State official shot dead by hitman in Moscow

The Governor of a vast, resource-rich Russian region was shot dead by a contract killer yesterday within sight of the Kremlin.

Valentin Tsvetkov, governor of the far eastern province of Magadan, was shot in the head as he walked along the busy Novy Arbat in Moscow while talking on his mobile phone.

President Vladimir Putin immediately ordered Russia's chief prosecutor, Vladimir Ustinov, and the Interior Minister, Boris Gryzlov, to take personal charge of the investigation into the murder.

Witnesses said the attacker was a young man dressed in a balaclava and anorak who leapt out from behind a billboard, fired two shots from a silencer-equipped pistol, then jumped in a waiting car and sped away.

The first bullet killed Mr. Tsvetkov; the second was apparently aimed at, but missed, an aide who was with him. "This was clearly a contract hit," said Vladimir Pronin, Moscow's police chief. "It was the work of a professional killer".

Mr Tsvetkov, 54, had just got out of his car and was walking to an office building that houses Magadan's representation in Moscow when he was shot. That section of Novy Arbat, three blocks from the Kremlin, is regularly used by President Vladimir Putin and other top officials travelling to and from their offices.

Contract killings of businessmen, bankers and even politicians are common in Russia; police registered 327 last year. But Mr Tsvetkov was the first official of such a high rank to be killed in post-Soviet times.

"This is probably the most sensational contract killing of this year," said Anatoly Vinogradov of the police organised crime department.

As elected governor of Magadan, one of Russia's 89 administrative units, Mr Tsvetkov ruled a sparsely-populated territory larger than France and Spain combined and fabulously rich in resources, including gold, silver, tin, forestry, furs and fisheries. Unlike Western countries, where there are strict firewalls separating politics and business, it is not uncommon for high state officials in Russia to own or direct private companies in tandem with their administrative duties.

Mr Tsvetkov, who had been governor since 1996, owned a gold-refining plant and had reportedly been trying to bring the region's gold-mining industry under his control.

"I believe this was not a political killing," Sergei Mironov, Speaker of Russia's Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, told news agencies. "The governor must have harmed someone's business interests. Regrettably, lawlessness still reigns in this country".

Eight parliamentary deputies have been murdered since 1992 but no case has been solved. The most recent was Vladimir Golovyov, shot dead near his home in Moscow in August. Many observers believe that Mr Golovyov's death may also have been connected to his business dealings.

Mr Tsvetkov was a member of the Federation Council in Magadan from 1993 and was elected to the State Duma (lower house of parliament) in 1995 before becoming governor.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Recruitment Genius: Developer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Account Manager - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing, ambitious, en...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future
Berlusconi's world of sleaze: The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM

Berlusconi's world of sleaze

The astonishing lifestyle once enjoyed by Italy's former PM
Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Disney plans galactic domination with endless Star Wars spin-offs

Films and theme parks are just the beginning. Disney believes its control of the now decades-old franchise can bring in merchandise and marketing millions for years to come
Could the golden age of the gaming arcade ever be revived in the era of the Xbox?

Could gaming arcades be revived?

The days when coin-ops were the only way to play the latest video games are gone. But a small band of enthusiasts are keeping the button-pushing dream alive
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: The 'tampon tax' has inspired a new wave of female comedians to reclaim period jokes

Heard the one about menstruation?

Yes, if you have been at the Fringe, where period pieces are taking centre stage