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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Airline Union Leader Slain Outside Home

A union leader at Russia's troubled Vnukovo Airlines who had organized picketing over back wages was brutally slain in his apartment entrance, police said Friday.

Gennady Borisov, head of the airline's technical and ground personnel union, was repeatedly stabbed upon entering the doorway of his apartment building on Ulitsa Garibaldi on Wednesday evening.

His co-workers said the killing looked like a contract hit to disrupt their attempts to win wage arrears and expose machinations with company stock.

"Of course we have no proof ... but it seems that it is our administration that has benefited from his death," Borisov's deputy, Sergei Yashin, said in a telephone interview.

But Vnukovo Airlines' top brass said they believed the murder was committed by someone else who wanted to stir up trouble. "Our leadership believes this murder is a provocation of those who are trying to exacerbate the situation in the company," spokeswoman Irina Sergiyeva said.

The deputy head of the airline, Alexander Klimov, sent a letter to the trade union demanding its activists explain why there were "provocative allegations being made to link the murder and the labor dispute at the company," Yashin said.

An official with the Gagarinsky Interdistrict Prosecutor's Office said that "tense relations" between Borisov and the airlines' top managers was one of two main leads. The investigator, who asked not to be named, said he couldn't rule out armed robbery.

Borisov's body was found lying in a pool of blood by neighbors at around 7:45 p.m. Wednesday. Police said they counted up to 12 stab wounds.

Borisov and his labor activists started picketing the headquarters on Jan. 15 to protest at least four months of unpaid wages. The picket was still under way on Friday evening although management had offered earlier that day to pay part of the arrears, Yashin said.

"We believe it is a bone thrown to the dogs so that they would shut up and, therefore, we are not going to accept it," Yashin said.

He said picketing will continue until the company offers to pay all arrears at once.

Borisov had also been busy digging into suspected wrongdoing involving the company's shares, said Alexander Agrikolyansky, vice president of the Association of Flight Personnel Trade Unions.

He said in a phone interview on Friday that Borisov, who once served as the association's chief legal expert, found out that the Russian Aviation Consortium, or RAK, had not fulfilled its obligation to invest heavily into the company. The state transferred its control packet of the airlines' stock for trust management to RAK in 1995 on condition that this consortium invest $150 million into the company's development, both Agrikolyansky and Yashin said.

Yashin said lack of maintenance funds has already grounded 50 of the company's 56 planes.

Yashin and Agrikolyansky said Borisov had filed an appeal with the Prosecutor General's Office in an attempt to force RAK to return the shares.

Agrikolyansky said Borisov had a successful history of resolving labor disputes in favor of employees while he was the labor association's legal expert. "He has traveled all over Russia, winning court orders to reinstate dozens of pilots and technicians fired by companies," Agrikolyansky said.

Borisov is to be buried Monday. He is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Borisov is the second Vnukovo Airlines labor leader in five years to die a violent death.

Aleksei Yeliseyev, deputy head of the flight personnel labor association and a Vnukovo Airlines pilot, was killed in the entrance of his Moscow apartment complex in 1994. An unidentified killer hit him in the head with a pipe.

At the time, Yeliseyev served as the work force's representative on a special board responsible for selling off some of the company's shares to private investors, Agrikolyansky said.

He said Yeliseyev was trying to prevent an "unfair privatization" scheme he said was being pushed by some of the company's managers.