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Russia: St. Petersburg Killer May Have Been Sending A Message

By Brian Whitmore and Yevgenia Borisova

St. Petersburg, 19 August 1997 (RFE/RL) -- St. Petersburg Governor Governor Vladimir Yakovlev says the shot that killed Mikhail Manevich in St. Petersburg yesterday actually was aimed at the heart of City Hall.

Yakovlev -- along with other public figures -- characterized the killing as an effort to intimidate City Hall. But, the governor told reporters at City Hall yesterday, it won't work.

Lev Rumyantsev, a spokesman for the city government's Economic Committee, spoke said the killing probably is linked to Manevich's work coordinating the distribution of city property. Rumantsev said the killing was too "impudent" and public to be purely personal. Manevich, St. Petersburg's vice governor and property committee chairman, was gunned down on Nevsky Prospect by a hidden sniper.

Rumyantsev called Manevich a Chubais' man -- an ally of Russian First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais -- and said "the attack may have been a message to Chubais."

Maxim Boiko -- the new Russian vice prime minister in charge of privatization -- says he will meet soon with top Russian law enforcement authoritiess to discuss improving security for privatization officials. Boiko charged that opponents of reform have moved from threats to banditry.

Manevich's press secretary, Galina Uzdina, says that Manevich had planned to travel to Moscow to meet today with Chubais. Manevich's name arose often in connection with a possible federal appointment, but, UIzdina said, he chose to stay in St. Petersburg

Manevich had established himself as an enemy of special privilege deals in privatization. He was the author of reform measures that would have ended many kinds of insider deals.

At a press conference in the spring, he spoke out sharply against bureaucrats who, he said, were "pulling rent prices out of thin air." He complained then that his Property Committee was renting out downtown shops and offices for a tenth of the going rates because municipal valuations were linked to the federally mandated minimal wage rather than to the real estate market.

While Manevich was widely hailed yesterday as a young and honest economic reformer, the Property Committee he headed was notoriously secretive and bureaucratic.