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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Report Moscow Murders Down in 1997

Moscow police patted themselves on the back Wednesday, saying that the number of murders in the capital has fallen and that police were solving more of them -- though their figures didn't include gangland murders.

In the first 11 months of this year, there were 1,332 premeditated murders in the first 11 months of this year, down from 1,435 over the same time period last year, officials said at a news briefing at police headquarters at 38 Petrovka.

They said they solved 64 percent this year, up from 53.2 percent last year. Murders arising from domestic conflicts comprised 53 percent of all murders, and police solved 77 percent of those.

But the upbeat statistics appeared not to include Moscow's notorious gangland-style contract killings, committed over business disputes or mob turf. They are tracked by a separate department, officials said.

There were more than 150 such murders-for-hire last year, most of them unsolved, police said late last year.

But a police spokesman reached by telephone on Wednesday said there have been only 15 contract killings so far this year, which he said was a sharp increase from only six in the same time period last year. The spokesman added that it was likely there were more contract killings, but his figures accounted only for cases verified beyond all doubt as falling into the category.

As for noncontract murders, police blamed familiar scapegoats: homeless people, Caucasians and people without official permission to live in Moscow, all of whom are routinely harassed by police.

"People without Moscow permits cause us many problems," said Alexander Slutsky, senior officer for special matters in the Interior Ministry's criminal search administration. "These people are responsible for 30 to 40 percent of the murders in Moscow."

Slutsky said the migrants arrive in Moscow seeking a better life but end up confined to dingy apartments due to the constant fear of police checking their documents. To alleviate boredom, they start drinking with their "ethnic brothers" and what may have started out as a simple dispute can have tragic consequences, he said.

"With the Caucasians, such occasions always involve drug-taking," he said.

While alcohol is a contributing factor in 95 percent of Moscow's murders, narcotics are involved in only 2 percent of cases, officials said. Police said they have mounted a massive manhunt for a serial killer believed to have slain five women in the Losiny Ostrov forest preserve in the northeast part of the city, officials said. Thirty officers are assigned to the case, they said.

Homeless people also figure disproportionately in Moscow's murder statistics as victims, Slutsky added.