Russian senator Rauf Arashukov has been arrested inside the Federation Council, the Russian parliament’s upper chamber in Moscow, over the murder of two people in his native Karachay–Cherkessia.
As Arashukov was arrested on 30 January, his father, Raul Arashukov, and cousin, Ruslan Arashukov, were also detained by Russian law enforcement on corruption charges.
According to the Russian Investigative Committee, Arashukov is suspected of being involved in the killings of Fral Shebzukhov, an adviser to the then–president of Karachay–Cherkessia, and Aslan Zhukov, an activist from Circassian youth movement Adyghe Khase.
Russia’s Prosecutor General, Yuriy Chayka, announced the decision to detain Arashukov in front of the Federation Council on 30 January.
After Chayka’s speech, senators voted to deprive Arashukov of his parliamentary immunity and agreed to his arrest, Russian news agency TASS reported.
The head of the Investigative Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, and the Federal Protective Service officers who detained Arashukov also attended the meeting, RIA Novosti reported.
Aslan Zhukov was shot in the courtyard of his house in March 2010. Friends and relatives claimed at the time that he was murdered because of his public activism.
Zhukov’s sister said that shortly before his death, her brother told her about a disagreement with Rauf Arashukov.
According to her, Arashukov had asked Zhukov to organise young people to storm Karachay–Cherkessia’s parliament to disrupt a session. Aslan recorded the conversation and released it online.
Zhukov’s relatives said Arashukov repeatedly threatened him after this.
This version of events was confirmed by Rasul Adzhiyev, who was cleared of the murder in 2012.
Adzhiyev handed himself in to the Investigative Committee in August, confessing to the crime and testifying that Rauf Arashukov had ordered the murder through an intermediary — his son-in-law Ruslan Agoyev.
Fral Shebzukhov, an advisor to the then-president of Karachay–Cherkessia Boris Ebzeyev, was shot dead in May 2010.
Just before his killing, Ebzeyev had nominated Shebzukhov as chair of the Government of Karachay–Cherkessia and introduced him to the local parliament for approval.
Shebzukhov’s brother, Murat Shebzukhov, told the Russian Federal News Agency that Arashukov ordered the murder to get rid of a political competitor.
According to Murat, an unknown group of people attacked the two of them with bats, injuring Murat. After the beating, he said the attackers shot Fral.
Ruslan Shebzukhov, another of Fral’s brothers, told Russian newspaper Moskovsky Komsomolets that he also blamed Rauf Arashukov for his brother’s murder.
Three people were convicted of Shebzukhov’s murder, and sentenced to 14–19 years in prison. One of the three testified that a fourth man, Rustam Kopsergenov, organised the murder on behalf of Arashukov.
[Read more on OC Media: Relatives of slain public figures in Karachay–Cherkessia demand senator be brought to justice for ordering killings]
A family business
Raul Arashukov, Rauf’s father and adviser to the general director of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz, a subsidiary of the Russian gas giant managing regional distributors, and was detained at his workplace in Saint Petersburg.
Rauf’s cousin, Ruslan Arashukov, who was also detained on 30 January, has been the general director of Gazprom Mezhregiongaz Astrakhan since 2018.
The three are suspected of generating contracts with local gas distributors that overestimated the supply of gas required by consumers, allowing the three men to make a profit selling the surplus gas.
According to the Investigation Committee, Raul Arashukov is suspected of stealing over ₽30 billion ($450 million) worth of gas from Gazprom.
According to Caucasian Knot, ₽27 billion ($410 million) of the appropriated gas was stolen while en route to Daghestan.
Raul Arashukov, who has a criminal record for economic crimes committed during the Soviet period, began his career in the gas industry in the late 1990s.
According to the Investigative Committee, Raul Arashukov helped friends and relatives to be appointed to ‘various positions in the structures of the fuel and energy complex of the North Caucasus Federal District’.
According to Pavel Salin, the director of the Centre for Political Studies at the Financial University, Arashukov’s arrest was a sign to Russian elites of all levels that there are no more ‘untouchables’, and that now ‘none of the previous systems of guarantees of intra-elite ties can operate’.
Tatyana Stanovaya, a political analyst at the Carnegie Centre in Moscow, said the Arashukov’s arrest ‘humiliated the Federation Council as an institution’ and regarded his arrest as a blow to Gazprom’s reputation.
In her opinion, the main interested party in this investigation was the FSB, because they would now be able to strengthen their power in Russia.