Remembering the Murder of
Larisa Yudina under Ilyumzhinov
editor-in-chief of newspaper Sovremennaya Kalmykia
(7 October 2015)
A couple of days ago I was sent a link to an interview with Ilyumzhinov on Ekho Moskvy, but I only found time to read it today. I started it, but didn’t get through it to the end. It’s impossible for a resident of Kalmykia to calmly read that many lies about the times when this entity was the leader of the republic.
I know perfectly well that Kirsan Ilyumzhinov isn’t capable of telling the truth, but I can’t come to terms with his lies either.
I won’t try to refute all his fabrications and fantasies, I’ll just stop at the facts concerning the newspaper Sovietskaya Kalmykia and its editor Larisa Alexeyevna Yudina.
It’s true that during the well-known August events of 1991 the newspaper (at that time the main publication in the republic) supported the State Committee on the State of Emergency [the hard-line Communists who attempted a coup against Gorbachev]. This can be explained mainly by the fact that it was the official print outlet of the Kalmyk regional committee of the Communist Party. Its editor-in-chief was a man with the surname Yudin, Yuri Ivanovich. He and Larisa Yudina were not related. As Larisa Alexeyevna herself liked to say, ‘he’s not even my namesake’. She was probably referring to her maiden name – Voronina.
Naturally, after Boris Yeltsin’s decree [of 6 November 1991, banning all Communist Party activities on Russian soil], this newspaper, like many other similar ones in the regions, closed down; the regional party committee dissolved and the Supreme Council of Kalmykia and Council of Ministers refused to be the owners of the newspaper. Larisa Alexeyevna and a small group of employees, mainly young women, didn’t agree with this decision. Yudina, in fact, travelled to Moscow several times, to the Russian Union of Journalists, but she didn’t meet Ilyumzhinov (as he claims) – as I and all her colleagues and friends know very well. In the end the journalists and employees themselves who supported Larisa Alexeyevna became the owners and elected her editor-in-chief.
So we’ll leave the lying words of Ilyumzhinov, ‘the journalists came to see me, including Yudina’, ‘I met with the staff of that newspaper’, ‘I helped that newspaper, I opened it’, on his conscience. True, there’s a question: does he have one?
In 1995 a person by the name of Kapkanov, after receiving approval and financial support from the leadership of the republic (up to a free GAZ-24 car), registered another Sovietskaya Kalmykia newspaper duplicate, which immediately became the ‘lever’ of Ilyumzhinov and his people. For a few months both newspapers came out under the same name; people called them the ‘Yudina SovKalmykia’ and the ‘Kapkanov’ one. Soon afterwards the former lost its registration illegally by a decision of a court that considered Kapkanov’s the ‘main’ one.
Then Larisa Alexeyevna and her colleagues renamed the newspaper Sovietskaya Kalmykia Segodnya, found financial support from Kalmyk businesspeople working in Moscow and new owners, and registered it again.
The newspaper’s staff and its editor had to go through a lot. Multiple attacks on the editorial offices, the doors of their flats being set on fire, and constant moves in connection with being evicted from the premises they occupied, as their landlords cancelled their contracts under pressure from Kirsan’s administration.
This sad era ended with the murder of Larisa Alexeyevna on 7 June 1998.
The crime was efficiently solved thanks to the involvement of the republic’s branch of the FSB and directly its head, Vladimir Timofeyev. And that is an irrefutable fact.
I can admit that I’m not a fan of this structure, but in this case, I must confess, it was only due to the active work of FSB employees that the murderers and the murder weapon were found, which had decisive significance for the successful investigation and transferring of the case to court.
As it happened, I and some of my friends who knew Larisa Yudina very well already started looking for her actively on the morning of 8 June; we contacted all the authorities and met with the vice president of Kalmykia. We organised a demonstration in the centre of the city. Ilyumzhinov wasn’t in the republic right up to the funeral.
And for all that time he maintained a deathly silence, although the whole world was discussing this monstrous crime.
When he started talking on 11 June during a break in a football match at the Uralan stadium, answering questions from NTV and Rossiya TV, he came out with such rubbish that I personally wondered, perhaps ‘the guy isn’t right in the head’.
I remember well that the car in which Larisa Alexeyevna’s lifeless body was driven to the Yarmarochny pond was found in the garage of the republic’s prosecutor’s office. And there were reports that the flat where the murder took place was one that was used for police purposes.
The trial of the degenerates was held in Elista, in the building of the Supreme Court of Kalmykia. Anyone who wanted to could attend. The murderers, as was to be expected, didn’t give up the person who ordered the crime. Now, 17 years later, one of them has been released, although he got a 21-year sentence. A second is still in prison. The third defendant in the case, who only drove the body to the pond, got six years; he was released a long time ago and immediately disappeared from Kalmykia.
I want to tell all journalists and the public that on 22 October 2015 Larisa Alexeyevna Yudina would have turned 70. In connection with this, we, her former colleagues and friends, have written to the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Kalmykia with a proposal to open an exhibition in the National Museum dedicated to the memory of a courageous journalist who was killed in the fulfilment of her duty.
As they told me at the ministry, our proposal will probably be rejected, but there is a possibility that something like an exhibition will be organised in the building of the republic’s House of Print. I hope that the current authorities in Kalmykia will not oppose this.
It’s very good that Ilyumzhinov isn’t in Kalmykia. Moreover, we hardly ever think about him, and if we do suddenly remember him, then, as a rule, it’s not with good words.
It would be desirable for our colleagues in Moscow and other regions of our country not to provide PR for this, as I am deeply convinced, unworthy person.
Translated by Sarah Hurst