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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EBRD Consultant Killed in Hotel Shooting

ST. PETERSBURG -- A British consultant and two Russian policemen have been killed in a hail of bullets at the five-star Nevsky Palace Hotel, in a shooting that police on Tuesday called an assassination attempt against a Russian businessman.

The target, who police said had known connections to St. Petersburg's "Tambov" mafia, was wounded in the leg and shoulder and hospitalized after Monday's shooting at the hotel's Vienna Cafe. Television news gave his name as Igor Gavrilenko.

But John Hyden, an attorney in his early 40s from Edinburgh, Scotland, who was sitting separately and alone in the ground-floor cafe, was caught in the shooting and killed instantly.

Also killed were two off-duty police officers serving as bodyguards for the general director of a local Russian company. A third policeman was wounded and hospitalized.

Hyden had been in St. Petersburg since Jan. 6 as an independent consultant for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, on a project to improve the city's water supply. Since his arrival, he had been staying at the Oktyabrskaya Hotel.

A St. Petersburg representative for the EBRD declined to comment.

Hyden's widow, Pat, told the British daily The Independent: "He was just sitting there minding his own business when the mafia came in and started shooting. He was shot in the head."

She spoke to The Independent from Scotland, where she had gone for the 21st birthday of her daughter. Hyden was to join the family next week. "We have grounds to believe the incident was connected to them [the Tambovtsy]," said Oleg Kisilev, spokesman for the local police.

Local television news identified the firm at which Gavrilenko was the general director as the local company OGGO, but police denied that report. Television also reported that Gavrilenko's older brother, Nikolai, was shot and killed last June.

Nevsky Palace employees present during the shooting declined to talk about the incident. But on Tuesday, repair crews were busily replacing the glass in the wooden doors facing the shopping gallery where bullets had sprayed out into the passageway.

Across the hall, chinks in the wall outside nearby businesses indicated the ferocity of the attack. Police reported that more than 50 bullets were found at the scene.

The shopping gallery, which also serves as a walkway between Nevsky Prospekt and Stremyannaya Ulitsa, houses an antique store, an elite clothing boutique, a book stand, an Inkombank currency exchange and the representative offices of DHL International and British Airways.

"It was not a pleasant time to be here," said one employee from a neighboring business.

Although metal detectors appeared overnight at the entrance to the Grand Hotel Europe, the city's other five-star hotel, Natalia Belik, Nevsky Palace public relations director, said no decision had been made to install them at the Palace.

"We don't want to turn this place into a ghetto," she said. Hotel officials did close off the entrance from Stremyannaya Ulitsa behind the hotel, the entrance used by the assailants. The Vienna Cafe reopened for business Tuesday at 5 pm.

A metal detector has been in place for some time at the entrance to the Grand Hotel's Sadko restaurant, where a similar incident occurred two years ago -- one of a number of such high-profile incidents that have created an impression that in Russia, whether St. Petersburg or Moscow, it can be dangerous to sit even in the country's high class hotels.

But metal detectors are a solution to security concerns that most hotels prefer to avoid, for fear of scaring off customers.

"You have to not feel that you're entering some gulag or equally horrifying situation," said Paul Tatum, president of the Americom Business Center at Moscow's Radisson-Slavjanskaya Hotel. But Tatum agreed that steps must be taken to improve safety.

"It has gotten out of hand in many places," he said. "In our place I have very strong recommendations to change things."

Last December, one man was killed and five were injured when gunmen opened fire at the Angara restaurant on Novy Arbat downtown. Among the injured was a British businessman, again apparently caught in the crossfire.

Later in the same month, police raided the Baltschug-Kempinski hotel, one of Moscow's most luxurious, ordering guests to the floor after following a group of bandits in from the street. No one was hurt.

In May of 1995, two armed men terrorized the Intourist Hotel across the street from the Kremlin when they forced 50 people to the floor, robbed a jewelry store and shot a policeman.

In June 1994, armed riot police stormed the lobby of the Radisson-Slavjanskaya, weapons drawn, and arrested 10 alleged gangsters.

"I think all of these events do not contribute to a better image of Russian in the Western world," said one Western diplomat who asked not to be identified. "If the mafia kills itself, that's one thing. But if you get caught in the crossfire, that's more preoccupying."

-- Charles Hecker in Moscow contributed to this report.