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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Second City Deserves Bad Reputation




On the eve of St. Petersburg's 296th birthday, two people were murdered in cold blood and two more came dangerously close. Categorized by local authorities as contract hits, these attacks came as a fresh reminder of a trend that became alarmingly familiar last fall in St. Petersburg, when a seemingly endless stream of political and commercial assassinations darkened the city's image.


That was the season when Russia's so-called cultural capital earned its second, less appealing nickname of Russia's crime capital.


Now, as the White Nights approach and the city begins to relax with a period of badly needed warm-weather celebration, it's clear that it will take more than a few good Pushkin birthday parties to salvage the city's name. St. Petersburg's reputation for murder has stuck, and perhaps deservedly so. One thing is for sure f it won't do much for the tourist trade.


Of course, all of Russia is lawless, not just St. Petersburg. But somehow, it's more striking in a city that, given its location as Russia's window on Europe and its haunting beauty, could be doing so much better. Instead, organized crime and corruption rule.


As disturbing as this most recent string of incidents is f two murders and two near-misses on a single day f what's even more disturbing are the sheer mass of stories that often go unreported, the humbler crime stories that become banal through sheer repetition but drive home the same message: Life is cheap.


In the past week and a half alone, Interfax has sent routine stories like the May 18 murder of the 33-year-old director of the Global tour agency, shot and killed by an unknown assailant on Ulitsa Zhukovskogo, in downtown St. Petersburg.


Another was the May 24 attack on 44-year-old Tatyana Lobanova, the commercial director of a prominent alcohol producer, by four masked men who broke into her dacha and beat her, her daughter, son-in-law and a friend with baseball bats. The assailants then left, taking with them four cellular phones and jewelry.


City law enforcement, meanwhile, continues to address the crime situation with its usual circumspect approach, admitting little, advising less, and leaving a litany of major crimes unsolved.


What will it take to feel confidence in Russia's second city again?


Certainly more than the city's "Safe St. Petersburg" guide, which includes useful information for visitors like the contact number for the anti-terrorism office of the Federal Security Service. Is it any wonder the city has got a bad rap?