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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Slim Chance Police Will Find Killers

Paul Tatum's death could hardly appear more appalling after his gunning-down in broad daylight. But it does. Consider:


?The Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel refused to hold his memorial service in the complex he helped build and in which he owned a 40 percent share.


?His family feels too insecure to come to Moscow for his burial.


?There is not a soul in this city or elsewhere who believes his killers will ever be found.


The worst is that Tatum's case is not unusual. Rather, it is the norm for contract killings in Russia -- of which 560 were registered in 1995. Only Tatum's nationality as a U.S. citizen and the high public profile he had kept -- partly in a vain attempt to protect himself -- was unusual.


Of those 560 cases in 1995, only 60 have been solved. And of these, two-thirds turned out to have been committed by the bodyguards of the victims.


There are, of course, many reasons why the police would have so much difficulty in finding contract murderers. Investigation departments are understaffed and underfunded; forensic facilities are hardly state-of-the-art; and professional killers can be hard to find because they make fewer mistakes.


But in Tatum's case there are so many unusual circumstances surrounding the event, so many obvious suspects to question and so many leads that the police have enough to go on to keep a precinct busy for months. The trouble is that most people suspect the investigators lack the will to try.


That suspicion certainly was backed up by Interior Minister Anatoly Kulikov's frankly insulting public response to the killing. He gave as one of the two possible reasons for the killing the belief that it may have been related to the U.S. elections two days after Tatum's death in a Kievskaya metro entrance. The entertainment of so patently absurd an idea at such a high level suggests the case is not being taken seriously.


May Kulikov and his detectives prove us all wrong.


Tatum was trying at the time of his death to have his dispute over the Radisson Slavjanskaya resolved through arbitration in the courts, as stipulated in the original contracts. Whoever the killers, whatever their motives, his death will be perceived in the foreign community as proof that disputes do not get settled by long-established legal means in Russia. They get settled by brute force.


And if the police are seen to make only a token effort at finding Tatum's murderers, this will be seen as proof that the authorities have no interest in changing this state of affairs -- one that makes Russia seem a most unattractive place to come and do business.