A morte em directo

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É sempre difícil escrever a quente. Sobretudo porque é fácil tirar conclusões precipitadas.

O que sabemos até agora: um polícia turco, de 22 anos, assassinou o embaixador russo em Ankara, Andrey Karlov, na inauguração de uma exposição de arte. As imagens  captadas pela televisão turca mostram o homicida a disparar vários tiros e a gritar em turco:

Pouco depois o atirador foi abatido pela polícia turca. A sua morte impedirá o esclarecimento de questões imediatas:

  • Quais as suas reais motivações?
  • Agiu em nome de alguma organização ou a título individual?
  • Teve cúmplices?
  • Houve alguma falha de segurança que lhe permitiu aproximar-se do embaixador russo, aparentemente, tão facilmente?
  • Quais serão as consequências para as relações entre a Turquia e a Rússia?

Para já, a resposta honesta é, ninguém sabe. Tudo o que se possa dizer a partir de certo ponto são apenas especulações.

Sabe-se também algumas outras coisas:

  • Há uma semana houve uma manifestação em frente ao consuldado russo em Istambul, em que foi pedida vingança devido aos bombardeamentos em Allepo.
  • O terrorista referiu-se a Allepo em termos semelhantes aos utilizados pela Jabhat al Nusra (actual Jabhat Fateh al-Sham), a filial da Al Qaeda na Síria.
  • Até agora nenhum grupo terrorista reivindicou o ataque, pelo contrário, apoiantes do auto-proclamado Estado Islâmico no Telegram têm pedido moderação aos seus seguidores.
  • Os presidentes da Turquia e da Rússia já falaram ao telefone.
  • Apoiantes dos grupos jihadistas começaram a espalhar as moradas das embaixadas russas, nas redes sociais, numa tentativa de incitamento de novos ataques.
  • Amanhã  haverá em Moscovo uma cimeira entre Rússia, Turquia e Irão, sobre a situação na Síria. O encontro manteve-se, apesar do incidente.

Nos próximos dias haverá, certamente, novidades.

Uma última curiosidade: antes de o embaixador ser assassinado, Vladimir Putin dirigia-se para uma peça de Alexander Griboedov, o poeta, compositor e embaixador da Rússia, que foi assassinado em 1829 quando estava colocado no Irão.

 

Um quem é quem da guerra na Síria

O homem do ano, não da década, não do século…

Vladimir Putin foi eleito o homem do ano na Rússia. A importância disto? Foi a décima quinta vitória consecutiva do presidente russo. Até quando?

Vladimir Putin, o colosso do hóquei no gelo

Enquanto a Europa estava preocupada com as consequências dos referendos em Donetsk e em Luhamsk, no leste da Ucrânia, Vladimir Putin acrescentou mais um feito às suas proezas desportivas (que já incluem a prática de judo, mergulho, equitação e muitas outras): hóquei no gelo. O presidente russo passou a noite de sexta-feira, dia 10, a liderar a sua equipa durante um jogo de exibição em Sochi. Ao todo marcou seis golos e fez cinco assistências numa vitória por 21-4. Os pontos altos de um jogo que parecia não ter defesas estão aqui.

Foto: AP

Foto: AP

A guerra da comunicação sobre o que se passa na Crimeia

Regularmente, a partir dos suburbios de Melbourne, na Austrália, Giordano Nanni  e Hugo Farrant produzem o Juice Rap News, uma visão crítica da actualidade mundial através da ironia e do hip-hop. O 23º episódio debruça-se sobre a guerra de comunicação entre Rússia e Ocidente sobre o que se passa na Crimeia. Chamaram-lhe Mutually Assured Mass-Media Destruction: Crimedia Wars, à moda da guerra fria, e levantam várias questões sobre a abordagem das notícias por parte dos diferentes órgãos de comunicação social – e da respectiva independência. 

Tudo o que precisam de saber sobre a Ucrânia

O ritmo é alucinante. Os factos históricos são às centenas. Mas este vídeo é uma boa forma de compreender o que se passa na Ucrânia – e o caminho percorrido até à actual situação.

1000 anos de mudanças nas fronteiras da Europa

Algumas alterações no mapa não estão correctamente sincronizadas com os anos que passam na imagem. Ainda assim, é um exercício muito interessante para compreender as mudanças vividas pela Europa nos últimos 1000 anos. Este é, definitivamente, um trabalho em constante evolução.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: Putin, o mestre do xadrês

Na véspera do referendo à adesão da Crimeia à Rússia, é interessante ler uma perspectiva diferente das dominantes: a de que o Ocidente não tem sido capaz de reagir, nem antecipar, as jogadas de Vladimir Putin, um presidente que defende a preponderância russa no mundo e que está a acabar com a ordem mundial instituída desde o final da guerra fria. Por Lília Shevtsova, na The American Interest.

Foto: Platon Antoniou

Foto: Platon Antoniou

Falling into Putin’s Trap

Until now, stunned and appalled, the West has been merely reacting to the Kremlin’s moves, however belatedly or inadequately. But now, heading into the March 16 referendum, the liberal democracies seem prepared to accept the Russian annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli.

Published on March 10, 2014

Inever expected so many intelligent, perceptive, and influential media and political personalities to so easily fall into Vladimir Putin’s trap. After the initial shock to the world, and especially to the West, following Moscow’s announcements about the possible use of Russian armed forces in Ukraine, and then after being forced to acknowledge that Russia has already occupied Crimea, the West breathed a collective sigh of relief upon hearing Putin’s March 4 press conference, where he suggested Russia doesn’t have any plans to seize eastern Ukraine. I intentionally waited a while to make sure that this would indeed be the prevailing Western reaction after the dust settled—and it was. Western capitals felt encouraged by Putin. In the New York TimesPeter Baker confirmed that “American officials took some solace” after hearing Putin’s explanations. One may suppose that the Europeans, who are much more inclined to forgive Putin than is Washington, have felt more than just relief, but actual satisfaction, at the news.

When it became apparent that Moscow was hurriedly attempting to annex Crimea through a “referendum” scheduled for March 16—in the presence of thousands of Russian troops—some in the West have grown nervous once again. They’re wondering why the Kremlin is in such a hurry, and why it is acting so crudely, without even pro forma attempts to clothe its naked aggression. But they needn’t wonder. By now it’s obvious that both Europe and the United States, unable to reverse the course of recent events and unwilling to pay the price for restraining Russia, are ready to participate in Putin’s gamble. Until now, stunned and appalled, the Western capitals have been merely reacting to the Kremlin’s moves, however belatedly or inadequately. But now the liberal democracies seem prepared to accept the new status quo—that is, to recognize the Russian annexation of Crimea as a fait accompli, since they do not dare force Russia to back down. They are now focused on stemming Russia’s expansion to Ukraine’s eastern and southern regions, apparently fearing that anything but acceptance of the new geopolitical reality will result in a much more dreadful outcome. Let us clarify what this reality is all about.

First, it is about the destruction of the post-Cold War world order. This order was based on the premise that Russia and the West are not in the business of “containing” each other anymore, and that both support the principle of the territorial sovereignty of the independent states that emerged from the break-up of the Soviet Union. Moscow began to destroy that order as early as its 2008 war with Georgia, followed by the virtual annexation of Georgia’s breakaway territories, Abkhazia and South Ossetia. No less than President Nicolas Sarkozy, during France’s term of presidency of the European Union, ratified and legitimized the Russian occupation of Georgia’s territories. And Moscow’s interference in Ukraine’s internal affairs and its use of force in dealing with Kiev dates back to the Kremlin’s trade war against Ukraine in August 2013. So there’s nothing new or strange in the West’s inability to find a convincing way to react to Russia’s moves. Moscow concluded some time ago that it was free to take additional steps toward establishing the new order.

Second, it is about more than just setting a precedent allowing the Kremlin’s direct interference in the affairs of a sovereign state. Not only did its behavior validate the presence of Russia’s spheres of influence, thanks to the lack of meaningful Western reaction, but the Kremlin also reintroduced the “doctrine of interference” under the pretext of protecting the “Russian-speaking population.” Since Russian speakers live in most of the newly independent states, this “doctrine” threatens the stability of the entire post-Soviet space. Even Russia’s willing partners—Belorussian leader Lukashenko and Kazakh leader Nazarbajev—understand the looming threat to their countries’ territorial integrity, and so have stubbornly refused to support the Kremlin “solution” for Ukraine.

Third, it is about paving the way for the second stage of Moscow’s plans, which is to bring southeastern Ukraine under Russian control. This would make Ukraine a failed state and zone of instability, which will serve as an invitation to Moscow to “stabilize” it. One should even expect there to be Western supporters of Russia’s “moderating” role. Indeed some have already hinted that Moscow has its “interests” in the regions that have to be “accommodated.” And Moldova is likely the next target. In short, Eurasia is entering a period of instability.”

O equilíbrio militar entre Ucrânia e Rússia

The Military Imbalance in Russia and Ukraine

Explore more infographics like this one on the web’s largest information design community – Visually.

O inimigo americano de Vladimir Putin

Em 1996 o empresário Bill Browder chegou a Moscovo para investir milhões de dólares num novo mercado. Decidiu afastar os dirigentes e funcionários corruptos das empresas que adquiriu. Fez inimigos. Muitos. Tantos quanto a sua fortuna cresceu. Em 2005 foi detido no aeroporto e deportado como uma ameaça para o Estado. As suas empresas foram-lhe retiradas e entregues a terceiros. Ele não desistiu. E começou a denunciar os esquemas de corrupção no país de Vladimir Putin. Hoje é procurado em Moscovo e foi alvo de inúmeras ameaças de morte. E conta tudo ao 60 Minutes.

Os Jogos Olimpicos de Inverno mais caros de sempre

Antes de começarem, os Jogos Olímpicos de Inverno, em Sochi, já tinham estabelecido um novo recorde: ao custarem 50 mil milhões de dólares, tornaram-se os mais caros da história. A Vice foi a Sochi ver onde foi gasto o dinheiro, falar com os residentes e investigar as alegações de subornos e corrupção. Este é o resultado, no dia em que começa a competição.

Leitura para o fim-de-semana: Bush e Putin, tão amigos que eles foram

O jornalista Peter Baker foi o chefe da delegação em Moscovo do The Washington Post. Agora é o principal correspondente na Casa Branca do The New York Times. O seu novo livro chama-se Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House e estes excertos, publicados na revista Foreign Policy contam como George W. Bush olhou Putin nos olhos e viu a sua alma – e como uma amizade surpreendente acabou por gelar.

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The Seduction of George W. Bush

How the president of good and evil bromanced Vladimir Putin. And how a warm friendship turned to ice.

BY PETER BAKER

In the summer of 2006, President George W. Bush was relaxing at Camp David with the visiting prime minister of Denmark when the conversation turned to Vladimir Putin. It had been five years since Bush memorably peered into the Russian leader’s soul. But now hope had been replaced by exasperation.

Bush regaled his guest with stories of aggravating private dealings with Putin that underscored their growing rift. Bush was astonished that Putin had tried to influence him by offering to hire a close friend of the president’s and he found Putin’s understanding of the world disconnected from reality. “He’s not well informed,” Bush groused. “It’s like arguing with an eighth grader with his facts wrong.”

Putin was on his mind because Russia was about to host the annual summit of the G-8 powers for the first time and Bush feared that the session would be dominated by questions about why an undemocratic nation was hosting a gathering of democratic nations. Bush had been trying to get Putin to relax his authoritarian rule to no avail. “I think Putin is not a democrat anymore,” Bush lamented a few weeks later to another visitor, the prime minister of Slovenia. “He’s a tsar. I think we’ve lost him.”

Whether Bush or anyone else ever actually “had” Putin in the first place is debatable at best. But the story of Bush’s eight-year pas de deux with the master of the Kremlin, reconstructed through interviews with key players and secret notes and memos, offers lessons for President Obama as he struggles to define his own approach to Putin and shape the future of the two nuclear powers. The last few months have become another dramatic juncture in the volatile Russian-American relationship, with Moscow defying Washington by offering shelter to national security leaker Edward Snowden, Obama becoming the first president to cancel a Russian-American meeting in more than 50 years and then, suddenly, improbably, the Kremlin throwing the American leader a lifeline when his confrontation with Syria took a wrong turn.

Looked at in the context of time, Obama’s own dashed aspirations to build a new partnership with Moscow seem to echo his predecessor’s experience. Bush thought he could forge more meaningful ties with Russia in his early years, particularly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and for a time seemed to make significant headway with a nuclear arms treaty and cooperation on Afghanistan, only to become frustrated as the two countries diverged, eventually coming into overt diplomatic conflict during the Georgia war of 2008. Obama likewise came into office intent on pushing the “reset” button and similarly saw early progress with a nuclear arms treaty and cooperation on Afghanistan, only to find his efforts increasingly thwarted by the same Putinist revanchism. Whether the recent Russian-American collaboration to disarm Syria’s chemical stocks will turn out to be a more enduring foundation for change remains to be seen.

If Obama were to look back at his predecessor’s experience, though, he might recognize how easy it is to misjudge Moscow’s intentions by superimposing American ideas of what Russian interests should be rather than understanding how Putin and his circle of KGB veterans and zero-sum-gamers actually see those interests. Again and again, Bush and Obama have assessed Russia through an American prism and come away disappointed that the view from the Kremlin looks different than they thought it ought to.

* * *

Bush came to office wary of Putin — “one cold dude,” he called him privately — but he was interested in forging a working relationship if only because at the time he saw the real threat to the United States elsewhere. When he met with Russia scholars before his first encounter with Putin in 2001, Michael McFaul, then a Stanford University professor and later Obama’s ambassador to Moscow, told him that keeping Russia “inside our tent” was the best course.

Bush agreed. “You’re absolutely right,” he said, “because someday we’re all going to be dealing with the Chinese.”

So when he sat down with Putin in a 16th-century castle in Slovenia in June of that year, he was predisposed to find a partner in the former KGB man even before his counterpart told him about saving his Orthodox cross from a dacha fire, a story appealing to Bush’s faith. Bush’s later public comment noting that he had gotten a “sense of his soul” disturbed many inside his own team. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice stiffened even as he said it, worried that the answer might be too effusive — but she said nothing. Back in Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney and his staff were even more bothered. “A lot of us were kind of rolling our eyes about that,” Eric Edelman, then the vice president’s deputy national security adviser, recalled later. Every time Cheney saw Putin, he privately told people, “I think KGB, KGB, KGB.”

Bush nonetheless stepped up his courtship, inviting Putin to his ranch outside Crawford, Texas, and later to Camp David. Putin liked to brag that he was the first foreign leader to reach out to Bush after the World Trade Towers fell and that he had overruled his own hardliners to allow American troops into former Soviet-controlled Central Asia as a jumping off point for Afghanistan.

Even when Bush abrogated the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty over Russian objections, the two tamped down the dispute and agreed on significant reductions in their respective nuclear arsenals. Cheney resisted codifying those cuts in a treaty, but Bush decided to sign one anyway, because Putin insisted. “Putin is at huge risk,” Bush told aides, “and he needs to fight off his troglodytes.”

Then as later, Bush would attribute Putin’s demands or paranoia to those around him, essentially exonerating the Russian president himself. During a trade dispute when Russia cut off imports of American chicken drumsticks (known colloquially within Russia as “Bush legs”), Putin in a private conversation with Bush asserted that Americans deliberately sent bad poultry to Russia.

“I know you have separate plants for chickens for America and chickens for Russia,” Putin told Bush.

Bush was astonished. “Vladimir, you’re wrong.”

“My people have told me this is true,” Putin insisted.

If Bush was willing to blame that misinformation on Putin’s advisers, he could hardly have missed the fact that it was the Russian president who fought him publicly and powerfully on the Iraq War, joining his counterparts in Paris and Berlin. Even then, Bush was forbearing, intent on preventing a broader rupture in the relationship. Rice at the time privately summed up the policy this way: “Punish France, ignore Germany and forgive Russia.”

O artigo completo está aqui.

Vladimir Putin, o homem providencial que protege os russos do caos

O lema dos partidos da oposição nas últimas eleições presidenciais russas era “Russia sem Putin”. Pouco antes do sufrágio, os apoiantes do então candidato Vladimir Putin lançaram um vídeo de 4m30s em que imaginavam o que seria o país se esse slogan se tornasse realidade.

O filme foi divulgado no You Tube e acabou por chegar a um canal de televisão pró-Kremlin. Agora, pela primeira vez, foi traduzido para inglês. Como se esperava, Putin é apresentado com o salvador sem o qual o país mergulharia no caos. Mas não seria apenas isso. Começava com inflação, desemprego, crime generalizado, manifestações, violência policial e eclosão de nacionalismos. Terminava com a desagregação do país, submissão ao ocidente, ocupação estrangeira, fome, guerra civil e catástrofe humanitária. Querem um exemplo de propaganda totalitária dos tempos modernos? Está aqui: 

A história desconhecida de Sochi, o local dos Jogos Olímpicos de Inverno

À medida que se aproximam os Jogos Olímpicos de Inverno de 2014, em Sochi, na Rússia, o governo de Moscovo está a promover a região como a “Riviera Russa”. Um local de uma beleza natural rara, com alguns dos melhores resorts de sky do mundo. No entanto, os descendentes dos antigos habitantes de Sochi recordam como no final do século XIX um milhão e meio de pessoas foram assassinadas e outro milhão foi obrigado a abandonar as suas casas. Algo a que inúmeros activístas, que estão a tentar chamar a atenção para esta história esquecida, chamam genocídio. Para isso organizaram um concurso para o desenho de um símbolo que reflicta a história de Sochi. Winter of discontent é a sua história, contada pela Al Jazeera.

Rússia constrói estações nucleares flutuantes

Numa altura em que o mundo discute os riscos da energia nuclear, na sequência do desastre de Fukushima, no Japão, a Rússia está a fazer uma nova aposta: a criação de centrais nucleares flutuantes.

De acordo com a RT, a primeira estação estará pronta em três anos e terá capacidade para fornecer energia a áreas com acessibilidade reduzida e água potável a zonas áridas. Foi desenhada com base nos reactores nucleares que equipam os navios quebra-gelo e é relativamente imune aos desastres naturais. A notícia original está aqui.

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Os sistemas de vigilância que vieram do frio

Com toda a atenção mediática centrada no programa PRISM, que permite às autoridades norte-americanas controlar em tempo real as comunicações electrónicas mundiais, é importante não esquecer que há muitas outras formas de vigilância a ser usadas no hemisfério ocidental com origem em países de tradições menos democráticas. Como a Rússia, por exemplo.

Preocupadas com os acontecimentos da chamada Primavera Árabe, as autoridades russas adquiriram uma série de tecnologias destinadas a controlar as actividades dos seus cidadãos que estão também a ser usadas nos Estados Unidos. Elas incluem um sistema de reconhecimento de voz, um programa de identificação facial, sistemas de intercepção na internet feitos especificamente para ciber-cafés, hotéis e outros locais públicos, escutas telefónicas ilegais e localização de autocarros. Está tudo explicado neste artigo da Wired.

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Um espião anda com duas perucas e um compasso?

A detenção do diplomata norte-americano Ryan C. Fogle, na Rússia, por suspeitas de espionagem, parece ter mais do que aquilo que aparenta. Alegadamente, o terceiro secretário da embaixada dos Estados Unidos em Moscovo foi preso quando tentava recrutar um cidadão russo não identificado. No momento da captura teria com ele uma carta com instruções para aliciar novos agentes, duas perucas, três pares de óculos, um mapa de Moscovo e um compasso. A prisão foi depois documentada com uma série de fotografias que mostravam o momento da detenção. No entanto, nos Estados Unidos, as provas apresentadas para classificar Fogle de espião, estão a ser vistas como algo próprio de um filme de espionagem da década de 1960 do que da actualidade. Eis os motivos, apontados pelo The Washington Post: 

(1) Fogle’s “letter” suspiciously ham-fisted. The typed, one-page note, allegedly found on Fogle when he was arrested, appears to be addressed to a the Russian official he was trying to recruit. It lays out, in great detail and almost childlike prose that has been compared to the e-mail spam you might get from a “Nigerian prince,” the CIA’s offer: Share your “expertise” and we’ll pay you $1 million per year. The plan comes across as a bit rudimentary for the world’s premier spy agency – it explains how to set up a Gmail account – and the instructions include nothing about what information or “expertise” the source is meant to supply. Most suspicious is the risk inherent in typing up such self-incriminating information in an otherwise bland letter, when this could have been easily communicated over the phone or in person.

(2) “Spy kit” looks like cheap costume shop regalia. Fogle’s alleged supplies when he was arrested, photos of which were disseminated on Russian media, include some cartoonish details: a map of Moscow (he doesn’t have a smartphone?), two wigs, three pairs of glasses, bags of Euros, a knife, a flashlight and – this is my favorite part – a compass. “Who uses a compass these days?” Mark Galeotti, a New York University professor who studies Russian security affairs, asked The Washington Post. “This would be a phenomenal breach of tradecraft. This isn’t what they teach you at the CIA.”

(3) CIA letter offers implausibly high pay-outs. According to the letter that Russian state security say they found on Fogle, the CIA was offering $100,000 up front and $1 million per year plus bonuses “if we receive some helpful information.” That implies that the CIA was offering a Russian official a staggering $1 million annually even if he or she doesn’t provide “helpful information” – something that would seem not just unusual but wildly inconsistent with past such pay-outs. In an incident from 2001, for example, a U.S. official offered a Russian source $400 for information on a naval minefield. Why would the agency offer so much more in this case, and without even the promise of any specific information?

(4) Russian media broadcast detailed video and photo awfully quickly. Just a few hours after Fogle’s arrest, the Moscow-financed network RT was already displaying a seemingly damning series of photos apparently documenting his guilt, not to mention a video showing the actual arrest. It’s not clear whether the footage was taken by Russian state security and then handed off the RT, or if, imagine the luck, RT reporters just happened to be on the scene when it happened. Either way, it certainly gives the appearance of close cooperation between Russian security services and the media.

(5) News broke at the exact moment the U.S. ambassador to Russia began a public Q&A session. Ambassador Michael McFaul, who has been something of a thorn in Moscow’s side, began a previously publicized Twitter question-and-answer session at 2:30 p.m. Moscow time. The story about Fogle also broke at 2:30 p.m., local time. Quite a coincidence. As Radio Free Europe notes in reporting the unusual timing, McFaul’s “tenure has been plagued by near-constant harassment by Russian officials and the media, which have portrayed him as misrepresenting Kremlin policy on Iran and North Korea and, more grievously, promoting a ‘revolution’ mentality among the Russian opposition.”

To be clear, none of this definitively proves anything about Fogle or Russian state security’s claim that he was an undercover CIA official seeking to pay a Russian source for information. But taken together, it helps explain why many Russia- and CIA-watchers seem skeptical about the case. As Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehlnoted on Twitter, “Busting an alleged spy is standard in Russia-U.S. relations. Turning it into a media event is a classic Cold War tactic.”

É também importante recordar que estas coisas acontecem regularmente. Há três anos, foram os Estados Unidos a desmontar uma alegada rede de espionagem russa em solo americano. Uma das agentes, Anna Chapman, tornou-se uma estrela na Rússia.

A man named as Ryan Fogle by the Russian Federal Security Service, lies on the ground during his detention in this undated handout photo released by the Press service of Russian Federal Security Service

As quatro ilhas que mantém Japão e Rússia em guerra

A disputa sobre quatro pequenas ilhas impediu a Rússia e o Japão de assinar um tratado de paz que, formalmente, ponha fim à II Guerra Mundial. Sim, é verdade. Oficialmente as duas nações ainda estão em guerra passados 68 anos do fim do conflito. Agora, durante a visita do primeiro-ministro japonês, Shinzo Abe, a Moscovo, os interesses económicos (com o líder japonês vai uma delegação de mais de 120 empresários) podem fazer os dois Estados chegar a um acordo. A Al Jazeera dedicou uma edição do programa Inside Story à visita de Estado. Como era bom ter televisão assim em Portugal: discussão com substância, directa e que não serve para substituir um potente soporífero.

É assim que os assuntos são tratados na Rússia: com cimento

The body of a missing city legislator and construction tycoon was found in a private basement garage on the city’s outskirts, inside a rusted metal barrel filled with concrete, the police said Monday.

Russian television showed investigators removing the body of the man, Mikhail Pakhomov, 36, on Sunday evening from the garage, 20 miles east of Moscow, where, the police said, he had been tortured and killed over an outstanding $80 million loan.

The killing recalled the brutal violence that routinely emerged from business disputes in the 1990s. Mr. Pakhomov, who was reported missing last Tuesday, was a promising young star in United Russia, the ruling party founded by President Vladimir V. Putin, and had served as head of a construction company that was reported to have won large contracts to develop utilities and infrastructure in several cities.

Sergei B. Ivanov, Mr. Putin’s chief of staff, last year called housing and utilities services one of Russia’s most corrupt sectors. Many lucrative contracts are doled out on the municipal level, and large sums of money are at stake.

Politicians who have tried to battle graft in the system have met with violence. In 2011, Yevgeny Dushko, the mayor of Sergiyev Posad, was gunned down in his driveway in a contract killing that investigators said was most likely linked to his disputes with the city’s utility contractors.

The police have identified the likely mastermind of Mr. Pakhomov’s killing as Yevgeny Kharitonov, a former deputy minister for housing and utilities services in the Moscow region. They said Mr. Kharitonov had Mr. Pakhomov followed since November and was pressing the legislator to repay a debt of $80 million. Mr. Kharitonov has been arrested, but so far, he had been charged only with kidnapping. Seven other people were also arrested.

Mr. Pakhomov was reported missing from Lipetsk, an industrial city 270 miles southeast of Moscow, where he served as a regional lawmaker. Witnesses said three men had dragged him from his car, and the police said they had found traces of blood at the scene.

The search continued for almost a week, until people questioned by the police led investigators to the body.

“A similar event has never happened with a V.I.P. in our city,” read an editorial by Gorod48, a news Web site in Lipetsk. “Even in the ‘evil ’90s’ nobody disappeared: businessmen were killed right where they lived or worked, and bandits from competing groups shot or blew each other up wherever they happened to be.”

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