Murder of Russian Deputy Imperils Yeltsin's Peace Pact

Latest act of violence underscores problem of rising crime

THE gangland-style murder of a Russian legislator gunned down in the stairwell of his apartment caused uproar in the Russian parliament yesterday and could cast doubts on the future of President Boris Yeltsin's domestic peace pact.

Legislators in the State Duma, or lower house of parliament, yesterday debated whether to postpone the signing of President Yeltsin's Document on Civil Accord following the killing of Andrei Aizderdzis in the Moscow suburb of Khimki late Tuesday.

The pact, which is scheduled to be signed in the Kremlin today by at least four of the 11 parliamentary groups in the Duma, is designed to create a two-year truce between Yeltsin and his fractious legislature and thereby avert a repetition of the bloody October uprising against Yeltsin, in which 147 people were killed.

Among other things, the document seeks to ensure a political cease-fire by obliging signatories not to try to amend the Constitution or seek early elections.

Although it carries no legal force, a commission will be formed to monitor infringements.

But the murder of Aizderdzis, a former head of the MDK Bank, editor-in-chief of the tiny Who's Who newspaper, and a member of the moderate New Regional Policy faction, created renewed tension in parliament less than 24 hours before the truce was to be signed.

Yeltsin issued a statement condemning the murder and pledged to take ``urgent measures'' to find the killer. The murder weapon has been found, but no suspects have yet been apprehended.

``I am in solidarity with the protest voices of the deputies,'' Yeltsin's statement said. ``The murder of a deputy is not only an attempt on human life, but on the whole institution of state power.''

Sergei Shakhrai, leader of the Party of Russian Unity and Accord, said that Yeltsin may declare today a national day of mourning, in which case signing of the pact would be delayed.

Aizderdzis was well-known in banking circles and had been the target of several articles concentrating on the controversial nature of his business activities. But deputies were adamant yesterday that his death was not connected to business.

Some called the killing a ``political murder'' in retaliation for a recent article circulated in the Duma that listed the names of 266 top crime bosses.

Many deputies were worried that the deputy's death could set off a spate of political assassinations in a country rife with crime.

Mafia-style killings are common in Moscow. The last high-profile murder occurred April 5, when gangster Otari Kvantrishvili, who reportedly had 150 bodyguards, was gunned down by a hired assassin outside his favorite bathhouse.

Aizderdzis' killing ``totally changed the political situation in the country,'' deputy Grigory Yavlinsky, a leader of the centrist Yabloko bloc, told reporters. ``Today we are not ready to sign the agreement on civic accord, and it is impossible to build such an accord on blood.''

The Duma reacted by postponing yesterday's session on the pact and the 1994 budget, which has not been passed by parliament, and called an emergency session to discuss Aizderzdis' death and the country's worsening crime situation.

Before the closed-door session began, a busload of deputies traveled to Khimki to pay respects to the deceased while Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party, held an impromptu press conference.

He criticized Yeltsin's government and called for the immediate sacking of Interior Minister Viktor Yerin, whom he held personally responsible for Aizderdzis' death.

Zhirinovsky has already demanded that six ministers in Yeltsin's government be fired or quit, including Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and privatization chief Anatoly Chubais.

He yesterday added Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and the moderate parliamentary speaker Mr. Rybkin to the list.

In an address to pariliament later yesterday, Mr. Chernomyrdin said he would oppose Mr. Yerin's resignation, and accused the deputies of using the murder as a pretext to delay the pact, ITAR-tass said.

``[Parliamentary speaker Ivan] Rybkin is sending busloads of deputies to lay flowers at the Aidzerdzis' apartment. But the family of the deceased needs a living father, a brother, a husband, not flowers,'' Mr. Zhirinovsky said. ``All this was a planned action on the part of the Duma.''

ZHIRINOVSKY, who made a plea for deputies to be given funds to buy firearms, also proposed that Yeltsin postpone the signing of the Document on Civic Accord for two weeks, saying that it was impossible to conclude such agreements in the current situation. Other deputies went so far as to say that the killing could have been a hard-line conspiracy to sabotage the pact.

Both the Communist Party and the Yabloko bloc have said they will not sign the document. Zhirinovsky has declined from saying whether he will or will not sign.

Mikhail Poltoranin, a leader in the pro-Yeltsin Russia's Choice faction, said his faction would sign. But he cautioned that so many amendments had been added to the pact that it had ``lost a lot of its original content, so it will not be of much use.''

``We are showing our sorrow and sadness, but at the same time we say that the murder should not be used as a reason to create an uncomfortable atmosphere for the signing of the agreement,'' he said.

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