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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Don Cossack Chief Killed by Gunman

Soon after taking over as acting chieftain of the Don Cossacks, Gennady Nedvigin was killed near his home in southern Russia over the weekend in what his comrades said looked like a contract hit.

Novocherkassk Prosecutor Nikolai Voskresov said Monday that his office is probing the possibility that Nedvigin's death was connected to his business activities.

Nedvigin ran a local concern, called Kavkaz, which operates a network of lucrative gasoline stations in Novocherkassk. He also owned some food markets in the Cossack stronghold.

Nedvigin was appointed Friday to run the Don Cossack force, replacing Vyacheslav Khizhnyakov, who last month was named as President Boris Yeltsin's representative in the Federation Council, parliament's upper chamber.

Reached by telephone Monday in Moscow, Khizhnyakov said he believed his successor's violent death was more likelyto be connected to his business rather than to his Cossack activities.

Nedvigin died soon after being shot three times in the chest at about 1:40 a.m. Sunday, said a member of a special group set up by local Cossacks to arrange for his funeral.

An unidentified assailant armed with a Kalashnikov assault rifle opened fire on Nedvigin when he got out of his car and began walking toward his house on Ulitsa Prosveshchenia, said the Cossack, who refused to give his name.

The assailant then fled, and Nedvigin died while being rushed by an ambulance to the nearest hospital. The Cossack said he and other local Cossacks believe the attack was ordered by Nedvigin's foes, but he wouldn't elaborate.

Voskresov said no arrests have been made and no composite sketch of the assailant has been drawn.

The Rostov-on-Don regional prosecutor's office has moved to take over the investigation of the high-profile murder, the local prosecutor said.

Nedvigin had encountered problems connected to his business in the past, said Khizhnyakov, the previous Cossack chieftain. He said Nedvigin had quarreled with unidentified rivals over control of the city's markets, but he wouldn't elaborate.

Khizhnyakov personally handed over the Don force's stamp and founding documents to Nedvigin in Novocherkassk on Saturday. Nedvigin had not told him of any threats during that encounter, he said.

"He would usually tell me whenever he felt concerned about something, but this time he didn't say anything," Khizhnyakov said.

Khizhnyakov said Nedvigin is to be buried in Novocherkassk on Tuesday, and the Don force's new head is to be elected in October.

The Don force is one of the most powerful of Russia's paramilitary Cossack formations, which have been experiencing a revival since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.