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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Luzhkov Deputy Wounded in Attack

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One of the city's top officials was seriously wounded on his way to the Mayor's Office on Tuesday morning when at least one masked gunman pelted his car with armor-piercing bullets. His driver died at the scene.

Mayor Yury Luzhkov was quick to blame the criminal underworld for attempting to kill Iosif Ordzhonikidze, who oversees lucrative sectors of the city's economy including hotels, casinos and shopping centers.

"Most likely he made a decision, or was about to make one, that did not fit into the plans of one of the criminal structures," Luzhkov said.

Several senior officials in the city government, including Luzhkov's deputy and Ordzhonikidze's aide, have been attacked in recent years.

Ordzhonikidze, 52, a deputy prime minister, remained in grave condition Tuesday evening after undergoing a five-hour operation at the Sklifosovsky emergency care hospital. Officials said he was hit by at least three bullets, with one lodging in his abdomen.

"Doctors fear for his life," Luzhkov said in televised remarks.

Ordzhonikidze was driving down Leontyevsky Pereulok at about 9 a.m. when a masked man opened fire on the driver of his Nissan sedan with a Kalashnikov automatic rifle equipped with a silencer, a Moscow police official said.

Then a second gunman, standing a few meters away, fired at Ordzhonikidze, said the official, who asked not to be identified. Later reports said there may only have been one gunman who moved from one side of the car to the other.

Leontyevsky Pereulok intersects Tverskaya Ulitsa, the location of the Mayor's Office in central Moscow.

All in all more than 30 armor-piercing bullets were fired on the car, with at least three hitting Ordzhonikidze, according to an official at the city prosecutor's office. Twenty-five cartridges were found at the scene, Interfax reported. A standard Kalashnikov clip holds 30 rounds.

The official, who asked not to be identified, said the attack bore all the marks of a contract hit. The assailants abandoned their weapons — one Kalashnikov was recovered — and a car, a white Zhiguli, and then fled through a courtyard, he said. The rifle was still armed with a small grenade, and it was unclear why the gunman decided against firing it at Ordzhonikidze.

The assailants may have fled Moscow in a minivan that was hijacked in central Moscow, the well-connected web site Strana.ru reported, citing a senior official of the Interior Ministry's organized crime force.

Ordzhonikidze's driver, Ivan Petrin, 42, died at the scene.

Badly wounded, Ordzhonikidze managed to get out of the car and stumble into a nearby store.

"Girls, I'm dying, call an ambulance," a pale-faced Ordzhonikidze told the store clerks, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported in Wednesday's issue. Ordzhonikidze was scared and clung to the hand of one of the clerks, pleading with her not to leave him alone, the newspaper said. None of the clerks reported hearing shots fired because of a radio blaring inside the shop or seeing the attackers.

The official at the city prosecutor's office said his colleagues, who have joined forces with police and the local branch of the Federal Security Service to investigate the attack, are pursuing several leads, including "work-related" ones.

Ordzhonikidze has regularly received threats since becoming Luzhkov's deputy in 1990, Strana.ru said.

The official said Tuesday's attack could be connected to an attempt in April on the life of Ordzhonikidze's aide Vyacheslav Bogulnik. A gunman fired at Bogulnik's car, wounding his driver but Bogulnik was not harmed.

According to an editor of the investigate journalism web site Stringer-Agency.ru, the attack on Bogulnik was ordered by an organized crime gang as a warning to Ordzhonikidze against infringing upon its interests.

Ordzhonikidze has regularly received anonymous threats since becoming deputy head of the city administration in 1990, when it was still headed by Luzhkov's predecessor Gavriil Popov, according to Strana.ru.

In the past few years, Ordzhonikidze has been responsible for drawing foreign investment to Moscow and developing hotel and gambling businesses in the capital.

He has supervised major projects, including the Manezh Square and Gostiny Dvor shopping malls and the $12 billion City business center, which has been plagued by delays. He also has been involved in the project to bring Formula-1 racing to Moscow. A $100 million deal was signed last week with a British firm to build a racecourse.

"One can only guess which of all these projects" could have backfired for Ordzhonikidze, said Alexei Fedin, deputy editor of the Stringer-Agency web site.

Luzhkov's spokesman Sergei Tsoi told Interfax that the "city government is carrying out its policy of developing the capital and sometimes encounters resistance from different structures, including criminal ones."

Stringer-Agency.ru had earlier alleged that Ordzhonikidze could have played a part in wrestling control of the Radisson Slavjanskaya Hotel's business center from U.S. businessman Paul Tatum.

The web site has published what it claimed was a letter from Tatum sent in April 1996 to then-Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov saying a certain Givi was trying to extort money from him for Ordzhonikidze. Ordzhonikidze has denied trying to extort anything from Tatum.

Tatum was gunned down in November 1996, following a long dispute with the city over the hotel, in which Tatum's business, Americom Business Centers, owned shops and offices

Ordzhonikidze was the second of Luzhkov's top deputies to fall victim to an assassination attempt. Valery Shantsev barely survived a bomb explosion when running for the post of deputy mayor in June 1996.

At least eight other senior city officials have been attacked in the past six years, according to the Wednesday issue of Moskovsky Komsomolets.

The deputy chief of the city's eastern district, Alexander Alyoshin, was killed in February 1994. The same month, the deputy head of the administration in the city's Mitino neighborhood was beaten.

Two attempts were made on the life of Alexei Chistilin, a senior official in the city's education department, in May and July of 1995. Four months later, the deputy head of the administration in the city's Tverskaya neighborhood, Svetlana Zarubina, was killed.

The head of a sub department in the city's transportation and communications department, Alexei Baryshnikov, was killed in December 1995.

An unknown gunman wounded Lyubov Kizina, head of the city government's education department, in May 1997.

In November 1998, a bomb went off near the car of Pyotr Biryukov, the first deputy in the city's central administrative district.

The deputy of the city's chief sanitary inspector, Alexander Melnikov, was wounded by a gunman in June 2000.