The poster reads: "Government Party, Stop the Chaos!"
Russia keeps adding to the death toll of respected political and community leaders. This time the killing took place in Dalnegorsk, a city in the Russian Far East region of Primorsky Kray. Dmitry Fotianov, a popular mayoral candidate and member of President Putin's United Russia party was gunned down at noon Thursday October 19 in front of his campaign headquarters. Fotianov's killers shot him dead with Kalashnikov assault rifles and then fled.
Police suspect that this murder comes in retaliation for the killing of a bodyguard for another candidate in the region. Alexandr Terebilov, Fotianov's opponent in the mayoral contest, declares that he had nothing to do with this crime, and that he will not withdraw his candidacy from the second round of voting for the mayor's seat. In the first ballot, Fotianov took 40.71% of the votes, while Terebilov won 42.28%.
United Russia will probably replace the murdered Fotianov with another candidate from the party, which failed in the first balloting with slightly over 6% of the votes. Many grief-stricken citizens do not want the election to continue, and want to postpone them until early next year; but the Dalnegorsk City Council understands that it is very important to have leadership in place ready for the onset of winter in this remote region.
Today 2,000 people gathered on the main square of Dalnegorsk to vent their anger and demand justice, with posters saying: "Government Party, Stop the Chaos," "The Killers Must Be Held Responsible," "Commission, Cancel the Elections," "Putin, Stop the Chaos," "Police! Stop the Chaos," "End of Fotianov = End of the City" and "Fotianov Is Our Mayor!"
This murder unfortunately proves the point RussiaBlog made last week -- whether you support the government or not, it is often unsafe to be a Russian politician or businessman. The violence has actually dropped in the last few years; there were 20-30 businessmen and political leaders killed every day in Russia during the mid-1990s; that number was 5-10 a day when Putin took office in 2000; and today the average is 5-10 victims a month. However, Russian law enforcement has a very poor record when it comes to solving these cases. October has been an exceptionally violent month, with the murders of the anti-corruption crusader Vice Finance Minister Andrei Kozlov, Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, ITAR-TASS executive Anatoly Voronin, and now a well-respected mayoral candidate, Dmitry Fotianov.
Once again our thoughts are with the victims' families and colleagues.