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'King of Shadows' Poisoned

Published: September 28, 2004 (Issue # 1007)


A prominent St. Petersburg businessman and former bodyguard to President Vladimir Putin, died in suspicious circumstances in the city's Sverdlov Hospital on Friday.

Roman Tsepov, 42, director of elite bodyguard agency Baltic-Escort, was admitted to the hospital a fortnight earlier with symptoms of severe food poisoning, which daily became worse.

Doctors were unable to prevent the poison from affecting bone marrow and producing symptoms of radiation sickness, which ultimately led to Tsepov's death. The businessman was due to be moved to a clinic in Germany for further treatment Saturday, but it was too late.

He was buried Monday in the city's Serafimovskoye cemetery.

What the poison was and how it was administered to Tsepov are unknown and have become the subjects of speculation.

Some media sources reported Tsepov was poisoned by a giant dose of a medical drug typically used to treat leukemia and some other forms of cancer - which the businessman didn't suffer from - while other publications suggest he was intoxicated by an experimental poison, containing huge quantities of heavy metals.

No official statements about he origin of the toxic agent have yet been available from the city prosecutor's office.

Yelena Ordynskaya, spokeswoman for the City Prosecutor's Office, said investigators are trying to identify the poison.

"Forensic experts are carrying out a series of tests to establish the origins of the poison," Ordynskaya said Monday. "The prosecutor's office is investigating the death as a case of premeditated murder, which is Article 105 (part one) of the Criminal Code."

The investigation is also trying to establish when Tsepov was infected with the poison. It has been suggested that the businessman could have ingested the poison in a powder or liquid form while eating a meal. Local Internet newspaper Fontanka.ru reported the investigators already have a full record of Tsepov's movements on Sept. 10 and 11.

Tsepov was born in St. Petersburg in 1962. After graduating from the Supreme Military Commander School of the Russian Interior Ministry, he served with the interior troops.

In the early 1990s, Tsepov launched his first security business. By the mid-1990s he was running a security firm that provided bodyguard services to then mayor Anatoly Sobchak and key members of his administration, including Putin, who was then a deputy to Sobchak.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldn’t miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norway’s largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.