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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Head of Leading Arts School Gunned Down at Dacha

The rector of one of the country's leading performing arts schools was killed at his dacha outside Moscow this weekend, sending shivers through the arts community, which had considered itself immune to the violence rampant in business and political circles.

Sergei Isayev, 49, was hit by several shots fired through his kitchen window, said Gennady Melnik, spokesman for the Moscow regional police department. Four spent cartridge cases were found outside the house. "Tests will show whether one or two criminals were involved," Melnik said.

Isayev, a graduate of the Sorbonne specializing in French philosophy, earned a reputation as a skilled manager who turned the Russian Academy of Performing Arts, known by its Soviet-era acronym GITIS, into an educational institution far wealthier than its impoverished counterparts.

Isayev's neighbor told NTV television that late Friday he heard several thuds, which he did not identify as shots, suggesting that the pistol used in the killing may have been equipped with a silencer. Melnik said the killing was reported by Isayev's female companion, whose identity has not been disclosed.

Newspapers reported Monday that the death was likely a contract killing, but it was unclear whether the motive was linked to Isayev's business activities or a personal conflict.

Melnik said the killing f classified as premeditated murder f is being investigated by the Moscow regional prosecutor's office, which could not be reached for comment Monday. The investigation is under the personal supervision of Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov and Interior Minister Vladimir Rushailo, news agencies reported.

Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoi praised Isayev as a brilliant scholar and said he was shocked. "There has never been a case ? of a contract killing of the head of a cultural institution, moreover, of a university," Shvydkoi was quoted by Itar-Tass as saying.

Isayev's deputy in charge of business development, Yury Itin, said Monday his colleagues were "shocked and confused" by the murder. As far as he was aware, Isayev had not received any threats. "He was a tight-lipped man not prone to conflict," Itin said in a telephone interview.

Itin attributed GITIS's financial well-being, in large part, to a system developed by Isayev, whereby regional governments and sponsors funded several dozen GITIS branches in the provinces