Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Fallout of Year-Old Tragedy

A tragedy took place one year ago in Kaliningrad that may partially explain why the Kremlin is extremely dissatisfied with the region’s current administration. It is a tale that, by sheer emotional force, formulates opinion and influences policy. Strangely, the local press has completely forgotten about it, most likely due to the hoopla surrounding the president’s recent visit. They should have paid closer attention: The visit, ironically enough, took place on the anniversary of the tragedy.

On July 31, 1999, the bodies of two young men were found in a field on the outskirts of the village of Dorozhnoye. Any regional resident will tell you that Dorozhnoye is the infamous drug bazaar of Russia’s western enclave, where hash and heroin can be bought openly, and drug dealers walk the dirty roads with their chins held high.

However, as the public learned the following day, one of the two bodies belonged to 24-year-old Kirill Moshkov, son of Gennady Moshkov, rear admiral and chief of the Kaliningrad branch of the Federal Security Service, or FSB.

When discovered, the corpses had been lying for approximately two days in the summer heat and were quite bloated. Initial reports cited that the cause of death was a drug overdose, though the official medical examination stated that the ultimate cause was undetermined. Moshkov subsequently said in an interview that the autopsy found no traces of drugs in his son.

Moshkov and Governor Leonid Gorbenko were allies once, but their relations soured dramatically as the FSB intensified its investigation of an 86 billion ruble ($14 million pre-crisis) tax offset that involved Mikhail Karetny, the governor’s deputy and leading economic consultant. In his typical knee-jerk reaction, Gorbenko ranted and raved about the investigation and wrote to Moscow requesting that Moshkov be sacked.

At around this time, one month before his death, a curious thing happened to Kirill Moshkov. Reacting to a call for help from an acquaintance, Kirill drove to the designated place and waited. Though his acquaintance didn’t show, several officers of the law did, and Kirill, caught in a trap, was pulled from behind the wheel of his car and forced to assume the position. Interestingly enough, the police did not ask to see Kirill’s documents, and instead waited for witnesses before beginning their body search.

If it hadn’t been for an FSB employee who happened to drive by and recognize his boss’s son, Kirill might suddenly have learned that he had in his possession a sizable stash of heroin. He would have gone straight to jail, and his father’s integrity — and thus, the offset investigation — dealt a serious blow. Gennady Moshkov, in an interview with a local paper six weeks after Kirill’s death, said he wouldn’t have been surprised if those policemen had planted drugs on his son.

Here’s the catch: While all this was going on, the head of the FSB, and a recipient of Gorbenko’s "fire Moshkov" letters, was a gentleman by the name of Vladimir Putin, who, as many know, is known for his loyalty to the spy agency and to those who, like him, grew up within it. At the time of Kirill Moshkov’s death, Putin was one week away from being appointed prime minister, but there is absolutely no doubt that he was aware of not only what happened on that tragic night in Dorozhnoye, but of the criminal offset as well.

Initially, it appeared that Gorbenko had gained the upper hand. Moshkov, by presidential decree, was relieved of his position in Kaliningrad and transferred to Moscow, and Karetny, though officially accused of committing fraud, was reappointed deputy governor. An open act of defiance on Gorbenko’s part. Considering residential buildings were being blown up in Moscow and a new war in Chechnya was under way, no one seemed to care.

Alas, time catches up with each of us. One year later, the situation is completely reversed. Karetny has mysteriously vanished and is believed to be "hiding" somewhere in the Czech Republic; Gorbenko, after having received the cold shoulder from Putin, has also pulled a disappearing act and even neglected to take part in last week’s meeting with the president and other governors in Valdai; and Moshkov returned to the enclave as part of the presidential entourage, his position of trust with Putin openly demonstrated for all to see.

Judging by all this, one could say that Gorbenko might be very, very afraid.

Gary Peach is an independent journalist living and working in Kaliningrad.