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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Banks Shut To Protest Killing of Executives

Most of Russia's major financial institutions, including banks and currency exchanges, will close Tuesday to protest the killing of two prominent business executives last week.

The Russian Association of Commercial Bankers, announcing the closures Monday, appealed to President Boris Yeltsin to escalate the fight against contract murders of business-people, which now total 37 for the year, according to the police.

The separate killings Thursday of Nikolai Likhachev, 54, head of Rosselkhozbank, one of the country's largest commercial banks, which handles trillions of rubles of state loans to agriculture, and Galina Muravleva, 36, director of the commercial firm Tesey, have led to a bitter exchange between the banker's association and the Security Ministry.

Alexander Zagryadsky, a spokesman for the association, said the organization had unsuccessfully appealed to the Security and Interior Ministries in July for stepped up protection of businesspeople. Therefore, he said, it appealed to Yeltsin for help on Saturday.

The appeal calls upon the president to begin radical personnel and structural changes in the two ministries, Zagryadsky said.

"We cannot trust the Interior and Security Ministries", Zagryadsky said. "Some high-ranking officials of those ministries consider bankers and businessmen as opponents".

Alexander Zdanovich, a Security Ministry spokesman, responded: "We do not distinguish common people and bankers when we have to carry out the law. They are completely equal for us".

He noted that Russian bankers had "very well equipped guards to whom they paid big money. But that is not enough for them, they want the Security Ministry to protect them also".

He denied the allegation that Security Ministry officials consider bankers as "opponents", adding: "I do not know anyone in the Security Ministry who is against bankers".

Zagryadsky said Likhachev, the banker killed Thursday, had appealed to Yeltsin after Boris Yakubovich, 25, director of Inkombank's branch in St. Petersburg, was killed in July.

The paper Commersant said that seven bankers were among the 37 business executives killed so far this year.

Police said Likhachev was shot dead at the entrance of his apartment building Thursday evening and Muravlyova was killed at the door of her flat by two shots Thursday morning.

Igor Ziryulnikov, a spokesman for the Moscow police, said it was apparent that both murders were contract jobs.

"Only professional killers, who have been hired to shoot these entrepreneurs, would have been able to commit the crimes", he said.

Zagryadsky said the shutdown "is not a political act, but a sign of protest against the growth of contract killings against businessmen".

He said Yeltsin must stop criminal lawlessness in the country. Otherwise, he added, "There will not be law, order, commercial banks and only criminal groups will control the situation in the country".

Russia's three main currency exchanges will not trade the ruble or other currencies Tuesday.

Avtobank, Tsentrokredit and Mezhekonomsberbank will shut. Dialogbank, International Moscow Bank and Tokobank would only provide a few essential services.