There was no reason to kill him. For virtually the first time, politicians and publishing houses which never usually agree with each other are unanimous in this simple thought: for example, such contrasting publications as Yezhenedelny Zhurnal and Kommersant-Vlast.
A person who never had his fingers in many and various pies; the last romantic in Russian politics. That was how the clever (a nice match with its patron Berezovsky) Nezavisimaya Gazeta and the racy Moskovsky Komsomolets papers described Yushenkov.
“I, as well as a couple of dozen other journalists, have visited Yushenkov several times at his home,” Yelena Tregubova writes in the magazine Kommersant-Vlast, “and with surprise, I found a more than modest, not just by the standards of Duma deputies, kind of family life and interior there.”
“He was a completely ‘non-money-oriented’ person,” Alexander Ryklin confirms in Yezhenedelny Zhurnal, “if only on account of the fact that ‘money-oriented’ people do not live in five-story apartment buildings in Tushino.”
Yushenkov, Leonid Radzikhovsky writes in Nezavisimaya Gazeta, was one of those few people who were selfless founders and supporters of the democratic system in Russia, who “did not become wealthy in politics, who didn’t steal, whether directly or through hidden connections.” Although the Duma deputy Yushenkov – a democrat of the first wave – “had every chance, whenever he wished, to take part in the winners’ feast, in the privatization of government property”, there could be no question of that: “To him, it was repulsive.”
Nevertheless – it was not possible that the theme of “dirty money” would not emerge in the discussion of supposed motives for the murder.
“In our country there are no political or ideological murders – all murders are carried out because of money,” deputy leader of the Duma committee on security Mikhail Grishankov told Profil. He also explained: “Liberal Russia did not represent any significant political force, and for this reason its leader could not have been killed by political competitors.”
Igor Bunin, director of the Political Techniques Center, also expressed the view that Yushenkov might have been “a victim of his new sponsors, with whom disputes had arisen after Berezovsky stopped financing the party”.
Profil also presents this comment from Yabloko deputy leader Sergei Mitrokhin:
“You can envisage the widest possible spectrum of people who might have taken out the contract for the murder – from Berezovsky, whom he drove out of Liberal Russia, to people involved in the bomb blasts in Moscow, since Yushenkov was working on that.”
According to the sources of Vremya Novostey, investigators working on the case of Yushenkov’s murder are interested above all in the finances of the Liberal Russia party.
As the newspaper states, a significant part of the party’s treasury at present is made up of funds of the other co-leader of Liberal Russia – Duma deputy Vladimir Golovlev, shot dead in Moscow last summer.
The origin of these funds was discovered a long time ago by the Prosecutor’s Office: Golovlev received them as a result of the privatization of large industrial enterprises in the Chelyabinsk Region.
Furthermore, as has become known, these funds did not belong to Golovlev alone, but also to his partners in privatization deals. Who, according to the newspaper’s information, “were very unhappy about the fact that shared money was going on Liberal Russia”.
This is all the more true, since after the quarrel of the leadership of Liberal Russia with Boris Berezovsky it became obvious that these contributions would not pay back to their owners either financially or politically, since this party has almost no chance of making it through into the next Duma.
The publication Gazeta offers its version of a “money theory” for the murder. According to the information of Gazeta, in March a meeting between Yushenkov and Boris Berezovsky took place in London.
People say different things about the outcome of this meeting. It is known that earlier, Sergei Yushenkov and Victor Pokhmelkin were outraged by Berezovsky’s decision about an alliance with the communists. Liberal Russia also was not able for a long time to successfully pass through the party registration process in the Justice Ministry – many connected the name Berezovsky with this (precisely on Thursday, within a few hours of Yushenkov’s death, the registration was finally completed).
Nevertheless, according to one of the theories, at the time of the London meeting a preliminary agreement about the overcoming of the split in “Liberal Russia” was achieved.
As the head of one of the regional branches of Liberal Russia controlled by Berezovsky, Victor Shmakov claims, on Monday, 21 April a meeting between Yushenkov and Berezovsky’s supporters in Moscow was meant to have taken place, which was supposed to have been he first stage in reunification. The murder, in Shmakov’s opinion, was carried out with the purpose of ruining this meeting.
The following steps have also been noticed: on April 24 leaders were planning to announce unification in the party’s Political Council and to set the date of a party congress for the end of May, at which the unification was supposed to be completed.
Furthermore, in the words of Victor Shmakov, “In the framework of the unification of the two wings of the party” Ivan Rybkin and Sergei Yushenkov had proposed the conducting of “a nationwide campaign with the title My Candidate”.
They had thought up the campaign with a flair: the first 250,000 of its participants having written the names of 10 candidates for Duma deputies “from the people” on the forms presented to them were supposed to receive 200 rubles each.
According to Shmakov, Berezovsky allocated $5.5 million for this campaign, and Yushenkov was supposed to receive part of the funds in cash. “Possibly, he was killed because of the money. Someone who knew that he already had it…”
Alexander Khinshtein supports the theory of murder for the money assigned for the conducting of the My Candidate campaign in Moskovsky Komsomolets: “Looking at it overall, the My Candidate campaign failed. A part of the money allocated to conducting it – around $3 million – was stolen.”
According to Khinshtein’s information, the son-in-law of Boris Berezovsky (his daughter Yekaterina’s husband), Yegor Shuppe, “who, together with his financier friends Yemelyan Zakharov and Rafael Filinov (they led at one time the company Cityline), dealt with the financial side of the campaign”, could have been involved in financial machinations.
Yushenkov’s comrades told Alexander Khinshtein that, having found out about the stealing of money, Sergei Yushenkov decided – once and for all now – to part company with Berezovsky.
He was sort of preparing himself to go to court in order to obtain the liquidation of affiliated bodies of Liberal Russia acting illegally – those having taken Berezovsky’s side. Besides, the author claims, Yushenkov was going to make public statements: he had learned about concrete facts of Berezovsky’s cooperation with Chechen guerrillas.
It is easy to work out, Alexander Khinshtein remarks, that for Berezovsky “accusations such as these were fatal. This would have compromised him once and for all in the eyes of Western ‘liberals’ and sped up the procedure of his extradition.”
In any case, as Alexander Khinshtein claims, “in the last few months there was no person that was hated by Berezovsky more than Yushenkov” (even a quote from Remarque is presented: “The most fearsome enemies are former friends”).
Further on in Moskovsky Komsomolets, “Berezovsky’s blacklist” is published, which, as Alexander Khinshtein claims, was now supplemented with “the last romantic”, Sergei Yushenkov: “Vladislav Listyev. Deputy Director of LogoVAZ, Victor Gaft. Senior Deputy Manager of Business of ORT (Russian Public Television), Anatoly Kurochkin. Deputy Head of the Russian Administration in Chechnya, Akmal Saidov. President of the Confederation of Peoples of the Caucasus, Yusup Soslambekov. All these people stood in Berezovsky’s way. And all of them died under mysterious and tragic circumstances.”
At the same time, Yushenkov’s party comrades categorically deny any agreement about unification with Berezovsky’s supporters.
Liberal Russia Executive Secretary Yuly Nisnevich admits that a meeting of the Political Council had been set for April 24, but claims that no congress, much less one of unification, had been planned for May. “Sergei Yushenkov did in fact go to London for an economic forum, and Berezovsky came up to him there – Nisnevich told Gazeta. “An unpleasant conversation took place between them. I remember that Yushenkov was upset for a long time about that conversation. They stridently made their political preferences clear, but naturally, they did not come to agreement about any unification of the two parts of the split party.”
However, the weekly Moskovskiye Novosti published a short interview with Sergei Yushenkov, in all likelihood, the last of his life – three hours before his murder – with the caption: “There have been no contacts between Yushenkov and Berezovsky for a long time.”
In the interview, Yushenkov explains the essence of his differences with the London exile: “Berezovsky wanted us to go into an alliance with the communists. None of the oligarchs which we deal with now have tried to force either ideology or policies onto us.”
To the question about current attempts by Berezovsky to resurrect relations, Sergei Yushenkov answered: “He is trying to do that through his friends. A few invitations… I said that, if he changes his attitude to the realities of what is going on here, then his joining of the party may be the subject of discussion, but only with the rights of a rank-and-file member. There can be no question about his return to the status of a leader of Liberal Russia. And even as a rank-and-file member, no earlier than in a year’s time.”
The Kommersant newspaper did its own investigation. Admittedly, at the admission of the newspaper itself, the leaders of Liberal Russia refused to talk about the problems and conflicts of internal party life with the newspaper’s correspondent: “For example, neither the independent Duma deputy, sympathetic to the Liberal Russians and close to Sergei Yushenkov, Yuly Rybakov, nor member of this party, Nail Irtuganov, would talk about the party treasury or the financing of the party. He did not manage to work out where Liberal Russia found the money for party construction after the ideological split with Boris Berezovsky.”
As the newspaper emphasizes, Irtuganov flatly refused to give the names of the current sponsors of Liberal Russia: “Yes, the party cannot exist without money, but even if Mikhail Khodorkovsky said for all to hear that he was going to finance the Union of Right Forces and United Russia, our sponsors prefer not to do that.”
The Prosecutor General’s Office, having taken the Yushenkov case under its own management, is also working on the financial theory, Kommersant notes.
According to Kommersant, in order to sort out the financial state of the party, an operational-investigative team intends to interview all regional leaders of Liberal Russia (more than 50 people): “Questions are already being put to them about how and by whom the organizational measures of party branches are financed and from which funds the pay for branch leaders (by some figures, up to $1,500 per month) is transferred”.
As Kommersant discovered, the investigation team considers that after the departure of Boris Berezovsky from party affairs, money “from one of the major representatives of the raw materials industries” was being spent on the financing of Liberal Russia.
The investigation team thinks it possible, says Kommersant, that the murder of Sergei Yushenkov could have been linked with a conflict he had with “sponsors” – “including as a result of his excessive extravagance” (the newspaper feels it necessary to remind readers that, as part of this extravagance, the press conference of the party leaders which took place on the day of the murder was held in one of the most expensive halls of the National Hotel).
The newspaper predicts that in the course of investigation there may be “discovered money laundering via some party measures. Basing on these facts, the investigation will try to discover the motives for the crime.”
Besides, Kommersant reports, the investigation is also checking on possible debts and conflicts connected to the acquisition of an apartment on Svoboda Street, on an alleged conflict with “authoritative Chechens” and the military. It is known that the Defense Ministry announced the statements of the deputy insulting. The investigation also considers the option of a murder based on jealously.
The numerous rumor concerning Yushenkov’s killing proves again that “if you are killed in Russia, it will be only the start of your problems,” the Moskovskie Novosti newspaper says. “Then your name will be defamed, your contacts with the criminal world will certainly be found, and if you are a politician, a dirty shadow will be cast on all your associates.”
From the standpoint of Moskovskie Novosti, all current theories about Yushekov’s death are insulting to the deceased. The weekly commented on the words of Vladimir Gordienko, head of the main Criminal Investigation Department, who says that the motive of the crime should be sought in “the personal life of the deputy and his professional activities.”
On the other hand, the reasonable question is how “well-informed periodicals” are aware that Yushenkov had anything to do with Golovlev’s means. As a rule, all sources are rather vague, something like “competent sources in the Duma and security services”.
According to Moskovskie Novosti, the only obvious thing is that people who are currently gossiping about Yushenkov disliked him, as well as disliking Liberal Russia, its leaders, and its sponsors. It is no coincidence that all compromising materials seem as if they were written by the same author, “Some say it is Berezovsky, to prevent being extradited from England: he can tell the British – look, they have started shooting politicians in Russia – don’t throw me to the wolves,” Yezhenedelny Zhurnal says. “Others says it is the security service, in order to let down Berezovsky – he is the only one to kill Yushenkov.”
Yushenkov’s co-deputies Dmitry Rogozin, Mikhail Grishanko, and Vladimir Zhirinovsky support the theory of Berezovsky’s involvement in the crime. The Vremya Novostei newspaper cited Zhirinovsky, “there is a person abroad who is interested in destroying of the Liberal Russia.”
Overall, judging by the article in Vremya Novostei, deputies have extracted every possible PR-advantage from this situation. Right after Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev announced the minute of silence, Communist deputy Ivan Nikitchuk proposed to suspend Duma’s work and to invite the president to the session. “Let him answer about who is running the country: mafia, hitmen, or the president? If he cannot manage the country, he can resign!”
Another communist deputy Nikolai Kolomeitsev was also harsh: he condemned United Russia leader and head of the Interior Ministry Boris Gryzlov, “While ministers are busy with politics instead of their own business, this will go on.”
Viktor Ilyukhin, reputed for his irreconcilability, proposed to call the professional competence of the interior minister in question. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev agreed with him, “I think every official should be responsible for his or her filed, if he or she fails – it is better to leave.”
Besides, Agrarian Group deputy Ivan Iver did not miss a chance and called on the authorities to account for the “Breakup of the USSR, shooting the Supreme Council, robbing the population, and stealing the country.” Viktor Pokhmelkin vainly called on his colleague not to turn the tragedy into a “political buffoonery” – only Gennady Raikov, head of the People’s Deputy faction rejected to participate in the discussion. However, he also shared his opinion with journalists during a break, “It is the capital punishment moratorium to blame” – Raikov has long and actively objected to it.
Boris Berezovsky immediately published his own theory on Yushenkov’s murder – evidently it involves security services.
According to the source of Yezhenedelny Zhurnal, Berezovsky interpreted the report that the president was informed about the deputy’s death within an hour as “that they informed about the fulfillment rather than crime.” Of course, he promised new sensations.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta owned by Boris Berezovsky has also supported the theory about security services: it hinted that Yushenko who participated in the 1999 investigation of explosions in apartment buildings, Moscow, was too close to solving the riddle.
Head of the Agency for applied and regional politics Valery Khomyakov said that the first purely political murder has been carried out in Russia, as Sergei Yushenkov has never participated in any financial or commercial events. Moreover, according to Khomyakov, this crime may become the beginning of a very dangerous process – it is not ruled out that “democratic reforms will be rejected and the security services may try to set an authoritarian regime.”
Andrei Piontkovsky, head of the Center for Strategic research agrees with this opinion, “This murder may push us to realizing that we are living under terror untied by the criminal world against the state power and the society.” Hence, Piontkovsky says, the demands of “the so-called strong state and hard hand” will be inevitable.
Meanwhile, the Izvestia newspaper reported about the preparation in the Duma of the bill on changing the work at security structures and cited Yushenkov’s colleague, deputy Valery Ostanin.
According to Ostanin, Yushenkov was dissatisfied with the concept of the bill and the presidential decrees. At the latest meeting of the security committee he harshly criticized both, “As for transferring a number of services to the Federal Security Service, he considered it as a return to the monster who will be mostly engaged in the political search.”
“The current system is called stability,” says Leonid Radzikhovsky in the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper. However, the “kindly boring stable system where there are no large ideological dramas, and all arguments concern no more than school breakfasts” would not form in Russia. “If we have stagnation, it will end in chaos, if there is silence here – it is because guns are with silencers.”
One way or another, it is obvious that looking for the guilty in such crimes is senseless, as this is simultaneously “profitable and unprofitable for many different people and organizations,” Radzikhovsky notes. In this situation it is difficult to find the customer.
Andrei Ryabov says in Profil magazine, “There is unlikely to be an answer to the questions: who and why killed Sergei Yushenkov.” According to Ryabov, the most surprising thing here is the irrationality of the event.
In fact, Yushenkov had neither financial power nor political influence – who could be interested in his death?
Ryabov says that it is generally known that all roles on the Russian political scene have long been distributed. “The opposition knows very well its limits. Its activities – protocol rallies, demonstrations with well-known talkers, who know their texts by heart. All goes according to the scenario.” However, there is a different opposition, which does not know its limits: however, it does not have large Duma factions, friends among regional governors and ministers, and generous finding from tycoons – therefore, it is not dangerous.
The author stresses that Yushenkov belonged to the second type of the opposition. According to different sociological polls, his Liberal Russia party would hardly have more than 1% of votes at the next parliamentary elections – this is what makes the political theory of Yushenkov’s murder irrational. In particular, the Russian society was rather indifferent about the death of Magadan Governor Tsvetkov or Vladimir Golovelv – great money was involved there, “The strong ones are getting even – we have nothing to do with it.”
Yushenkov’s case is special and this is the reason why the society has been so shocked.
On the other hand, it is very difficult to believe that someone has decided to destabilize the situation on the threshold of the elections using this classical method for unstable societies, Ryabov says. “First, currently, there are no influential forces in the country which are interested in such a deterioration. All arguments are resolved in offices, far from elections and other public fuss. Second, it is doubtful that it is possible to excite Russian voters with anything.”
Hence, Profil asks, “Is it the beginning of a new stage in Russian politics, when politicians are killed for nothing?”
It is possible to presume that the political class will draw certain conclusions, at least for the immediate future, Andrei Ryabov says, “Since there are no rational explanations for the tragedy, the only conclusion is to be quiet – just to be on the safe side, as Russia is a very irrational country….”
Apparently, the irrationality of Russian politics will continue to manifest itself in the future, especially in a parliamentary election year.