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#12 - JRL 7214
The Times (UK)
June 7, 2003
Russia's hired guns strike fear into elite
From Robin Shepherd in Moscow

JUST before 9.15am yesterday Igor Klimov called his wife from outside his central Moscow home because he had forgotten his glasses in his rush to get to work. Moments later Mrs Klimov opened the door to find her husband lying in a pool of blood. The 42-year-old head of Russias leading defence manufacturing companies had been shot dead by camouflaged contract killers using a silenced pistol. Two bullets in the chest made Mr Klimov the seventh prominent victim of Russias mafia hit squads in less than a month.

There are scores of contract killings of businessmen in Russia every year, but few ever result in convictions. The problem has become so serious that this week Russias nine leading businessmens organisations wrote to the Government demanding action.

People taking an active position in life, whose efforts keep the nation going, are the most likely to die at the hands of hired killers, they said in a joint letter. The group pledged funding to the state prosecutors office to help them to track down the killers.

The motive for Mr Klimovs killing was, as ever in such cases, unclear. Since February he had been acting head of Almaz-Antei, a company that makes anti-aircraft and anti-missile weapons and that was formed by the merging of more than 40 smaller companies last year. It was to have appointed a permanent chief executive officer on June 26 and Mr Klimov was a candidate. Police are also working on the theory that the attackers may have been after the kind of sensitive information that the head of an arms manufacturer, and former foreign intelligence officer, could be expected to have in his possession. Witnesses said there had been a struggle for Mr Klimovs briefcase.

A police spokesman said: We know that there were two men involved both in grey-and-white camouflage. One was blond-haired but balding and of medium build. The revolver with a silencer was found at the scene.

Contract killings in Russia are now so common that experts can identify trends pinpointing the most likely time of day for an attack - the morning - and the most common location - near the victims home.

In the morning your target has just woken up and is probably rushing out to work as is everybody else, said Alexy Nicholayevich of the Russian Academy of Bodyguards.

Secondly the home is one of those points a person will always return to. You can be sure to find him there. Sometimes they also get them in the evening when theyre returning home tired after a hard days work.

Each killing strikes a blow at President Putins campaign to move away from the Wild East days of the 1990s when organised criminals fought for turf in major cities across Russia. Mr Putins efforts are aimed at more than simply cleaning up Russias image. Economists cite organised crime as a major barrier to the development of small and medium-sized businesses the bulwark of a modern economy. If the standard practice of market competition is resolved by gunfire, they say, entrepreneurs will be reluctant to develop their businesses.

It is not merely a problem for the business community.

In April, Sergei Yushenkov, a senior figure in the opposition Liberal Russia Party, was gunned down outside his home in Moscow. Another Liberal Russia politician, Vladimir Golovlyov, was shot dead while walking his dog last August.

Killer month

May 14: Mikhail Sinelnikov, captain of St Petersburg Sea Port, shot outside his home in the city

May 25: Kostya Mogila (Kostya the Grave), head of St Petersburg Mafia, machine-gunned with two companions in his car in central Moscow

May 27: Sergei Pereverzev, furniture import boss, shot in Moscow hospital bed

May 28: Viktor Tarabanovsky, security chief at Reemtsma Russo-German tobacco factory, stabbed in the back outside his home in Volgograd

May 28: Farit Gazimov, Yukos oil terminal general director, shot outside his home in the Irkutsk region

June 3: Alfred Lerner, theatre and business centre director, shot outside his home in Moscow

June 6: Igor Trunov, head of Almaz Antey, shot outside his home in Moscow

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