Arrest Warrant Issued for Elusive Duma Candidate
Published: September 8, 2000 (Issue # 601)
One of the 12 candidates who have registered to run for a vacant State Duma slot in St. Petersburg now looks to be on the run from the law, as federal prosecutors this week issued a warrant for his arrest.
Mikhail Zhivilo, a Moscow-based businessman who owns the MIKOM metallurgical investment company, is being sought by the Prosecutor General's Office for his alleged involvement in an assassination attempt on the governor of the Kemerovo region, Aman Tuleyev, which the FSB said it had foiled in June.
"We have enough reason to suspect Zhivilo as having organized the assassination attempt against Tuleyev," said Boris Skopin, a spokesman for the FSB in Novosibirsk, in a telephone interview Thursday.
Zhivilo, however - who along with his brother Yury, MIKOM vice president, was one of the first candidates to be officially registered for district No. 209 - is still at large, with a number of local media reports speculating that he may have fled abroad.
Galina Zelyanina, a member of district No. 209's electoral committee, said that although candidates and their representatives are not generally obliged to let the committee know about their current activities, no committee members had seen or heard from Zhivilo or his brother since Aug. 3, when they registered.
"We have not been informed by [the Prosecutor General's Office] of the arrest warrant out on Zhivilo," she said. "But we don't know if he has even arranged meetings with voters since [registering]."
Yury Zhivilo is not considered a suspect in the case, said Skopin.
Federal prosecutors were effectively giving their backing on Wednesday to an initial arrest warrant issued Sept. 1 by their counterparts in Novosibirsk, thus bypassing the legal immunity Zhivilo acquired when he registered as a candidate.
Skopin said that Novosibirsk investigators, who opened the case in June, had initially considered Zhivilo as a "valuable witness" in the assassination case. Zhivilo was repeatedly summoned to give his testimony, but failed to show up.
Following several unsuccessful attempts to find Zhivilo at his permanent residence in Moscow, detectives then made him an actual suspect.
In early August, FSB agents from Novosibirsk came to the capital to search MIKOM's offices. The FSB took away a number of company documents.
Zhivilo had had several disputes with Tuleyev over a number of metallurgical plants in the Kemerovo region, located in Western Siberia, as well as general strategies in Russia's aluminum market.
Tuleyev, who came in fourth in the March presidential elections, said that the plot to kill him appeared linked to control of the metals industry, one of the most lucrative and allegedly crime-ridden sectors of the economy, according to The Associated Press.
In December 1999, Tuleyev sent regional police into the Kuznetsk steel mill, which is majority-owned by MIKOM, to oust a top manager. Several MIKOM employees were arrested.
Tuleyev's administration also declared three plants owned by MIKOM bankrupt earlier this year, and assigned representatives from the rival Siberian Aluminum conglomerate to take over.
Already in custody is Alexander Tikhonov, a former Olympic champion biathlete turned food-industry businessman, whose assets include a bakery and a meat-processing factory. Tikho nov, originally from Novosibirsk, and his brother Viktor were arrested on Aug. 8, and accused of attempting to carry out the hit on Tuleyev, said Andrei Chernyshenko, an FSB investigator in Novosibirsk, by telephone on Thursday. They are being held at Moscow's Lefortovo prison.
Zhivilo and Tikhonov are said to have long-standing personal and financial ties. Zhivilo also helped Tikhonov with finances in his January campaign to become governor of the Moscow region. Retired Gen. Boris Gromov actually won that election.
Both Interfax and The Associated Press quoted MIKOM representatives as saying the case against Zhivilo was groundless, and that it was linked instead to the aluminum disputes.
Valentina Titova, the secretary for district No. 209's electoral committee, would not disclose the names or contact numbers of the Zhivilo brothers' representatives. She would not refer to any election rules that might prevent her from provide this information.