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Terrorist Groups Suspected in Assassination of Russian Governor

August 3, 1993

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia (AP) _ At least five guerrilla groups are potential suspects in the assassination of the military governor and commanding general of Russia’s volatile Caucasus Mountains, officials and newspapers said today.

President Boris Yeltsin’s handpicked governor, Viktor Polyanichko, 54, was killed Sunday by gunmen on horseback on a forested road near Vladikavkaz, the provincial capital.

Gen. Anatoly Koretsky, the military commander for the region, and a bodyguard also died in the ambush of the governor’s motorcade. Three other bodyguards were wounded. The gunmen fled.

Senior Russian officials and special police investigators flew immediately to the tense region, where thousands of Russian troops have been deployed since November to separate feuding Muslim Ingush and Christian Ossetians.

There have been no arrests in the case.

The head of security in the region, Maj. Gen. Alexander Khodov, has blamed the attack on Ingush militants, who are traditional horsemen. Many Ingush believe Polyanichko and his Russian troops secretly armed the Ossetians.

But Ingush leader Ruslan Aushev suggested that Ossetians opposed to the resettlement of Ingush refugees planned Sunday’s murders. Polyanichko had been trying to find housing for tens of thousands of Ingush refugees.

Russian newspapers also suggested that Armenian, Azerbaijani or Afghan militants may have killed Polyanichko for revenge.

Before the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, the governor was the second highest Communist Party official in Azerbaijan and had tried to stifle Armenian separatists in the mountainous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Polyanichko also was the Kremlin’s representative in Azerbaijan in January 1990, when Soviet troops quelled pro-democracy protests in Baku, the Azerbaijani capital, killing more than 100 people.

Polyanichko had served as a top Soviet adviser to Najibullah, the former Communist Party leader in Afghanistan, during the Soviet occupation of that country.

The newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda said three attempts were made on Polyanichko’s life in Nagorno-Karabakh in 1990-91, and that Armenian extremists had ″sentenced him to death″ in absentia.

The Moscow News reported last month that Polyanichko had been ″hunted″ by militants in Afghanistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The newspaper’s article bore a one-word headline: ″Survivor.″