Russia: The death of Galina Starovoitova in St. Petersburg in November 1998, and the death of two others near Novosibirsk (January 1997 - January 1999)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||1 April 1999|
|Citation / Document Symbol||RUS31525.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Russia: The death of Galina Starovoitova in St. Petersburg in November 1998, and the death of two others near Novosibirsk (January 1997 - January 1999), 1 April 1999, RUS31525.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6ab7114.html [accessed 21 October 2017]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
A 22 November 1998 Sunday Times article states:
Russians thought they had grown so used to assassinations that murder no longer had the power to shock. They were wrong. The killing of Galina Starovoitova, a leading advocate of democratic reform who was gunned down in the entrance to her St. Petersburg home on Friday night, left the country reeling.
Unlike most victims of contract killings Starovoitova, 52, who collected 1m signatures in support of her failed bid for the presidency in 1996 and was planning another attempt in 2000, was no obvious target.
Her business was in human rights, not oil or banking. Once described by a Russian newspaper as 'our Thatcher' for her toughness, she had one of the few untarnished reputations in Russian politics.
However, Starovoitova had received threats from political enemies on the left and was said to have compiled a dossier of evidence pointing to corruption in the Communist party. Supporters claimed she had planned to present her evidence in the duma, the lower house of parliament, this week.
President Boris Yeltsin with whom Starovoitova worked closely in the early days of Russian reform, declared himself "deeply outraged" and said he would take charge of the investigation. He dispatched Sergei Stepashin, the Russian interior minister, to the scene.
"The shots that cut short the life of Galina Vasilyevna (Starovoitova) wounded every Russian who cherished democratic values," Yeltsin said. "The contractors and executors of the murder will be found and severely punished."
The Kremlin, at least, seemed certain her death was no accidental robbery gone wrong; investigators said $1,700 was found on her body. Mikhail Gorbachev, the former Soviet president, said he had no doubt the killing of this "erudite, brave" woman had been political.
Starovoitova, a liberal deputy in the duma, returned home from Moscow on Friday to spend the weekend in her constituency. Police said a man and a woman were waiting in the entrance hall of her apartment on the Griboyedov canal in the heart of the city.
As Starovoitova climbed the stairs, one of the assailants opened fire from an Agran 2000 machinegun and a Beretta pistol, both of which were left at the scene. She was hit in the neck, head and chest, and died on the spot, the seventh Russian deputy to be murdered since 1993.
Ruslan Linkov, her press aide, was seriously injured but managed to call the police. Last night he lay in a critical condition in hospital, with armed guards at the door.
"She often said that one day she would be killed, but always jokingly. She never meant it," said Ludmilla Iodkovskaya, one of Starovoitova's closest friends and aides. "This killing shows the madness into which Russia has been plunged. It has become a bandit state."
Starovoitova, whose funeral is to be held on Tuesday, came to prominence in Britain in 1991 with her fierce televised denunciations of an attempted coup against Gorbachev. She had been in London on holiday and remained there until the challenge by the old Soviet dinosaurs had been quashed. In recent years she returned frequently to visit her son, who married a British air hostess.
A sociology lecturer educated in St. Petersburg, Starovoitova rose to prominence as a deputy in the first freely-elected Supreme Soviet in 1989, representing the disputed Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. She later became Yeltsin's adviser on nationality problems, the highest-ranking post held by a woman in the Russian government, but broke off relations with him over the war in Chechnya, which she opposed.
Last night aides said that although she had been threatened by die-hard communists opposed to her liberal stance, she had not believed she was in danger. Six weeks ago, however, there had been an attempt to bug her office in St. Petersburg. Some supporters believe her dossier on alleged corruption could have inflicted serious damage on some of her communist opponents.
In a typical sign of her commitment to democracy, Starovitova had recently vowed to run for governor of the Leningrad region, which surrounds St. Petersburg, to stop Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the ultra-nationalist leader, from winning the post.
"He is a dangerous man," she told The Sunday Times. "He wants to establish a criminal dictatorship with fascist methods. His is not a party, but a corrupt business where profit is made from political activity."
Starovoitova also clashed recently with Albert Makashov, an extremist retired general who called for the mass arrest of Russia's Jews.
Her death may, however, be linked to local politics in St. Petersburg in the run-up to elections on December 6. The city has seen a wave of politically motivated contract killings. An aide to Gennady Seleznyov, the duma speaker, was shot in the head last month, but survived.
No references to two persons killed near Novosibirsk in 1997 and 1998 could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
The Sunday Times [London]. Mark Franchetti. "Hitmen Leave Russia Mourning." (NEXIS)
Additional Sources Consulted
Electronic sources: IRB databases, Internet, NEXIS/LEXIS, REFWORLD, WNC.