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
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - Junior / Middleweight

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: One of the South East's fastest growing full s...

Guru Careers: Marketing Manager / Marketing Communications Manager

£35-40k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Marketing Communicati...

Recruitment Genius: Commercial Engineer

£30000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Estimating, preparation of tech...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Technician

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will work as part of a smal...

Day In a Page

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Joe Root: 'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

'Ben Stokes gives everything – he’s rubbing off on us all'

Joe Root says the England dressing room is a happy place again – and Stokes is the catalyst
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada