Voice | ‘I was shot twice in the head and abducted, but I survived’

15 June 2021
Illustration: Mariam Nikuradze/OC Media.

At one point, Sufyan (not his real name) had a promising life and career ahead of him. That all changed when he turned in his superiors at the Ministry of Capital Construction of Kabardino-Balkaria for a massive fraudulent scheme.

‘I was born in the late 1960s, and in my youth, I believed that I lived in the fairest and happiest country in the world. If someone told me at that time that by the age of 50, I would be lonely, unemployed, and disabled, I would have laughed in their face.’

‘Since childhood, my family and I had practically everything we could have wished for. True, sometimes I missed my father; he left my mother and me when I was still a baby. But my mother’s love and care would be enough for ten people. And not only love — she held high positions in various local ministries and departments. In a time of shortages, she provided me with everything that was considered prestigious in the eyes of young people at the time — imported clothes and toys, rare books and records, trips to distant and expensive Soviet resorts.’

‘At the end of the Soviet era, I successfully graduated from the economics faculty of the Kabardino-Balkarian State University. With the help of my mother, I joined the Republic’s Ministry of Capital Construction. I had a career ahead of me and wealth and all the other pleasant things that came with it. I was absolutely sure of that!’

‘It’s better not to mess with people who are dealing with such sums’

‘Everything was going well for me; my career progressed, I was promoted to the deputy minister’s assistant. I got married and we had two children. My mother continued to work and helped us with everything. But then, one day, our life changed dramatically.’

‘I completely trusted my immediate superior, the deputy minister, and considered him a crystal-clear honest person. We had a friendly relationship; he often came into my office, and over a cup of coffee, we discussed work problems or family life.’

‘After one such visit, he forgot a document folder on my desk; I found it after my boss went home. I could not resist and decided to look inside. “These were not personal letters, but working documents, and there was nothing wrong with looking at them”, I told myself while opening the folder. I wish I had not done that.’


‘The folder contained documents testifying to large-scale fraud worth millions of roubles (probably billions in today’s money), not only by my boss and the ministry but also people who led various regional departments. It was “false accounting”.’

‘To say that I was disappointed with my superiors is an understatement. At first, I was scared, but then I decided to make copies of these documents and keep them to insure myself in case of an emergency.’ 

‘I was not going to blackmail anyone because I realised that it’s better not to mess with people who are dealing with such sums. I returned the folder with the documents to the place where my boss left it. The next day, his driver took it from me. I continued to work, avoiding giving the appearance that I knew about the fraud.’

‘How naive I was’

‘After a couple of months, my mother told me that this boss of mine had come into conflict with her over some flats that were supposed to go to large families or war veterans — I don’t remember now. The conflict between my mother, who then held a high post, and my boss affected the interests of people from the “higher” spheres of the republic.’

‘My mother and I have different surnames. Perhaps, therefore, my boss did not suspect that we were family. Otherwise, I could not explain his carelessness with that folder that he forgot in my office.’

‘My boss found strong patrons in the leadership of the republic, who got in on all these fraudulent schemes too. I can’t name them right now — many of them are still at the helm, but these people forced my mother to write a letter of retirement “for health reasons”.’

‘I was furious. I knew my mother as an honest and responsible person and worker. Yes, she took advantage of certain privileges and opportunities that people in senior government positions are entitled to, but she never violated the law as far as I was aware. Mum is a woman of the Soviet school, an honest communist if you understand what I mean.’ 

‘Our whole family, then five people, lived in an ordinary high-rise building in a two-room flat. I didn’t have my own car, although all my subordinates had been driving expensive cars for a long time.’

‘Feeling a burning resentment over my mother’s treatment, I decided to deploy my secret weapon and make the false accounting of my boss the property of the competent authorities. How naive I was.’

‘The documents I copied testified to the large-scale speculation of a North Caucasian construction trust. Among the papers was noted the kickbacks to state customers and false protocols of meetings of joint-stock companies. It was a bomb which when detonated, would bury not only my boss and all the higher authorities, but also myself.’

‘I talked about the false accounting to the relevant security forces, and as a result, many officials in Kabardino-Balkaria lost their posts and “clients”. My boss was forced to flee the republic.’

‘Despite all the assurances of the Ministry of Internal Affairs that my anonymity would be ensured, there was a leak. Someone informed members of my boss’s clan about me.’ 

‘I didn’t hear the shots’

‘That autumn day, having finished work, I returned home on foot. I went into our yard and before going up to my flat, I decided to sit for a while on the bench outside our block.’

‘I was sitting and smoking when I saw a grey car. It rolled slowly along the path connecting our yard with the road. Suddenly, the car stopped, the rear window went down, and a flame flashed against a dark interior.’

‘I didn’t hear the shots. I realised that they were shooting at me when I felt several strong blows to my stomach.’ 

‘I remember a man in a dark jacket and a black cap got out of the car, quickly approached me, looked into my face and pulling back a little, shot me in the head. Later I found out that he shot me twice in the head. After that was darkness.’ 

‘A miracle happened — two kill shots in the head did not achieve their goal. Until now, friends make fun of me: “Two shots in the head, but the brain was not hurt”, they say.⁠ ’

‘Such luck was explained by the fact that one of the two bullets ricocheted off my skull, leaving only a dent, and the second pierced my facial bone and left through the neck. Experts said that the headshots were fired from a low-powered pistol, which supposedly saved me. 

‘The three bullets that entered my stomach and pierced my intestines turned out to be much more dangerous. If they hadn’t shot me in my own yard, I would probably not be talking to you now. It was the proximity to the house that saved me.’ 

‘Our neighbours immediately called for an ambulance. A few minutes later, the surgeon was already removing bullets from my stomach.’ 

‘I recovered for several years. I lost twenty kilograms. It was difficult to move and only then within the flat. Periods of relative improvement in well-being alternated with periods of sharp deterioration.’ 

‘A few months later, I had a second operation, this time in Moscow. Only after that did I gradually begin to recover.’ 

‘Keep your mouth shut’

‘During this time, the authorities in the republic changed, and my former boss was able to return to Kabardino-Balkaria. Now others from his clan were in power. They had not forgotten about me.’

‘Leaving the children in my care, my wife left me. I did not fully recover but still decided to go to work. I could no longer take up my previous position as assistant to the deputy minister and began to work as a construction inspector in the Baksan District.’

‘I went to work, checked the constructions, filled out the necessary documents, and in the evening, exhausted, returned home to Nalchik.’ 

‘The people who ordered the hit on me returned one by one to power. I thought that my fate no longer interested them for a long time, and I didn’t communicate with any of them.’ 

‘But my enemies and my former boss, who now held a high position in the apparatus of the president of the republic, kept me in sight. It so happened that I provoked them to take active steps, telling friends and acquaintances about my misadventures. One day they abducted me.’

‘I was walking down the street when two athletic-looking guys jumped me. They deftly twisted me, threw me into the back seat of their jeep, and pulled a bag over my head. We drove for about twenty minutes, and all this time, they were hitting me in the head and face.’ 

‘Then the car stopped, I was thrown to the ground, placed on my knees, and they tore the bag from my head. The people who did all this were in black masks with slits for their eyes and mouths.’

‘I was dragged by the neck to a freshly dug hole. They asked: “Do you want to go in there?” I replied that I did not. ‘Then, one of them told me: “keep your mouth shut. There will be no more warnings”.’

‘They pulled the bag over my head again, hit me in the face, and threw me near that hole. I got home in the evening, dirty and battered, and the next day I wrote a letter of resignation for health reasons. I knew very well that now they would not let me work.’

‘The next day, bracing myself, I went to the republic’s FSB department and told them everything that had happened to me. There has still been no reaction from them. It feels like my enemies have their own people there too.’

‘No light ahead’

‘Today, the power in our republic has once again changed, but many of my ill-wishers still work in the “higher spheres”. Due to a lack of money, my mother and two children and I sold our flat in Nalchik and moved to Baksan, where life is a little cheaper.’

‘My mother has a pretty good pension, but most of it goes to medicines — mine and hers — to pay for the children’s education, and on utilities.’

‘I am recognised as having a disability and get tiny benefits payments — ₽8,000 ($125) per month. No one will employ me anywhere — who needs a disabled person? My mother is almost 80 years old.’

‘I worked as a geography teacher for a few months in a school in Baksan, but I had to leave because of my health problems.’

‘So I live. There’s no light ahead.’

‘I live with a dream that my children — after they are educated and find a profession — will be able to leave this country and live a decent life somewhere in Europe. There is no life for them here anyway.’