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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gryzlov Gets Busy in the Far East

The murder of State Duma Deputy Sergei Yushenkov seems to have roused Russian law enforcement from its slumber. In less than two weeks, a number of high-profile murder cases have suddenly been solved.

First, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, during a trip to the Far East last week, announced that police had cracked one of the biggest contract killings in recent memory -- the May 2002 murder of Major General Vitaly Gamov of the Federal Border Service. The contract was put out by none other than Vasily Naumov, also known as Vasya Yakut, an organized crime boss specializing in the lucrative black-market fishing business.

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Naumov had more than his fair share of problems with the border guards, especially with the agents employed by his competitors. Things got so bad that a portion of Naumov's fishing fleet bolted for Korea. Naumov tried to board one of the runaway boats, the Tulun, as it stood at anchor in the South Korean port of Pusan. The Tulun's captain radioed authorities that he was under attack by terrorists, and South Korean forces came to his rescue. The conflict between rival criminal organizations developed into an international incident.

After that, Naumov boarded two more boats by force and perfected a new method of scallop fishing. His high-speed cutters sailed from Korean ports to the Sea of Okhotsk and robbed the local "Flying Dutchmen" -- fishing boats that are unregistered but nonetheless ply Russian waters with impunity. The poachers, however, decided to protest: In early April they whacked Naumov.

Shortly thereafter, Gryzlov announced that the Gamov case had been solved.

Next the interior minister declared the murder of Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov solved. The governor was killed in the battle for Pacific Ocean fishing quotas, he said.

Tsvetkov had an insatiable appetite for business. He was known as the bureaucrat who totally monopolized commerce in the Magadan region. A wide variety of sources have told me that Tsvetkov openly extorted shares in companies that were often registered in his wife's name or that of his adviser, Viktoria Tikhachyova. The fish story is well known by now. In recent years, the lion's share of Magadan's fishing quotas went to Magadanrybflot, a company belonging to Tikhachyova. Following Tsvetkov's murder, the allocation of quotas was brought into compliance with established norms.

Tsvetkov was also drawn to gold. He literally brought the region's most successful gold producer, Omolonsk Gold Ore Co., to its knees. He demanded that the company repay a $40 million loan, but refused to sanction the sale of a stake in the company to foreign investors who were prepared to pay off the loan. Then the governor was gunned down in Moscow. The foreign investors acquired their stake in the company and paid off the loan.

Tsvetkov was also not indifferent to coal and fuel oil. It's said that he blatantly demanded half of the shares in fuel oil contractor Nord Oil. One of the company's owners recorded the conversation and put the cassette in the right hands. Nothing happened to the governor, however, and Nord Oil was denied access to regional port facilities. Following Tsvetkov's death, Nord Oil is back in business.

This pattern was repeated in every sector of the regional economy. Any businessman in Magadan could have ordered the hit on Tsvetkov.

It's heartening, of course, that as soon as Gryzlov returned from the Far East, he solved two of the region's most high-profile murders. The news must have come as a blessing to the police. One thing still rankles, however. Deputy Prosecutor General Vladimir Kolesnikov refused to identify the person who put out the contract on Tsvetkov, saying only that "we have taken someone into custody." But the person in police custody is -- wait for it -- none other than Tikhachyova, whom Tsvetkov tried to make the nominal queen of business in Magadan.

Tikhachyova is obviously not a model citizen, but she is the only person in Magadan with no motive whatsoever to rub out the governor. On the other hand, every businessman in Magadan had plenty of motives to have her framed.

Yulia Latynina is host of "Yest Mneniye" on TVS.