Gas Firm Chief Killed in St. Pete

ST. PETERSBURG -- The chairman of a gasoline company was shot to death Monday by assailants who opened fire on his car with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles as it cruised along a busy road during the morning rush hour.

Pavel Kapysh, 43, director of the Baltic Financial Industrial Group, died at Pokrovsky Hospital of traumatic shock resulting from serious wounds in his legs, hospital officials said.

The attack damaged the left side of Kapysh's armor-plated Chevrolet Blazer, where he was sitting while being driven along the Universitetskaya Naberezhnaya to work, police said.

The driver was unhurt.

One of Kapysh's guards, sitting in a Mercedes escort car following Kapysh's, was also wounded and hospitalized in critical condition.

Police said they found two rocket-propelled grenades, two automatic Kalashnikov rifles and a black glove at the site of the 9:15 a.m. attack.

Witnesses said there were three attackers in masks, Itar-Tass reported.

Police said the attack was linked to Kapysh's business activities.

Kapysh's death comes less than a week after a subsidiary of his firm, Balt-Trade, was one of 11 gasoline traders accused by the St. Petersburg anti-monopoly committee of price-fixing and initiating a gasoline shortage in May.

The committee found the companies more than doubled their gasoline prices in April-May, and ordered them to pay 7 million rubles ($288,000) in fines.

Experts said that Kapysh's death could mean the breakup of the company.

In May, the Kommersant daily linked the "artificially made" fuel crisis with competition for market shares between BFPG and the Petersburg Fuel Co., which together with Faeton account for 60 percent of the city's retail gas market.

Last year, BFPG hoped to extend its activities by buying a 40 percent stake of oil giant Komineft subsidiary Komiarcticoil. But the deal is still pending in court after the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development claimed its rights on the stake.

In 1992, Kapysh was held for questioning concerning a financial scam involving Chechen nationals. In 1993, he was questioned about a bombing in a St. Petersburg suburb. He was not arrested.