [Gennady Seleznyov].'' Linkov said Starovoitova had gathered evidence on the two top state officials' wrongdoings and ''promised to raise an uproar in the Duma'', which would lead to the criminal prosecution of the two.