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‘If only he’d stayed out of politics’ Meduza takes a closer look at the key testimonies in the case against former governor Sergey Furgal

Source: Meduza
Moscow City Court Press Service / TASS

On July 9, 2020, the governor of Russia’s Khabarovsk territory, Sergey Furgal, was detained outside of his home and taken to Moscow. There, he was interrogated and later jailed on charges of organizing multiple murders. The Russian Investigative Committee initially claimed to have “irrefutable evidence” of Furgal’s involvement in the killings — but over a year later, they still haven’t been able to offer any proof. The case hearings, which sparked massive protests in Khabarovsk, are being held behind closed doors. Meduza has obtained case materials containing the testimonies at the center of the case against Furgal, and their authenticity has been verified by two sources familiar with the case. Meduza special correspondent Anastasia Yakoreva, who studied the case documents thoroughly, describes them here for the first time.

Sergey Furgal, the ex-governor of Russia’s far-eastern Khabarovsk territory, stands accused of organizing two contract murders and one murder attempt. All of the crimes in question occurred in 2004 and 2005, when Furgal owned a business that collected and resold scrap metal in the Khabarovsk territory.

According to the investigators, Furgal ordered a hit on business owner Evgeny Zorya after the two had a conflict involving a hangar on the site of a defunct concrete factory. After that, Furgal allegedly had his former business partner Oleg Bulatov killed, to prevent him from using his knowledge of Zorya’s murder to blackmail Furgal and his business partner Nikolay Mistryukov. Finally, according to law enforcement, Furgal attempted to hire a hitman to murder businessman Alexander Smolsky, after Smolsky prevented him from working in the village of Progress in the neighboring Amur region.

All of this was revealed to investigators by Vladimir Pershin, a former criminal investigator in Khabarovsk, who previously served as Furgal’s “protection.”

Sergey Furgal — The former governor of the Khabarovsk territory, Furgal was arrested on July 9, 2020, on suspicion of organizing the murders of Evgeny Zorya and Oleg Bulatov and the attempted murder of Alexander Smolsky. According to the Russian Investigative Committee, he was first detained as a suspect in Zorya’s murder back in 2004, but at the time the criminal proceedings were dropped.

Nikolay Mistryukov — Mistryukov is the former business partner of both Furgal and Furgal’s wife, Larisa Starodubova. He was held in a pre-trial detention center from November 19, 2019, to September 10, 2020. Mistryukov is a key witness for the prosecution, having already admitted his involvement in the murders and attempted murder before being transferred to house arrest.

Vladimir Pershin — A former employee of the Khabarovsk Criminal Investigation Unit, Pershin was charged with extortion in 2016. He’s now a key witness for the prosecution.

Andrey Karepov — Furgal’s former employee, Karepov was arrested on November 19, 2019, and is currently being held in a pretrial detention center. He hasn’t plead guilty.

Marat Kadyrov — An airport controller at Mendeleyevo Airport on Kunashir Island in Russia’s Far East, Kadyrov was arrested on November 19, 2019, and charged with throwing a grenade at a garage belonging to businessman Alexander Smolsky.

Andrey Paley — Paley is a businessman who was arrested on November 19, 2019, and charged in connection with the murders of Evgeny Zorya and Oleg Bulatov.

Furgal’s inside man

A former employee of the Khabarovsk Criminal Investigation Unit, Vladimir Pershin is a crucial figure in the allegations against Sergey Furgal. His testimonies are at the heart of the murder case.

How are Furgal and Pershin connected? According to Pershin’s account, he acted as Furgal’s “protection” (krysha) back in the early 2000s, when Pershin was a police officer and Furgal had a scrap metal collection business. “[I made sure] the guys out there, the criminal element didn’t interfere with business, didn’t encroach.” To protect Furgal’s business, Pershin would get in touch with members of local criminal groups. “Yeah, this is mine, that’s enough, don’t touch it,” he said in testimonies. “And we got along fine, there were no issues.” According to Pershin, he received 30,000 rubles (that’s about $400 by today’s exchange rate) a month from Furgal and his business partner Nikolay Mistryukov (who’s also been charged in connection with the murders) for his services.

In the late 2010s, Pershin left the police to work in an auto shop, and in 2016, he was convicted of extortion. He served three years in prison before being released on parole in 2019. Once free, Pershin immediately testified against Sergey Furgal in a Khabarovsk hotel called Express-Vostok. According to the case materials, Pershin’s first interrogation was recorded on video, and that testimony stood out from the rest: Pershin told the story in his own words, not in the official terms he used in later testimonies.

According to Pershin’s testimonies, he first heard about Furgal and Mistryukov’s involvement in the murders from Andrey Karepov, who began working for Furgal in the early 2000s and allegedly served as an intermediary between the businessmen and the hitmen (Karepov had previously worked as a bodyguard for a local crime boss and as an informant for Pershin). In his own testimony, Karepov claimed to have been friends with Pershin for 30 years; he even met Pershin outside his apartment as soon as Pershin returned from prison. Pershin described the reunion in his own testimony. “I said, ‘Andrey, I’m tired, I don’t have any money.’ He gave me five thousand. I said, ‘At least come in for a beer.’ And then he left. He said he’d call me,” he said.

Nevertheless, Karepov denied playing any role in the murders that Furgal allegedly organized — according to him, the only thing he helped Furgal with was his electoral campaigns, including when he ran for the Khabarovsk territory’s Duma in 2005 and when he ran for the State Duma in 2007 on the Liberal Democratic Party (LDPR) ticket. In 2004 and 2005, when the crimes were committed, Karepov was working as an assistant for State Duma deputy and LDPR member Igor Lebedev — party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s son.

Pershin claimed Karepov told him about the circumstances of several murders that later appeared in the news, and that he even named the hired murderers themselves, as well as their prices, when he was drinking one time. Pershin has also mentioned a note Karepov gave Furgal and Mistryukov in 2014. While Pershin can’t remember the exact contents of the note, he claims it read like the description of a murder.

In one of his interrogations, Pershin claimed that Karepov asked him to give a note to Furgal and his business partner Mistryukov. Karepov himself had had a falling out with them after they stopped paying him.

Pershin recalled that the note’s tone was “joking”: “There was a short text, but it was all was sort of joking about the murder, like it mentioned a ‘conversation with a Canadian,’ and I happen to know that Zorya was a Canadian citizen. And there was some stuff about Voitovich [another businessman who was also killed, but is not part of this case] — what was it? ‘A conversation with a queer,’ or something like that.”

Pershin assumes that the note was listing the various murders Furgal and Mistryukov ordered, and claimed that “there was something like eight or ten incidents.” He took the note to Furgal and Mistryukov and told them Karepov was requesting $500,000.

“So I go in, and we’re sitting there, and he [Mistryukov] asked me, ‘What’s that?’ And I go, ‘I don’t know, this is your business.’ ‘Well, the Canadian probably refers to Zorya,’ he said. Then he looked at me like this [Pershin imitates Furgal]. After that, Furgal apparently shouted, ‘What? We have to pay him!’” Pershin recalled.

According to Pershin, he decided to testify against Furgal in order to put a stop to his political career. “I simply don’t want to see this person in power, I know him too well for him to be the governor or anything like that. He’s the kind of person who will step over a person, wipe off his feet, and forget about it. I’m afraid of the things he might do, and I already [in 2019] see the things he’s doing on television. I’m just seeing it and guessing that he’s taking things from one person, outsourcing things to another person, and so on, and I don’t know what’s next, where it’s going, but it could really shock Khabarovsk. Who else will he try to eliminate? Who else will he kill? Who else will he order a hit on? Maybe he'll start doing it in Moscow, too. With the kind of money he has, it’s not hard to find someone to do it. I would say that’s the main reason. I don’t like stabbing people in the back, and if he’d just stayed out of politics, I might have decided to keep my mouth shut. But I wouldn’t want someone like that to rule over anybody in Khabarovsk or in Russia.”

‘Zorya got sick’

In 2004, both Furgal and businessman Evgeny Zorya had their sights set on the same railway hangar attached to a defunct factory in Khabarovsk. Both men paid for it and tried to win the rights in court. Furgal allegedly asked Pershin, then a police officer, to “do something with Zorya.” That’s when Pershin introduced Furgal to Andrey Karepov.

According to Pershin’s testimony, it wasn’t until after Zorya’s murder in October 2004 that Pershin found out from Karepov what had happened.

“I first saw the news about Zorya’s murder on television,” Pershin said. “Sometime later, Karepov called me on the phone and said, ‘Zorya got sick. He got very sick, and he’s not going to make it.’ And then — after some more time had passed — he [Karepov] and I were together, probably in the car. Karepov was a big drinker, he loved drinking vodka and bragging about his exploits. He told me, basically, that ‘they’d been tailing Zorya for a long time, following him for a month or a month and a half, and waiting for the right moment to take him down.’ And he [mentioned] in the same conversation, since he was a little wasted, that the perpetrators were supposedly paid $40,000 each for the murder.”

Evgeny Zorya
“Rossiya 24” / Youtube

“Who was paid, and by whom?” asked the investigator.

“I took it to mean Furgal,” Pershin said.

He also claimed to have had an encounter with the murderer himself.

“I saw him one time, literally just for two or three minutes. The name I remember is Andryusha. I don’t know why — for some reason, that’s the name that stuck with me.”

According to Pershin, he met “Andryusha’’ at an auto repair shop belonging to former Khabarovsk police officer Anatoly Paley. In Pershin’s account, Furgal and Mistryukov had taken a KrAZ truck in to be repaired, but it wasn’t ready in time, and for some reason “Andryusha” used his phone to take a photo of the mechanic responsible for the delay. (At a later, face-to-face confrontation in court, Anatoly Paley claimed that he never owned an auto repair shop, never worked on Furgal’s KrAZ truck, and never met Pershin in any auto repair shop.)

“When Karepov was telling me about [Zorya’s] murder, he said something like, ‘It was that Andryusha who did it.’ I’d just been praising Karepov, saying, you know, what a young guy, nice to talk to, knows how to carry out an operation, how to get in and out without anyone noticing. And then Karepov said, ‘That Andryukha’s the one you should be praising, that boy’s got a future. He’s the one who did it,’” said Pershin.

“Did what exactly? Tell us in your own words,” said the investigator.

“Killed him. Murdered Zorya. Like, you know, ‘what a talented guy,’ meaning talented at this kind of thing,” Pershin explained.

Pershin’s description of “Andryusha” is vague: he might have had blond hair, he had an athletic cap on, “a distinct gaze, eyes like a husky, a face like an abyss, like you’re looking into a void, empty, empty, nothing human there. He might have spent time in the army, in Chechnya.”

According to Pershin, Furgal and Mistryukov ordered Zorya’s murder because they “were afraid of losing the hangar and afraid of losing money.” But the partners still didn’t get rich from the hangar: Pershin himself ended up renting the hangar for his spare parts business for 10-15,000 rubles (between $135 and $200 at today’s exchange rate) a month, and for a year or so he paid nothing but utilities.

In 2004, soon after Zorya’s murder, the authorities arrested Furgal, Mistryukov, and another one of their partners, former Khabarovsk police officer Oleg Bulatov, in connection with the case. All three of them were soon released and cleared of suspicion. A year later, however, Oleg Bulatov was also murdered — and Furgal is now being charged for it.

‘That Andryusa did a great job’

Oleg Bulatov was shot outside of his own home in February 2005. According to Pershin, things had been tense between the partners; Bulatov had refused to sell Furgal and Mistryukov metal at the price they wanted, and then had gathered “compromising material” and “practically blackmailed” them.

“He either wanted some money from them, or something else, but that’s what the conversation was about. He wanted something from them, Karepov told me that much. And I asked him, ‘What did he want, to make some money?’ And he said, ‘No, that’s not what he wanted.’ But I’m assuming it was money,” Pershin said when asked about Furgal's motive.

“Some time later, I learned that Bulatov had been killed, shot. It occurred to me that the friction between the partners and the murder could be connected,” Pershin said. “Then, maybe in 2008 or in 2010, we had a conversation. I remember riding in a car on Komsomolskaya Street, and [Karepov] was saying, we had our eyes on Bulatov for a long time, a very long time. And it turned out that he liked to go out by himself for some water at five or six in the morning. Well, Karepov said, ‘Andryusha got him.’ He said it straight: Andryusha, who you know, who I met with. Andryusha tailed him.”

“This is the very same Andrey who carried out Zorya’s murder? Do I have that right?” asked the investigator.

“Yes. Because Karepov said the same thing about Zorya’s murder — ‘That Andryusha did a great job’,” said Pershin.

In November 2019, Andrey Paley (no relation to Anatoly Paley, the alleged auto repair shop owner) was arrested on suspicion of killing Zorya and Bulatov. Pershin said in his testimonies that “Andryusha” had been detained around 2002 for robbery and spent some time in a pre-trial detention center but, according to one of Andrey Paley’s close relatives, Paley had never been held in pre-trial detention.

Pershin’s testimonies are the only evidence of Paley’s involvement in Zorya’s murder. In 2019, when Pershin was shown a lineup of 55 photographs, he wasn’t able to determine which ones contained Paley; it was only later, when he was given four photographs to choose from, that he correctly identified Paley.

Andrey Paley before the Basmanny Court hearing that would determine whether his detention would be extended. Moscow, July 2020.
Gleb Shelkunov / Kommersant

According to case materials, however, the fact of Paley’s involvement in Bulatov’s murder was also confirmed by witness Vladimir Nazarov, who was present near the crime scene in 2005 and saw Bulatov’s killer wrapped in a scarf, with only his eyes visible. “I don’t remember the assailant’s eyes very well, and I can’t describe them in any more detail,” Nazarov said in court.

Fifteen years later, he was able to identify Paley by his eyes, as Meduza reported in the fall of 2020. Andrey Paley did point out, however, that he was the only person in the lineup wearing winter clothes.

‘They threw grenades at him, but at least they didn’t kill him’

Another incident that’s being linked to Sergey Furgal is the attempted murder of Alexander Smolsky. In 2004, two grenades were thrown at Smolsky near his garage. At the time, Smolsky was a small business owner in the village of Progress in the Amur region and the son of the local power plant director. He was allegedly able to use his familial connections to interfere with Furgal and Mistryukov’s business, which was encroaching on his territory.

Pershin described Furgal and Mistryukov’s involvement in the murder attempt in his testimony, once again relying on what Karepov, who denies everything, allegedly told him.

“And he [Karepov] told me, ‘Remember that boy, the power plant director’s son?’ Well, of course I remember him, I tell him, but I didn’t see his face. Why? ‘Well, they threw grenades at him, but they didn’t kill him, thank God!’ That’s how the conversation went: ‘At least they didn’t kill him’.”

“What do you mean they threw grenades? Who threw grenades?” the investigator asked.

“That they threw them because of the [the conflict with Mistryukov and Furgal] is beyond a doubt. He was getting in the way of their business. And who threw them? Well, probably ‘Big’ Andrey, meaning Karepov himself. That’s as much as he told me, but he didn’t say who threw them.”

In November 2019, 54-year-old Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk airport employee Marat Kadyrov was detained on suspicion of attempted murder. Pershin identified him as a “regular hitman” for Khabarovsk criminal groups who also worked in a cafe called The Gray Horse. Kadyrov, however, claimed never to have worked there.

Mendeleyevo airport security service inspector Marat Kadyrov at the Basmanny Court. Moscow, July 2020.
Anton Novoderezhkin / TASS / Vida Press

“But where did the order come from? Explain, otherwise it won’t be clear,” said the investigator.

“From Mistryukov and Furgal. Karepov himself didn’t name the client, but he [Mistryukov] complained that, you know, the power plant director’s kid is getting on my last nerve,” Pershin said.

‘I don’t know, but I’m alleging it’

Pershin connected several other murders to Furgal in his testimony, as well.

“Are you alleging that Furgal and Mistryukov were involved not only in Zorya’s murder but in other incidents, too? Did I understand that correctly?” the investigator asks.

“You chose the right word: alleging. I don’t know it, I’m alleging it,” said Pershin.

For example, according to Pershin, in the early 2000s, Mistryukov had problems getting his boat garage in Vladivostok renovated; the construction workers weren’t doing a good job. So Mistryukov had someone named Zhenya go talk with a worker named Seryoga, who unexpectedly showed up to the meeting with two burly men with bats. That’s when Zhenya allegedly “pulled a machine gun out of the car and took out all three of them.”

Pershin also credits Furgal and Mistryukov with the murder of Khabarovsk modeling agency owner Alexander Voitovich. He allegedly “bailed on” Furgal, who wanted to get a certain award and paid Voitovich for it. Pershin described Voitovich as “so gay it’s a nightmare.”

“Again, [I saw] on television, ‘Modeling agency owner… Alexander Voitovich… has been murdered’,” said Pershin. “And his dad was either the head of Forestry for the Khabarovsk territory or one of the ministers. Something like that. And so then, when I passed along that note, it said something like, ‘the forester’s case.’ He [Karepov] said, ‘And this guy Voitovich, we’ve been tracking him for a long time.’ Like the first time they had beat him up pretty bad, but he still didn’t get it. So Furgal went ahead and said, ‘Take him out.’ That kind of thing.”

When the investigator asks about the price of a contract murder, Pershin answered as follows:

“The conversation went like this. I ask him, ‘How much money do they pay for an order? How much for Voitovich specifically?’ And he [Karepov] says, ‘Come on, you already know the price.’ So I told him it cost 30,000 when I worked as a hitman in the past, but now I didn’t know. I said it was ‘still the same.’ Just to clarify, I asked if this was in dollars, and he confirmed, ‘in dollars’.”

According to Pershin, Karepov once showed him some weapons, including a Dragunov sniper rifle, a Stechkin pistol, a TT pistol, and a revolver — “all unloaded, of course” — and said he’d been in Dagestan once and in Donetsk (eastern Ukraine) twice. Pershin concluded that Karepov must be an arms trafficker.

“Why did you come to that conclusion?” the investigator asked.

“Well, first of all, I saw his weapons myself, personally. And second of all, why else would he go there [to Dagestan]? I’m from the Far East, but what is there for me there? Same with Dagestan, Chechnya, or Donetsk?” Pershin said.

The investigator then asked Pershin whether Karepov mentioned “specific actions that he carried out in connection to the crimes in question.”

“No,” said Pershin.

“He didn’t say anything about it?” the investigator repeated.

“He didn’t say anything,” Pershin said. “He just said how it happened, and that was it.”

Andrey Karepov
Andrey Karepov’s defense team

Pershin’s other testimonies

In March 2020 — approximately a year after he was released from jail and first spoke to law enforcement about Furgal’s possible involvement in the murders — Pershin testified again to the Khabarovsk Investigative Committee. This time, the testimonies weren’t filmed. Pershin’s statements in this testimony differed markedly from the previous ones; he put things in more official terms this time. And while he had previously quoted Karepov as saying that “Zorya had been followed for a long time,” he now quoted him as saying, “We followed Zorya for a long time.” He also went into more detail when describing the men’s motives, claiming that Bulatov knew that Furgal and Mistryukov had ordered Zorya’s murder and was blackmailing his partners over it.

In his initial testimonies, Pershin makes it sound as though Karepov was relieved that Smolsky survived the grenade attack, summarizing his words as follows: “They threw grenades, but they didn’t kill him, thank God.” But in Pershin’s newer, unrecorded testimonies, that story changes. “He said the power plant director’s son had been undermined, silenced, and wouldn’t be snooping around anymore, and that he had agreed to Furgal and Mistryukov’s terms.” Karepov also allegedly told Pershin that he had traveled to Amur region to “prepare” for the crime.

In Pershin’s newer testimonies, his description of the aforementioned note he delivered to Furgal and Mistryukov also changed. New phrases appeared, including, for example, “the Bulat sword” (which seems to refer to Oleg Bulatov’s murder) and “the conversation with the power plant owner’s son” (which implies the murder attempt on Smolsky).

According to Pershin, Karepov also admitted to him that he wanted to blow up Anatoly Paley for his failure to repair Furgal’s KrAZ truck — but that he mistakenly bombed another person, who was left “crippled.”

‘Mistryukov was in shock’

On November 19, 2019, Andrey Karepov, Andrey Paley, and Marat Kadyrov were all arrested on suspicion of being involved in Zorya and Bulatov’s murders. All of them claimed to be innocent. To this day, Karepov claims that he was never involved in organizing any murders, and Mistryukov and Furgal “came to him with a desire to become deputies in the Khabarovsk Territorial Duma, which he actively helped them achieve.”

In addition to Pershin, Furgal’s former partner Nikolay Mistryukov also testified that Furgal was involved in organizing multiple murders. Mistryukov was arrested in connection with the same crimes on November 19, 2019. He initially maintained that he was innocent; during a confrontation with Pershin in court, he refused to confirm his claims. After several days, however, he said he was ready to discuss his role in the crime.

On November 19, 2019, Mistryukov and Smolsky had a face-to-face confrontation in court. Mistryukov claimed that he had gotten into a conflict with Furgal and Mistryukov related to metal procurement prices, and that the partners had even threatened him once. Smolsky claimed to be certain that it was Furgal and Mistryukov who tried to kill him because he didn’t have any other conflicts at the time. Mistryukov denied it all.

On November 20, Mistryukov and Pershin had another face-to-face confrontation. Pershin claimed to have heard from a “source” that Mistryukov and Furgal had ordered Zorya and Bulatov’s murders, as well as the murder attempt on Smolsky. Mistryukov denied it. Mistryukov’s lawyer, Edward Churchulia, tried to ask Pershin clarifying questions, but investigators withdrew most of them.

On November 21, a lawyer from Khabarovsk named Alexander Loboda came to see Mistryukov. After that, Mistryukov declared he was willing to testify.

Mistryukov confessed to having played a role in one of the incidents: he allegedly complained about Smolsky to Karepov, who then requested a small amount of money. After the grenades had been detonated, Karepov came to Mistryukov and said that the “deed had been done,” this time asking for a million rubles. Mistryukov claims that he was “in shock,” and that he asked Karepov, “who asked you to blow him up?” According to the same testimonies from Mistryukov, Furgal didn’t know about any of this.

Nikolay Mistryukov at Moscow’s Basmanny court. July 2020.
Kirill Zykov / “Moskva” Agency”

For the first week after his arrest, Mistryukov was represented by a lawyer named Eduard Churguliya, who his wife hired. On November 26, 2019, Alexey Ulyanov, a lawyer known for “cooperating closely with the investigation,” joined the case. (You can read more about Ulyanov here.) That same day, Mistryukov and Ulyanov signed a pretrial cooperation agreement; it was then that Furgal’s former partner began giving detailed confessions, repeating Pershin’s testimony almost verbatim. This is also when Mistryukov first proclaimed that Furgal was aware of everything from the beginning; six months later, he claimed that Furgal had played a “leading role” in the murders.

According to Mistryukin, he and Furgal had a conflict with Evgeny Zorya related to the hangar and the access roads leading to it. “Zorya promised to eliminate both of us. After that, we went straight to our friend the police officer, Vladimir Nikolayevich Pershin. He heard us out and said he know who could help us: ‘It would be best if you went to Andrey. Let him take care of it.’ That’s when we first met Karepov. We reached out to Karepov, and he said ‘the problem is solved.’ Well, the problem was solved at first, and we somehow just didn’t talk about it, and then he said it was necessary to take him out, that there wasn’t any other way. And we agreed, and they took him out. And after they shot Zorya, he came and said ‘the problem is solved, here’s how much money you owe.’”

When discussing Bulatov’s murder, Mistryukov claimed that “Bulatov somehow knew about the situation with Zorya. He either found out or guessed it, and he was constantly blackmailing us — he would make it clear that he knew about me and Sergey Ivanovich’s roles. He was detained along with us at the police station. At first, we didn’t know why he was detained with us, but the next week, he hinted that he was perfectly aware of why we had been detained, like, don’t let your guard down, that kind of thing. We decided not to wait any longer, and we ordered Oleg Bulatov’s murder. He wanted to open his own sites and have his own business, and we didn’t want to let that happen, either.”

As Mistryukov tells it, the partners then contacted Karepov again, paid him a million rubles, and had Bulatov shot. After that, the two continued paying Bulatov’s daughter’s university tuition for several years.

Mistryukov’s case file includes an appeal made by his lawyer, Eduard Churguliya, to Russian Investigative Committee head Alexander Bastrykin. In it, the lawyer claims that he visited Mistryukov in his pre-trial detention center on November 27, and that Mistryukov told him that “investigative actions were carried out on November 26 — they interrogated him and pressured him psychologically to sign a pre-trial agreement that he had no intention of signing.” “Mistryukov informed me that investigators were psychologically pressuring him and demanding that he decline my services as a lawyer because our line of defense did not suit the investigation. He explained that, due to the conditions in the Lefortovo pre-trial detention center, he could no longer resist the pressure and would be forced to sign the document the investigator had provided him. He was also afraid to insist on my participation in the case due to threats and pressure.” On that same day, November 27, Churguliya received a letter informing him that Mistryukov was declining his services and requesting only to be represented by Ulyanov.

With Ulyanov’s help, Mistryukov managed to sell his share in the factory he owned together with Furgal’s ex-wife Larisa Starodubova to Pavel Balsky, another one of his partners. “He [Mistryukov] believed he only had a maximum of five years left to live, and his wife, Natalya, had been a housewife her whole life, so he wanted to take care of her,” said a source who was in touch with the family at that time. Mistryukov also had three underage children.

In September 2020, Mistryukov was transferred from pre-trial detention to house arrest, but Ulyanov claimed the change was an effort to protect his health, and not the result of a deal with investigators. Mistryukov has pelvic cancer and is blind in one eye due to a detached retina.

***

In August 2020, Sergey Furgal testified that he “participated neither directly nor indirectly in the murders mentioned in the case materials,” and that the case was “instigated by people who have an interest in his removal from office as the governor of the Khabarovsk territory, and Mistryukov is slandering him.” Furgal noted that Mistryukov struck him as a “depressed and broken person in poor health.”

Furgal claims that the investigation is applying “systematic pressure” on him, including by threatening to prosecute his ex-wife Larisa Starodubova and by showing him Karepov’s pre-trial agreement, in which he testifies to Furgal’s involvement in the murders.

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A hostage of the job Constituents in Russia’s Khabarovsk Territory rally to defend their ‘people’s governor’ from murder allegations

We won’t give up Because you’re with us

Story by Anastasia Yakoreva, edited by Tatiana Lysova and Tatiana Ershova

Translation by Sam Breazeale

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