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April 11, 2005
Former Russian Spy Chief Assassinated

Gunmen shot down a former Russian spy chief and his young wife in Moscow earlier today, killing both and setting off speculation about the motive and the mastermind behind the hit. Colonel-General Anatoly Trifamov served as the head of the FSB, successor agency to the KGB, under Borist Yeltsin and purportedly opposed Vladimir Putin's succession to the top of the agency:

Col-Gen Trofimov was one of the most senior officials of the FSB, the main successor body to the old KGB, to be shot dead in recent years.

Police were yesterday investigating multiple theories about a possible motive for the assassination.

His car was fired on by assailants armed with automatic weapons, from a small car, according to news reports. ...

Col Litvinenko said Col-Gen Trofimov had been "against the war in Chechnya, although he never, of course, spoke openly on this question". He said he had also been against the appointment of Vladimir Putin as head of the FSB - the post that he held before becoming the Russian president.

Moscow police yesterday referred all calls about the shooting to prosecutors. Sergei Marchenko, a spokesman for the federal prosecutor generals office, said only that the investigation was continuing. The FSB refused to comment.

The details seem pretty sketchy at the moment, and this could still be a bad business deal gone south in a hurry. That has been known to result in this kind of outcome, and the sloppiness of killing Trofimov's wife would tend to point away from an FSB hit. However, with the general power aggregation of late by Putin, one has to wonder whether he saw Trofimov as a threat, or at least as a score to settle. None of these bode well for the direction of Russian democracy in the short term.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at April 11, 2005 10:28 PM

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