Moscow banker shot dead in professional contract hit

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The wave of contract killings sweeping Russia has continued with the latest victim being murdered, execution-style, in the hallway of his apartment block.

Alexander Plokhin, 58, a bank manager at the state-owned Vneshtorgbank, was shot dead on Tuesday night as he returned home to his riverside apartment and stepped out of the lift.

He was killed by a single shot to his head. Police say they have no doubt his murder was a professional hit.

Mr Plokhin was a former member of Moscow's parliament and his bank, Vneshtorgbank, is due to float on the London Stock Exchange next year.

His killing is the fourth high-profile "hit" in the past month. Over the weekend, the investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya was found shot dead at her Moscow apartment. Other victims have included Andrei Kozlov, the deputy head of the Central Bank, and Enver Ziganshin, a chief engineer for a Russian oil firm.

The perpetrators usually go unidentified. The Russian media is doubtful the person who killed Ms Politkovskaya will be caught.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Prime Minister of Chechnya, who has been named in the media as a possible suspect, has issued a strong denial. He said: "She was a woman and I would never stoop so low as to settle a score with a woman."