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Businessmen Offer $1 Million for Russian Banker’s Killer

August 9, 1995

MOSCOW (AP) _ Accusing police of widespread links to organized crime, a group of Russian businessmen offered a $1 million reward Wednesday for the culprit who fatally poisoned a top banker.

Leaders of the Russian Business Roundtable also said they will watch the murder investigation closely and help gather clues.

Ivan Kivelidi, who died Friday, is the most prominent in a string of Russian businessmen whose assassinations have gone unsolved.

Kivelidi’s slaying has drawn new attention to Russia’s cutthroat business world, where competition is often resolved by guns and extortion. Bankers routinely surround themselves with bodyguards and send their families to live in the West.

The newspaper Izvestia ran a large front-page photo Wednesday of ``the latest businessman″ to be murdered, an unidentified man lying twisted on the pavement, his face and chest smeared with blood. The report said 13 contract hits were carried out Friday and Saturday alone in Moscow.

The daily Kommersant said at least four businessmen were killed Monday and Tuesday, and three wounded. And statistics show contract killings are frequent across the country.

Most of the 500 recorded contract killings in Russia last year remain unsolved.

Mikhail Yuryev, first deputy president of the Roundtable, said part of the problem is the public, and police, view all businessmen as dishonest.

Just ask pensioner Vera Komarova. ``It’s terrible that people are being shot, but they’re like wolves robbing each other and us,″ she said when asked about the series of slayings.

Although Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who attended Kivelidi’s funeral, has called for a crackdown on organized crime, businessmen said the government may not be up to the task.

Vladimir Shcherbakov, a Roundtable deputy, noted the state forensics lab has suspended virtually all testing for lack of money and supplies. Even Kivelidi’s exact cause of death has not yet been verified.

``It is perfectly obvious that all the Roundtable members have some political influence and are sufficiently strong economically,″ Shcherbakov said.

He said the group would help gather clues and ``informally monitor the (police) investigation to prevent the case being stuffed in a back drawer.″

Kivelidi, 46, headed Rosbiznesbank and the Roundtable, which has close ties to Chernomyrdin. News reports have said Kivelidi and his secretary died after drinking tea spiked with heavy metals.

But his former associates on the Roundtable said Wednesday there was more: The metals were radioactive, had been put on the telephones and sickened bystanders and investigators in Kivelidi’s office, they said.

Kivelidi was the ninth senior Roundtable member to be murdered.