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Russia: The Manevich Funeral--Tears And Vows Flow

  • Brian Whitmore

St. Petersburg, 22 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - St. Petersburg bid an emotional farewell Thursday to Vice Governor Mikhail Manevich as Russia's First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais vowed to find those responsible for his assassination.

Saying that Manevich "paid with his life" for trying to make Russia a better country "where the young can choose their profession and the old can receive their pensions," Chubais and other speakers likened the assassination to an attack on reform, an attack that must be answered in kind.

"We leave them no choice," said Chubais in reference to Manevich's killers. "It's either us or them. There is no middle ground."

Chubais, a St. Petersburg native and close friend of Manevich since the late 1980s, threw down the gauntlet to those responsible for the assassination, vowing to find them "sooner or later."

"I want to say to those who pulled the trigger and those who paid for this with their dirty stinking stolen money, we will get all of you," said a resolute Chubais, his voice cracking with emotion as he fought back tears. "Now or later, quickly or in due time, we will get all of you."

Hundreds of friends, colleagues and other dignitaries gathered Thursday morning at the Russian State Ethnography Museum where Manevich lay in state before being buried at the Literatorskiye Mostki in the Volkovo Cemetery in southern St. Petersburg. The Volkovo Cemetery is a favored final resting place for locals, including actors Yevgeny Lebedev and Vladislav Strzhelchik and the poet Olga Berggolts.

Manevich's close friends and colleagues wore red arm bands and took turns -- four at a time -- flanking the open casket where a full-dress military honor guard stood at each corner.

Yury Kravtsov, speaker of the Legislative Assembly summed up the mood in his eulogy to Manevich, saying: "The city has changed. It has become darker."

Alexander Kazakov, speaking for the Kremlin, said that "the bullet that killed Mikhail was a bullet aimed at the heart of reform."

Russia's former acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar called Manevich's murder a tragedy for the whole country. "This isn't only about St. Petersburg, this is national," said Gaidar.

But the most emotional moments in the two-hour long ceremony took place as Manevich's old colleagues spoke. They were members of the so-called "Chubais group" of economists that joined the city government and pushed for reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

"Misha, you were the kindest, most decent and most principled person," said Alexei Kudrin, Deputy Russian Finance Minister and like Chubais a St. Petersburg native and close friend of Manevich since perestroika. "We know that they killed you, but what happened? How did you stand one on one against such bandits?"

Also present were Albert Kokh, the recently fired chair of the Russian State Property Committee, and Maxim Boiko, his successor.

"It is difficult to talk, because it is too hard to believe what has happened -- that Misha Manevich won't be with us anymore," said Boiko. "He was a person who loved everything. It's very scary when such a person is killed. Forgive us that we did not protect you."

"We don't know who was behind this. We only know that he (Manevich) could have only disturbed those who did not want honest privatization," said Boiko, who is now in charge of controversial federal privatizations, vowing to press on. "We will continue. We have no right to stop. We have a responsibility to Misha."

Local political figures paying their last respects included St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev.

After the eulogies, Manevich's funeral procession moved slowly through the city center, passing the very spot where he was killed at the corner of Nevsky Prospect and Ulitsa Rubinshteina, as mourners pointed to the attic window from which the sniper fired. Hundreds of on-lookers lined the streets to view the procession.

As the casket was lowered into the ground, our St. Petersburg correspondent overheard one mourner to say: "It was a wild, brazen act, and now we are waiting for the consequences."