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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Murders on the Rise in First Half of 1994

509Moscow's murder rate has again risen sharply in the first half of this year, leading to 813 deaths between January and June, according to police statistics. The number is 15 percent higher than for the same period in 1993.

While gangster shootouts have made the headlines, the overwhelming majority of cases result from domestic confrontations, drunken fights and other traditional causes, according to Igor Tsirulnikov, a police spokesman.

"Ninety percent of all murders are domestic fights," he said, "such as a husband against wife or vice versa, a son killing his mother, mother against son, fellow drinkers against each other, and so on."

"The so-called mafia is responsible for only 10 percent of the killings," he added.

Even if a relative minority, it is the gangland murders which have sent shivers down the spines of many Muscovites in recent months.

In January, for example, 10 people traveling in a van were killed when they were fired on with sub-machine guns from a passing car. The murderers picked up the bodies in broad daylight and burned them in a forest nearby, police said. Officials said the incident was a gang fight.

In March, seven people died when rival gangs started a shootout at a Moscow restaurant in a turf dispute.

In April, professionals were said to be responsible for the death of Otari Kvantrishvili, a reputed mafia godfather.

On other occasions, murders have singled out famous targets. In April, for example, a paid assassin set his sights on Andrei Aizderdzis, 35, a State Duma deputy who died outside his home. An outraged parliament called for the resignation of the interior minister. And in February, gunmen shot Sergei Dubov, a publisher known for bringing Alexander Solzhenitsyn's works to Russia.

"Criminals have become more brutal and less human," said Tsirulnikov. "If before criminals would stop before murder because they knew they would be caught, now people have overcome this fear and will kill."

The wave of killings has made Moscow one of the world's most murderous cities. In Chicago, for example, the metropolis with which Moscow is often compared, 1,027 people were murdered during 1991.

Yet Moscow does lag behind New York City, where just under 2,000 people died in 1992, according to FBI statistics.

Murders have sharply risen in Moscow since the late 1980s. In 1992, 886 people were killed during the entire year, just a little more than the half-year statistics for 1994. By contrast, in 1988, 239 were murdered, according to police statistics.

In Russia as a whole, 29,213 murders were recorded in 1993, compared with 23,006 in 1992 and 16,122 in 1991, according in Interior Ministry figures.