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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

FSB Foils Assassination Plot Against Governor

Security officials said Tuesday that they had foiled an attempt to assassinate a prominent provincial governor and former presidential candidate in an apparent control dispute over regional factories.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said it had uncovered a plan to kill Aman Tuleyev, the governor of the region of Kemerovo in western Siberia.

An FSB spokeswoman, who declined to be named, said several suspects had been arrested in police raids in Moscow and Novosibirsk.

She refused to give any further details, including why Tuleyev may have been targeted.

Tuleyev said in a statement that the plot appeared to be linked with the attempts of various businessmen to gain control of factories in the Kemerovo province.

He said several companies and holdings had been kicked out of the province and were now trying to force their way back in.

The governor gave no further details.

Contract killings involving disputes over control of businesses and public funds are commonplace in Russian politics and business, but rarely involve such prominent figures as Tuleyev.

Tuleyev is a nationalist who opposes private land ownership and demands the renationalization of strategic industries.

He split from the Communist Party when he ran for president in the March elections.

The governor came in a distant fourth behind President Vladimir Putin, Communist head Gennady Zyuganov and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky.

The ORT television network said Tuesday that a man had been arrested in April on charges of attempting to poison the governor and was being held in a Moscow prison.

Meanwhile, a rival of Tuleyev’s — Mikhail Zhivilo, general director of the sprawling Metallurgical Investment Co. holding — has disappeared, regional law enforcement authorities said Tuesday.

Zhivilo, whose company MIKOM owns a majority stake in the Kemerovo-based Kuznetsk steel plant, had been caught up in a bitter dispute with Tuleyev over control of the plant for the past year.

The debt-laden plant, one of the nation’s biggest producers of rails, is under external management and the Kemerovo region is a major guarantor of its debts.

"Zhivilo may have been an undesirable witness for many influential people," said a source in law enforcement who did not wish to be named.

MIKOM had kept tight control over the management of the mill. It appointed a new management team shortly after acquiring its stake and later picked the mill’s external manager, Sergei Kuznetsov.

However, Kuznetsov provoked Tuleyev’s wrath last year when he announced that he wanted to sell off the steel mill.

Tuleyev said at the time that the regional government could not afford to lose control of the mill.

Regional police raided the mill in December and placed MIKOM-appointed officials, including Kuznetsov, under arrest.

"The law enforcement authorities think that MIKOM’s general director’s disappearance may have not been incidental," the law enforcement official said.

MIKOM officials denied that Zhivilo had vanished Tuesday, saying the general director was on a business trip. (AP, Interfax)