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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Starovoitova: Soon to Be Forgotten?




Remember Galina Starovoitova? She was the State Duma deputy who last Nov. 20 was gunned down outside her St. Petersburg apartment in an apparent contract killing that sent shock waves through the country. Within hours of her brutal murder, she was being hailed as a hero and a brave voice of democratic decency in Russia. Her funeral was attended by 10,000 mourners, including the cream of the country's liberal politicians. News of her assassination made it to the front pages of the international press; it was even suggested she be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.


Federal security forces were quick to muscle out local law enforcement and jump on the investigation with a team headed by no less than then FSB head Vladimir Putin, then active Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov and then Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who said he was "certain" the case would be solved. Last December, President Boris Yeltsin himself said he would take personal control over the investigation, hailing Starovoitova as one of his "closest companions and assistants" and vowing that the "contractors and executors of the murder will be found and severely punished."


Heavyweights notwithstanding, one year later, the crime remains unsolved. According to a press release distributed by the Federal Security Service last week, the investigators over the past year have interrogated roughly 700 people and conducted over 90 expert commissions. Despite this show of effort and good intention, however, investigators are apparently not much closer to an answer.


Stepashin, one of the few prominent politicians to attend this year's considerably more modest memorial service, has said only that the case is gaining momentum. The FSB press release in turn blames the investigation's slow progress on Starovoitova's allies for their reluctance to trust law enforcement bodies; some of the witnesses interviewed countered that they were subjected to questioning that was irrelevant and offensive.


Meanwhile, political-style assassinations have resumed in St. Petersburg. Fuel boss Pavel Kapysh was killed Aug. 16 when his car was attacked with rocket-propelled grenade and automatic rifle fire. More recently, the city's Legislative Assembly deputy speaker, Viktor Novosyolov, was killed by a bomb on Oct. 20; one of his assistants was shot and killed in his home two days later. Older and equally troubling cases like the murder of St. Petersburg Vice Governor Mikhail Manevich likewise remain unsolved. A sense of urgency in a single case is hard to maintain in circumstances like these; the senses are dulled through repetition. Just a year after Galina Starovoitova's death, the echo of outrage is both brief and faint. In another year, it may be all but forgotten.