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RUSSIA: MP shot dead in ´contract killing´

Contract killings in Russia are commonplace, with politicians often the target. On Tuesday a railway official was shot dead in Moscow, and in June assassins tried to kill the deputy mayor of Moscow, Iosif Ordzhonikidze, for a second time. 216 Duma members are under criminal investigation and protected by immunity for further police action.

A prominent member of the Russian parliament who is under investigation over the embezzlement of state funds was shot dead near his home in Moscow yesterday morning as he walked his dog. Vladimir Golovlyov, one of the co-founders of an opposition party funded by the London-based Russian tycoon Boris Berezovsky, was shot in the head. His body was found in a forest. Authorities are treating the incident as a contract killing, after witnesses reported seeing two gunmen escape on foot. A member of the Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, Golovlyov had been investigated for the alleged misappropriation of 8 billion US dollar of state money earmarked for social benefits and investment inthe area he represented, the southern Ural region of Chelyabinsk. The politician was stripped of his parliamentary immunity from prosecution in July. Golovlyov, whose career was built on the privatisation of state business in Russia, was involved in the sale of the government´s share in the multimillion dollar Magnitogursk metallurgical plant in Chelyabinsk, for which many different groups were vying. Leading Russian politicians suggested that the murder might have been revenge for Golovlyov´s role as a possible state witness in corruption trials, or to prevent his future testimony. They called for unified cross-party support for the investigation into the killing. Gennady Raikov, a Duma deputy, said: "Accomplices do not forgive those who have talked. The murder [of Golovlyov] shows yet again that chaos permeates the country." A high-ranking official at the Chelyabinsk prosecutor´s office, which was investigating Golovlyov as one of five men allegedly involved in regional corruption, said: "Our enormous efforts of not only investigating him but persuading the Duma to let us prosecute are now wasted." Golovlyov was also one of five politicians who left the Union of Rightwing Forces party earlier this year to join Liberal Russia, an opposition group funded by Mr Berezovsky, who moved to London when he fell out with President Vladimir Putin. Golovlyov maintained that the corruption charges were retaliation for joining Mr Berezovsky´s party. Mr Berezovsky said yesterday: "The criminal case against Golovlyov was started the day after he joined Liberal Russia. This [murder] is very simple: it is a message to the political classes of Russia that anyone who crosses the red flags of the existing powers will be killed." Yet Boris Nemtsov, the leader of the Union of Rightwing Forces, told Russian media that he believed the contract killing was linked to the corruption inquiry. Contract killings in Russia are commonplace, with politicians often the target. On Tuesday a railway official was shot dead in Moscow, and in June assassins tried to kill the deputy mayor of Moscow, Iosif Ordzhonikidze, for a second time.

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