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Liberal Legislator gunned down

State Duma Deputy and co-Chairman of the Liberal Russia party Sergei Yushenkov was shot dead outside his Moscow home on 17 April in an apparent contract murder, Russian and Western media reported. A pistol with a silencer was found next to Yushenkov's body. Moscow Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukhov and Moscow police chief Vladimir Pronin told journalists at the scene of the killing that Yushenkov was "the victim of a professional killer" and that the slaying is "most likely linked with his activity as a [Duma] deputy," ORT and RTR reported on 17 April. Avdyukov said on 18 April on RTR that a criminal case has been opened and that he is not yet aware of any conflicts that might have led to Yushenkov's killing. He added that the possibility of an economic motive has not been eliminated. Other investigators told ORT that Yushenkov was not involved in economic legislation in the Duma and had no particular business interests. President Vladimir Putin met with Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov on 17 April and asked him to take charge of the investigation. Putin called Yushenkov "a defender of freedom."

Deputy had a long liberal pedigree

Sergei Yushenkov, 52, was born to a family of collective farmers in Kaliningrad Oblast. He graduated from military academies in Novosibirsk and Moscow and was trained as a "political officer." In 1989, Yushenkov -- who held the military rank of colonel -- became an active member of a democratic group called Shield that defended the rights of service personnel. He was elected to the landmark 1989 Congress of Peoples' Deputies as a representative of Shield. He played a prominent role in the defense of the White House during the August 1991 attempted coup against Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. He later headed a commission that abolished the political-control organs in the military. He has served in the Duma since 1993. In the first Duma, he was Defense Committee chairman. In the current Duma, he was a member of the Security Committee. Yushenkov is the ninth Duma deputy to be killed since 1994, and, with the exception of liberal lawmaker Galina Starovoitova, who was shot dead in 1998, "none of the previous victims had had such stature or weight," "Vremya novostei" noted.

(RFE/RL 18.iv.03)

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