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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Land Spat Possibly to Blame for Killing

A city official from the prestigious Cheryomushki district was gunned down Monday outside Moscow in a contract-style murder that may be tied to property disputes.

Sergei Burkotov, the administrator of the district in southwestern Moscow, was traveling in his Toyota Camry at around 8 p.m. when he came under fire near the Moscow region village of Lopatino, prosecutor spokeswoman Yelena Rossokhina said Tuesday.

The assailants, wielding automatic weapons, riddled the car with bullets, killing Burkotov and his driver, Dmitry Samokhvalov, Rossokhina said.

The assailants fled the scene, but police recovered two Kalashnikov assault rifles and more than 20 bullet casings by the side of the road, Rossokhina said.

Citing sources close to the investigation, Kommersant reported Tuesday that investigators were aware of several conflicts involving unauthorized construction of residential buildings in the district, which boasts some of the city's most expensive real estate.

Rossokhina declined to comment on the report, citing the ongoing investigation, but she did say investigators were considering all possible motives, including those linked to Burkotov's position as district administrator.

The slayings appear to have been carefully planned.

Police identified a spot next to the road where the killers presumably waited for Burkotov's car to pass. Judging by footprints, Kommersant reported, the assailants are believed to have fled through the woods to an adjacent highway.

Witnesses are reported to have seen two men flee the scene. But they said they could not describe the men because it was dark outside.

City Hall and Cheryomushki officials could not be reached for comment.

Shortly after Burkotov was appointed as the district administrator in 2004, several construction projects were halted in the district because the builders lacked proper authorization.

But Burkotov's public stance was far from clear. "Some of the developers are violating the law not out of malice but because of bureaucratic hassles," he told Rosbalt.ru in 2004.

While it is not considered necessarily elitny, the Cheryomushki district is relatively prestigious, with apartment prices running between $5,000 and $7,000 per square meter, said Maxim Mokeyev, executive director of Evans Property Services. "There is a lot of development going on there, so naturally there is a lot of money," Mokeyev said.

Andrei Selkov, a deputy on the Cheryomushki district council, said he could not recall any significant conflicts involving real estate development in the district since Burkotov took over.

Selkov described Burkotov as a "loyal government servant" who "strictly enforced" decrees from City Hall. "He came to the district with a reputation as a very strong local administrator," Selkov said.