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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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Develop your leadership abilities during a lecture by famous Russian author and coach Radislav Gandapas. The event starts at 9 a.m. at 5 Lodeinopolskaya Ulitsa. The price for entry is 20,500 rubles ($570).


Relax and enjoy a Parisian atmosphere with some romantic and laidback jazz tunes during the Night of French Music at Lenny Jam Cafe, 63 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 250 rubles ($7).


The Women’s Business Club is hosting a Beauty Brunch where participants are invited to discuss the latest news in the beauty industry and listen to lectures by professional stylists in the business.



Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldn’t miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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