Bandits of the Black Sea

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High-ranking police officers in the Russian Black Sea resort of Tuapse had a shootout on the city’s central square on 4 November 2012. According to media reports, at around 9pm, the city’s police chief, Mikhail Smirnov, shot at point-blank range at the driver of his deputy, Tigran Azaryan (or Bagdasaryan), using a gas pistol.

Shortly thereafter, the driver, Armen Gevorkyan, sought treatment at a local hospital, where a bullet was removed from his abdomen. Two hours later, Azaryan himself arrived at the hospital, suffering from multiple injuries. He told that local police officers had beaten him up because his driver had turned to the hospital.

It appeared that Smirnov had himself shot at Azaryan’s driver. Azaryan was immediately hospitalised. Federal investigators have begun looking into the incidents, and the police headquarters in Tuapse were searched. The police chief, Smirnov, was suspended from office for the duration of the investigation.

The shootout followed a fight in the village of Agoy on the Black Sea coast, where Smirnov had a house. Traffic police had demanded that one of Azaryan’s relatives remove the window tint on his BMW X6. After the incident, Azaryan and his relative drove to Agoy, but were beaten up by Smirnov and his colleagues.

The two feuding parties then agreed on a “strelka” — a meeting to settle scores — in the centre of Tuapse. Police on the Black Sea coast, the Russian Riviera, thus seem to be fighting against each other using the methods of the people they should be fighting against. Reforming the police will be a daunting task indeed.

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