August 11, 2022


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As Vladimir Putin’s political star rose, journalist Anatoly Levin-Utkin was a key researcher behind one of many first Russian media studies digging into the previous KGB officer’s previous. Then he was overwhelmed to loss of life.

Within the late summer time of 1998, Russian journalist Anatoly Levin-Utkin was returning to his St. Petersburg house after a protracted day on the startup newspaper he’d helped launch. He made it so far as the elevator earlier than his attackers pounced.

The assailants smashed the journalist’s cranium with a metallic bar and fled the scene with Levin-Utkin’s paperwork, money, and a briefcase carrying materials for his newspaper’s subsequent subject.

Levin-Utkin was taken to the hospital after a neighbor discovered him unconscious subsequent to the elevator. The docs who tried to avoid wasting him stated his attackers “intentionally beat him to loss of life with extreme brutality and cruelty,” his colleagues would later write.

Levin-Utkin died 4 days later, on August 24, 1998. He had turned 41 every week earlier.

Publicly, police stated the lethal assault appeared probably to be a theft. However Levin-Utkin’s colleagues at Yuridichesky Peterburg segodnya (Authorized Petersburg At present) linked it to his career.

Anatoly Levin-Utkin in February 1998, six months earlier than his loss of life (Courtesy picture)

Levin-Utkin had labored carefully with the reporters on the newspaper “and was one of many first to pay attention to all of the scandals,” Editor in Chief Aleksei Domnin advised a information convention after his deputy editor’s loss of life.

Simply eight days earlier than the assault, the newspaper had printed its second subject, which included delicate investigations into the regional customs directorate and Russia’s cutthroat banking sector.

Levin-Utkin’s colleagues say he was an outstanding and dogged open-source researcher in an period earlier than huge caches of public knowledge and user-generated photos have been out there to journalists on-line.

“Tolya had connections in [the National Library of Russia in St. Petersburg],” Domnin recalled, utilizing a diminutive type of Levin-Utkin’s first title. “He was a bibliophile who collected an infinite residence library.”

This report is the fifth and ultimate installment of aninvestigative mission inspecting the scandals and scams that swirled round Vladimir Putin and his associates throughout his tenure as a St. Petersburg metropolis official within the Nineteen Nineties.

In accordance with Domnin, Levin-Utkin himself didn’t write the extra explosive articles within the paper’s ultimate points earlier than his loss of life, although he contributed vital analysis and reporting. After publication, the paper fielded offended calls from the customs service and “not very shiny individuals” from financial institution safety workers attempting to determine the place the knowledge for the investigations got here from, Domnin stated.

There was one other article Levin-Utkin labored on, Domnin added, that was printed in his ultimate subject and that additionally drew exterior consideration: a dive into the previous of the newly appointed head of Russia’s Federal Safety Service (FSB), an ex-KGB-spy-turned-functionary named Vladimir Putin.

‘As Befits A Spy’

On July 25, 1998, Russian President Boris Yeltsin named Putin as the brand new head of the FSB. For Putin, who had come to work in Yeltsin’s administration in 1996 after a six-year tenure at St. Petersburg metropolis corridor, it was a homecoming of types.

“I began as a junior agent…within the St. Petersburg [KGB] directorate. That was 23 years in the past or so. I repeat, these partitions are residence to me,” Putin advised a information convention following his appointment.

As the top of St. Petersburg’s Exterior Relations Committee underneath Mayor Anatoly Sobchak, Putin was an influential native official whose involvement in profitable and murky offers drew scrutiny from native lawmakers, who at one level referred to as for his ouster.

Russian President Boris Yeltsin (proper) meets with Vladimir Putin, whom he appointed head of the FSB a month earlier. The assembly was held on August 24, 1998, the day journalist Anatoly Levin-Utkin died. (TASS)

However exterior of Russia’s tsarist-era capital, Putin was just about unknown to the broader public. And his appointment to the nation’s strongest safety publish left journalists scrambling to dig up data on a person whose skilled life had for years largely been dedicated to misdirection and subterfuge.

It was Levin-Utkin’s newspaper, in Putin’s hometown, that provided readers one of many first profiles within the Russian print media to attract on deep digging into little-known elements of his time as a metropolis official in St. Petersburg.

Beneath the headline “Lieutenant Colonel Putin Illegally Heads Up FSB,” the article delves into Putin’s private {and professional} ties with regional and nationwide political figures, together with his mentor, Sobchak; Yeltsin’s former chief of workers and first deputy prime minister, Anatoly Chubais; and former Prime Minister Viktor Cherdomyrdin, head of the Our Dwelling Is Russia social gathering, whose regional marketing campaign in St. Petersburg was led by Putin within the 1995 parliamentary elections.

“Since his latest appointment, journalists have been attempting to dig up extra details about the previous of the brand new Lubyanka [FSB headquarters] boss. It turned out that Putin has left neither good nor unhealthy reminiscences about himself: Little or no is thought about his profession except for the official data. As befits a spy, he doesn’t have a single main scandal on his report. Nonetheless, a couple of information about his work in St. Petersburg have managed to be ‘declassified,’” the article states.

The article options no bombshell revelations about Putin. Actually, components of it seem to have been plagiarized from a shorter piece printed by the Moscow day by day Kommersant two weeks earlier.

However the profile of Putin printed in Levin-Utkin’s paper does contact on areas and claims unaddressed within the Kommersant piece, together with the inquiry by St. Petersburg lawmaker Marina Salye into Putin’s suspicious barter offers as head of the Exterior Relations Committee that led Salye to name for his firing.

The profile, printed underneath the pseudonymous byline “A. Kirilenko,” concluded with the questionable declare that Putin’s appointment as FSB director violated the company’s inner staffing coverage. It cited an alleged inner requirement that the place can solely be crammed by somebody with the rank of common, whereas Putin had by no means risen greater than the rank of lieutenant colonel. (Russian legislation governing the FSB states that the director is appointed by the president and makes no point out of rank necessities.)

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Domnin, the editor in chief of Yuridichesky Peterburg segodnya, advised RFE/RL that Levin-Utkin didn’t write the profile however was amongst those that contributed analysis to it.

“I despatched the entire newspaper’s workers to the libraries” to seek for data, Domnin recalled in a phone interview.

He additionally claimed that, after it was printed, an affiliate of Putin’s approached him and inquired about how the paper was financing its operations.

Aleksei Domnin in 1995 (Courtesy picture)

Domnin gave the title of this alleged middleman, a St. Petersburg political strategist who had labored with the St. Petersburg operations of Our Dwelling Is Russia, whose regional marketing campaign in 1995 had been spearheaded by Putin. He stated the 2 males met on the McDonald’s on St. Petersburg’s central Sennaya Sq..

“His first phrases have been: ‘Why did you publish such a nasty picture of Putin? In the event you’d referred to as me, I might have given you a great one,’” Domnin recalled concerning the alleged assembly.

Reached by RFE/RL, the political strategist denied figuring out Domnin or being conversant in the profile of Putin that Levin-Utkin labored on.

RFE/RL just isn’t figuring out the person by title as a result of it couldn’t independently corroborate Domnin’s account of the alleged assembly with the political strategist, who doesn’t seem to have any present hyperlinks to Putin or the Kremlin.

‘Encyclopedic Information’

Details about Levin-Utkin is just about nonexistent on-line past a handful of contemporaneous articles concerning the assault that led to his loss of life and temporary snapshots in lists the media watchdogs preserve on the handfuls of Russian journalists who’ve been killed for the reason that collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

However those that labored with him described Levin-Utkin as a bookish, form, and cautious man and the archetype of a member of St. Petersburg’s intelligentsia.

“He was all the time trying to find a grain of rationality. He was a really soft-spoken and educated particular person. It typically appeared to me that he had encyclopedic information,” Aleksei Lushnikov, who owned a St. Petersburg media holding the place Levin-Utkin labored, advised RFE/RL.

Earlier than embarking on a profession in journalism, Levin-Utkin had labored at a manufacturing facility producing leather-based sofas, Lushnikov stated.

“I nonetheless bear in mind his tales about leather-based sofas: how they’re made, what sorts of leather-based there are. Tolya knew virtually every thing about all of this. Tolya was all the time sitting in bookshops,” Lushnikov stated.

Domnin stated Levin-Utkin started working within the media in 1993. “They killed an expert journalist,” he advised RFE/RL.

In an obituary printed a month after Levin-Utkin’s loss of life, his colleagues wrote that their fallen colleague “made no enemies in his 41 years of life.”

“We’re assured that he merely didn’t have any,” they wrote. “He managed to protect his childlike spontaneity in his relationship to individuals and to life typically. We beloved him, as one can solely love excellent, great individuals.”

1 / 2The obituary of Anatoly Levin-Utkin printed in Yuridichesky Peterburg segodnya a month after his loss of life.

‘Intentionally Killed’

Practically 1 / 4 of a century after Levin-Utkin was overwhelmed to loss of life, the crime stays unsolved, like quite a few different deadly assaults on journalists in post-Soviet Russia.

“For me it was utterly incomprehensible exactly as a result of Tolya was a cautious particular person,” Lushnikov, the media government who employed Levin-Utkin, advised RFE/RL. “How might he develop into a sufferer?”

In a e-newsletter shortly after Levin-Utkin’s loss of life, the Glasnost Protection Basis, a Russian media watchdog, quoted a health care provider who handled him following the assault as saying that “the character of the accidents permit us to state that the journalist was intentionally killed.”

The e-newsletter additionally quoted a St. Petersburg police precinct chief as saying that “as of now there is no such thing as a affirmation that the assault on Anatoly Levin-Utkin was linked to his skilled actions.”

“Police are inclined to imagine that this case concerned a routine theft,” Sergei Kukshtel, chief of the 59th precinct, was quoted as saying within the e-newsletter.

Domnin, nevertheless, advised RFE/RL that investigators appeared extra thinking about a special attainable motive when he was questioned at a neighborhood police station.

“They have been significantly within the skilled motive,” he stated.

Domnin stated he was questioned twice in reference to the crime — as soon as on the paper’s workplace on the day after the assault, and as soon as at a police precinct in St. Petersburg’s Primorsky district, although the crime was dedicated within the metropolis’s Vyborgsky district. Domnin stated the boys who questioned him on the police station didn’t even preserve a report of the interview, and that he believes they have been doubtless FSB officers quite than police.

St. Petersburg police didn’t reply to an inquiry concerning the standing of the investigation of Levin-Utkin’s killing.

Yuridichesky Peterburg segodnya managed to place out 4 extra points after Levin-Utkin’s killing — six in whole — earlier than it was shut down within the wake of the Russian authorities’s default, which coincided with Levin-Utkin’s forty first birthday on August 17, 1998, and got here three days earlier than his deadly assault.

Domnin left the media trade in 2007 and now works as a musician and DJ.

Levin-Utkin’s editor, Aleksei Domnin, now works as a musician and DJ. (Courtesy picture)

Levin-Utkin was survived by his spouse, who declined to talk with RFE/RL when reached by phone. Regardless of the contemporaneous statements by police, media watchdogs, and Levin-Utkin’s colleagues about his work for Yuridichesky Peterburg segodnya, his widow claimed that he by no means labored for the newspaper. Comply with-up requires clarification about this declare went unanswered.

Levin-Utkin’s widow to this present day lives in the identical house the place the couple resided 24 years in the past, within the constructing the place he was fatally overwhelmed on his means residence from work.

RFE/RL is publishing under an English translation of the profile of Vladimir Putin that Anatoly Levin-Utkin labored on shortly earlier than his deadly beating. RFE/RL has added hyperlinks and pictures for background on the occasions and people cited within the textual content.

The profile Vladimir Putin’s previous printed by Yuridichesky Peterburg segodya printed in August 1998.

Lieutenant Colonel Putin Illegally Heads Up FSB

In accordance with staffing construction, the director of the safety service should be a lieutenant common.

On July 25, the primary deputy of the presidential administration, retired KGB Lieutenant Colonel Vladimir Putin, was appointed director of the FSB by presidential decree.

He has been assigned to reform the company within the quick time period, lowering its central workers a number of occasions over to 4,000 officers. The funds saved by this can permit for wage will increase for the remaining workers. If the FSB is financed by the residual mannequin, its finest officers are more likely to depart. As they are saying, a brand new broom sweeps clear. Nonetheless, Putin has declared that there will likely be no huge discount of FSB workers.


Putin’s predecessor, military Basic Nikolai Kovalyov, was not significantly in style together with his subordinates after he proved unable to safe wage will increase, one thing the heads of the Inside Ministry and the Prosecutor-Basic’s Workplace succeeded in doing. Certainly, Kovalyov was notably shy for a high-ranking officer and most well-liked to report concerning the successes of his company than its issues.

Inside the FSB, his dismissal had been anticipated. That was the rationale for the postponement of the workers workouts within the North Caucasus — which concerned the Inside Ministry, military models, the FSB, the Emergency Conditions Ministry, and the Federal Border Service — from July 25 to July 27. Inside Minister Sergei Stepashin was the commander of the workouts.

Kovalyov was appointed head of the FSB greater than two years in the past, following the well-known scandal with the “Xerox field” that was utilized by the members of Yeltsin’s election marketing campaign workers Sergei Lisovsky and Arkady Yevstafyev as they tried to take greater than $500,000 from the White Home [Russian government headquarters]. FSB head Mikhail Barsukov, who was concerned of their detention, quickly left his publish.

No particular purpose was given for Kovalyov’s dismissal. Prime Minister Sergei Kiriyenko conveyed the president’s “gratitude” for the “massive and vital” work he had accomplished. Nonetheless, Kovalyov isn’t identified for any vital achievements. Fairly the alternative. His solely success was in establishing an FSB hotline for repenting brokers of international intelligence companies. However even with out a hotline, the FSB had all the time labored steadily in its counterintelligence operations: In 1997 alone, 30 international intelligence officers have been expelled from Russia, and 7 Russian residents working for international intelligence have been neutralized.

[These successes] weren’t matched by the FSB’s financial counterintelligence division, which was always understaffed because of the switch of lots of its officers to the tax police. In 1997, nevertheless, financial counterintelligence helped to extend state finances revenues by greater than 16 billion rubles.

A particular operation underneath Kovalyov’s private command to free a Swedish diplomat taken hostage late final 12 months gained worldwide fame. Throughout the operation, the Alfa particular forces group shot certainly one of its high officers, chief of workers, Anatoly Savelyev. To protect the group’s repute and help the formally declared reason for loss of life as a “coronary heart assault,” Savelyev’s colleagues eliminated his medical data from the hospital the subsequent day. Anatoly Savelyev was posthumously awarded the title Hero of Russia.

In government circles, they stated Kovalyov had “stayed in his publish too lengthy.” Every little thing is sweet in its season. Yeltsin, nevertheless, promised him one other job, and Kovalyov has obtained a couple of profitable job presents, in response to these within the know. It recollects certainly one of Krylov’s fables, The Quartet: What was the results of all of the reshuffles there?

Putin And The Safety Equipment

“After college, I began working as a junior investigator. Now — think about that — I’ve develop into the director of the entire system,” Vladimir Putin advised journalists when he took up the publish.

Certainly, 23 years in the past, Putin accepted a proposal to work for the safety companies after he graduated from the legislation division of Leningrad State College. He began as a junior investigator on the KGB Directorate of International Intelligence. He labored there for 15 years, specializing in German-speaking international locations: West Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. He finally rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel however resigned from the KGB voluntarily in 1991.

Since his latest appointment, journalists have been attempting to dig up extra details about the previous of the brand new Lubyanka [FSB headquarters] boss. It turned out that Putin has left neither good nor unhealthy reminiscences about himself: Little or no is thought about his profession moreover the official information. As befits a spy, he doesn’t have a single main scandal on his report. Nonetheless, a couple of information about his work in St. Petersburg have managed to be “declassified.”

Putin and Sobchak

Putin’s profession in St. Petersburg was inextricably linked to Anatoly Sobchak, proper up till the previous mayor misplaced the 1996 elections.

They first met when Putin was finding out legislation at Leningrad State College, the place Sobchak lectured on industrial legislation. Later, Putin’s expertise within the safety companies helped him develop into vice rector for worldwide relations at Leningrad State College (this space of operation had been monitored by the KGB), the place he met his former professor and shortly took a publish in Leningrad’s first democratic metropolis council. Putin’s administrative profession started in Might 1990, when Sobchak grew to become chairman of the council. As his aide, Putin managed to be his assistant, desk officer, and secretary suddenly.

St. Petersburg Mayor Anatoly Sobchak (proper) sits subsequent to his deputy, Vladimir Putin, in August 1993.

In accordance with those that knew them, Putin had vital affect on the previous mayor. However exterior the Mariinsky Palace, most people knew virtually nothing about him. An skilled skilled — he spoke German, had contacts with Western companions, and earned belief — Putin had the repute of an influence dealer throughout his work within the metropolis administration. After Sobchak was elected mayor of St. Petersburg, Putin grew to become certainly one of his three deputies and, in truth, one of the vital influential political figures within the metropolis.

However Putin by no means emphasised his distinctive proximity to energy, not even when he served as appearing mayor (which occurred typically). He all the time saved his distance.

Putin the bureaucrat oversaw the institution of the forex alternate in St. Petersburg, diplomatic places of work, the playing trade, and nongovernmental organizations; he brokered the sale of the Astoria lodge and the opening of certainly one of Russia’s first international financial institution places of work, BNP-Dresdner Financial institution (Rossija). He additionally coordinated all safety companies: military, police, counterintelligence, prosecutor’s workplace, and customs. Solely certainly one of his foreign-investment tasks was carried out: a Coca-Cola manufacturing facility was constructed.

Throughout his tenure on the mayor’s workplace, Putin was formally accused of utilizing the strategies of secret companies solely as soon as. In accordance with the previous chairman of the St. Petersburg metropolis council, Aleksandr Belyayev, the Exterior Relations Committee established by Sobchak and headed by Putin was accumulating data on Russian corporations to be bought to international homeowners. On the identical time, the prosecutor’s workplace reproved Putin for being too gullible and issuing unlawful playing licenses.

In 1992, a [city] parliamentary investigation of the committee’s actions was carried out with regard to a number of import and export offers. It revealed that among the offers have been made at costs that didn’t correspond to world costs. Putin admitted errors throughout public hearings, the offers have been referred to as off, and nobody was punished.

Putin and Chernomyrdin

In 1995, Putin took half in a political marketing campaign. On the time, governors or their deputies have been anticipated to run the regional places of work of the [pro-Yeltsin] Our Dwelling Is Russia social gathering. Putin grew to become the top of its St. Petersburg workplace. Residents of the town might see posters of [Viktor] Chernomyrdin on virtually each billboard within the metropolis. However Putin didn’t stay as much as the expectations: Our Dwelling Is Russia took solely third place within the parliamentary election in St. Petersburg, securing two seats (the mayor’s spouse, Lyudmila Narusova, took certainly one of them).

Russian President Vladimir Putin (proper) listens to Viktor Chernomyrdin, chief of the Our House is Russia faction, in the course of the pro-government motion Unity congress in Might 2000.

Putin And Yakovlev

Putin was the top of Sobchak’s marketing campaign within the 1996 election, and in lots of respects the best way the marketing campaign was carried out decided its end result. After Sobchak misplaced, there have been rumors circulating within the metropolis that Putin had “bought out” his boss at a gathering together with his rival, Vladimir Yakovlev, a few days earlier than the election. Nonetheless, Putin resigned instantly after the election.

St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev (left) with Vladimir Putin in January 2000, shortly after Putin was named appearing president by Boris Yeltsin.

This failure didn’t cease his profession. In accordance to Putin, he got here to Moscow on the invitation of Pavel Borodin and have become his deputy. However presumably the non-public political preferences of highly effective figures additionally performed a task right here.

Putin And Chubais

The top of the presidential administration, Anatoly Chubais, had supported Sobchak and, after his defeat, tried to weaken the brand new governor’s staff. It was his initiative to ask two former first deputy mayors into the federal authorities: Chubais’s outdated good friend Aleksei Kudrin, and Vladimir Putin.

In March 1997, Vladimir Putin took the vacant publish of the top of the Authorities Accountability Workplace. He typically grabbed headlines on this capability: It was Putin who disclosed the sensational outcomes of the inspection of arms gross sales to Armenia and systematic delays in military wage funds.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (heart) at a gathering with Anatoly Chubais (proper), Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko (left) and Gazprom head Rem Vyakhirev in October 2000.

For a couple of months earlier than changing into the director of the FSB, Putin served as a deputy head of the presidential administration, the place he was accountable for regional coverage. Per week earlier than the brand new appointment, Yeltsin commissioned him to arrange papers on the demarcation of jurisdiction between federal and regional authorities.

Putin And Kovalyov

Putin has spoken about his predecessor with sympathy: [Kovalyov] labored within the company in the course of the robust early years of the reforms. Will Putin observe Kovalyov’s insurance policies? It’s attainable as a result of he believes Kovalyov’s reform plans have been sufficiently developed, so there’s no have to invent something. The principle factor is that reforms ought to improve the effectivity of the company. Some sectors require growth quite than cuts. In accordance with Putin, that’s the case with the division of financial crimes and the pc management group that stops leaks of categorised data to the Web. The brand new head places particular give attention to counterterrorism operations: In Putin’s opinion, these forces have to be much less dispersed and simpler.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (proper) and Nikolai Kovalyov, whom Putin succeeded in 1998 as head of Russia’s Federal Safety Service (FSB).

Moreover, a latest presidential decree has tasked the brand new FSB head with restoring the division of safety of the constitutional order. Nonetheless, it’s much like the KGB’s notorious Fifth Directorate [responsible for crackdowns on dissidents in the U.S.S.R.], in order that shouldn’t be a troublesome problem for Putin.

Within the wake of Putin’s appointment, there was a number of curiosity in his former boss, Sobchak. He’s a witness in a corruption case launched not solely by Yury Skuratov, but additionally by the heads of the Inside Ministry and the FSB. Will Vladimir Putin use his place to guard his former boss? Putin has repeated in his interviews that the previous mayor has nothing to worry ought to he determine to return to Russia.

As for the thought of uniting the FSB and the Inside Ministry, which has been lately promoted by Sergei Stepashin, Putin believes that it has already occurred — he and Stepashin are pals and will likely be working collectively. However no FSB officers will ever develop into cops.

Vladimir Putin just isn’t nervous within the least by the truth that, in response to staffing insurance policies, solely a common could be head of the [FSB].

A. Kirilenko