Another freelance special group was the organisation of GRU Colonel Valery Radchikov, the head of the Russian Fund for Afghan War Invalids. The group was founded in 1991 via the GRU. At the final count some 37 people connected with the invalids' fund were killed, and another 62 were injured.
In 1994, the fund's first manager, Mikhail Likhodei, was blown up in the entrance of his apartment block. In October 1995, Radchikov only survived by a miracle when he was seriously wounded by six bullets but managed to evade the killers who attacked him in his car. However, his legal advisor and deputy, Dmitri Mateshev, never recovered consciousness and died following the shoot-out. On 10 November 1996, 14 people were blown to pieces and 26 mutilated by an explosion at the Kotlyakovskoe Cemetery. The dead included Likhodei's widow, Elena Krasnolutskaya, who was the financial director at the invalids' fund, and Likhodei's friend and successor, Sergei Trakhirov. Radchikov was accused of planning the bombing. On 3 September 1998, when Radchikov was already in jail, another of his assistants, the general director of a new Afghan War fund, Valery Vukolov, was shot dead.
For all these years, money had been embezzled from the fund, which, after all, is the norm in Russia, but the extent of the embezzlement was exceptional. The most conservative estimates put the amount at about $200m (£100m). The case was investigated by the finest men in the public prosecutor's office, led by the investigator for especially important cases, Danilov. He was assisted by four other "bigwigs" and over 100 operatives (making in total a team of more than 180). But they were unable to work out where the millions stolen from the Afghan War invalids had gone. Radchikov himself was accused of stealing only two-and-a-half million dollars.
A few days after Radchikov's arrest, his deputy at the fund, Valery Voshchevoz, who monitored all of the fund's cash flows and was one of Yeltsin's agents for the presidential campaign of 1996, was hastily dispatched to the Amur region as the president's plenipotentiary representative. The trial of Radchikov and his two accomplices, Mikhail Smurov and Andrei Anokhin, lasted 10 months. On 17 January 2000, the state prosecutor demanded sentences of 13, 15, and 10 years for the accused.
Radchikov was accused of plotting in 1996 to kill his competitor in the "Afghan movement", the chairman of the invalids' fund, Sergei Trakhirov, and of giving a pistol and at least $50,000 for this purpose to one of his neighbours in the apartment block, the Afghan War veteran Andrei Anokhin. He, in turn, persuaded Mikhail Smurov to take part in the murder for $10,000.
Killing Trakhirov was not easy. Everywhere he went he was accompanied by bodyguards from the Vityaz unit, which was under the command of Sergei Ivanovich Lysiuk, who worked closely with the FSB. "Hero of Russia" Lysiuk, the founder and first commander of the Vityaz interior forces' special operations unit of the MVD RF, had been recruited into the ranks of the secret agents of the Special Section of the KGB when he was still a senior lieutenant. The last member of the special service to act as Lysiuk's contact was the head of the military counter-intelligence unit, Vladimir Yevgenievich Vlasov, who actually removed Lysiuk's name from the listings of the FSB's secret agents (so that he would not be given a new controller) and made him a so-called "archive agent". (Lysiuk won his "Hero of Russia" for commanding the Vityaz unit in the defence of the Ostankino television centre in 1993. He was the one who gave the order to open fire on the supporters of the putsch.)
Under the new circumstances, Vlasov was one of Lysiuk's deputies in his commercial firm. Operational information indicates that the commercial activities of Lysiuk's firm included training contract killers, including members of Lazovsky's group, but Lysiuk himself might not have known anything about that, even though the Moscow region criminal investigation department reported frequent sightings of Lazovsky at Lysiuk and Vlasov's base.
So the conspirators decided to blow up Trakhirov at the Kotlyakovskoe Cemetery during the wake for Mikhail Likhodei, the chairman of the Afghan War invalids' fund who was killed in 1994. Amazingly enough, just a few days before the bombing, Trakhirov's bodyguards were changed. The new bodyguards were killed in the explosion, but the old ones from Vityaz survived. We can assume that Lysiuk might have known about the forthcoming assassination attempt from Vlasov or other people in his entourage.
The court hearings on the case of the bombing concluded on 18 April. The accused were offered a final word, and all three of them said that they had "nothing at all" to do with the terrorist attack, and thus asked the court to find them innocent. Radchikov's lawyer, P Yushin, declared that the case had been deliberately fabricated.
On 21 January, the Moscow District Military Court, under the chairmanship of Colonel of Justice Vladimir Serdiukov, acquitted the accused because "their involvement in the crime committed had not been proved". The court regarded the arguments of the investigation into the case of the explosion at Kotlyakovskoe Cemetery as unconvincing. The acquittal was founded on the results of the court's analysis of the remains of the explosive device, which diverged significantly from the results of the analysis carried out during the investigation.
In addition, a female acquaintance of one of the accused, Mikhail Smurov, testified that on the day of the explosion Smurov was at home and could not possibly have set off the explosive device, as the investigators accused him of doing.
Valery Radchikov was also acquitted on the charge of embezzling two-and-a-half million dollars from the fund. All three accused were released directly from the courtroom. On 25 July, 2000, the Public Prosecutor's Office lost its appeal to the Supreme Court for the acquittal to be set aside. Radchikov was intending to take the dispute to the European Court. However, at about eight o'clock in the evening on 31 January 2001, he was killed in an automobile accident 39 kilometres along the Minsk Highway on his way back to Moscow in a Moskvich 2141 automobile. That same day the Novosti press agency announced that the law enforcement agencies were of the opinion that Radchikov's death might not have been a simple accident.
Dozens of dead bodies, millions of dollars missing, and not a single criminal caught - taken altogether this is simply a statistical impossibility for the world of crime. And you don't need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out which group was behind this complicated and highly successful game in which the main player suffered a fatal automobile accident at such a convenient moment.
The Russian secret services
FSB: Federal Security Service, effectively the latter-day KGB
UFSB: Regional FSB
GRU: Russian Ministry of Defence's foreign military intelligence operation
MB-FSK: Ministry of Security and the Federal Counter-intelligence Service. (The KGB, effectively, was first renamed as MB, then as FSK, and only later as FSB)
SBP: President's Security Service
MVD RF: Ministry of the Interior of the Russian Federation
ATT: Anti-terrorist centre of the FSB
GUVD: Division of the MVD