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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Spain Detains 2 in Governor's Killing

APGovernor Valentin Tsvetkov
Spanish police have detained two men suspected of killing Magadan Governor Valentin Tsvetkov in 2002. Alexander Zakharov, a native of the Far Eastern Primorye region, and Martin Babakehyan, a native of Armenia, were arrested at the seaside resort of Marbella on July 7, Spanish police announced Wednesday.

Zakharov, 36, and Babakehyan, 35, are the prime suspects in the murder of Tsvetkov, who was gunned down in broad daylight on Moscow's busy Novy Arbat in October 2002. They were placed on Interpol's wanted list in 2003 at the request of the Moscow police.

Russian authorities said Wednesday that they would send an extradition request to Spanish authorities in the next few days.

Spanish police said the two suspects were carrying fake passports at the time of their arrest, although their real passports were discovered during a raid of their homes, The Associated Press reported.

Zakharov and Babakehyan will soon be transferred to Madrid, where they will appear before a judge.

Tsvetkov, governor of the gold-rich Magadan region in the Far East, was shot in the head with a pistol around 9 a.m. as he was walking to his office in central Moscow. It was the first assassination of a governor in post-Soviet Russia. President Vladimir Putin called the murder a "crime against the state."

The first suspect in Tsvetkov's murder, Artur Anisimov, was arrested in July 2003. Anisimov was convicted the following year on an unrelated fraud charge and sentenced to three years in prison. The murder charge against him has not been dropped, however.

Moscow police proceeded to issue international warrants for another five suspects in 2003, a police spokesman said Wednesday.

The second suspect, Azeri native Masis Ahunts, was arrested in Vladivostok in December 2004. He remains in detention awaiting trial.

With the arrest of Zakharov and Babakehyan, only two of the six suspects now remain at large. A spokesman for the Prosecutor General's Office declined to name the two outstanding suspects pending the outcome of an ongoing investigation. But the list released by Moscow police contains the suspects' names: Yury Rashkin and Konstantin Korshunov.

In 2003, then-Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov, who oversaw the investigation, said that the murder was related to Tsvetkov's distribution of fishing quotas among competing companies in the region. Investigators have also suggested that the murder might have resulted from Tsvetkov's attempts to force gold-mining companies in the region to repay a multimillion-dollar loan provided by the federal government in 1995.

Although the names of the men who pulled the trigger in the Tsvetkov case were released to the press a few months after the investigation began and were subsequently confirmed on numerous occasions by law enforcement officials, the identity of the person who ordered the hit has never been made public.