A former top Russian intelligence official and his wife shot down

Police investigating multiple theories in death of former top Russian intelligence official and his wife

Police were investigating multiple theories Monday in the assassination of a former top Russian intelligence official and his wife, who were gunned down by unknown assailants in Moscow.

Col. Gen. Anatoly Trofimov, a 65-year-old former deputy chief of the Federal Security Service under President Boris Yeltsin, was shot in his sports utility vehicle around 7:30 p.m. (1530 GMT) Sunday evening on a street in the northern part of the Russian capital. He died on the scene.

His 28-year-old wife died Monday morning, after being hospitalized in critical condition, the ITAR-Tass and Interfax news agencies reported. Their daughter, who was also in the car, was reportedly unharmed. There were conflicting reports as to her age.

The car was fired on by assailants, armed with automatic weapons, from a small car, news reports said. NTV cited witnesses to the shooting as seeing a masked man in a leather jacket and black hair run up to Trofimov and fire several times before fleeing.

State-run Rossiya television, citing unnamed regional law enforcement officials, said the attack was a contract killing related to Trofimov's business dealings. However, Col. Alexander Litvinenko, a former top official in the Federal Security Service, or FSB, said on Ekho Moskvyi radio that the killing was political.

"I don't believe that ... Trofinov was killed for commercial activities," Litvinenko said according to a transcript posted on Ekho Moskvyi's Web site. "In today's Russia not one businessman under any circumstances would raise their hand against a general of the FSB."

Trofinov "was against the war in Chechnya, although he never, of course, spoke openly on this question. He was also against naming Putin to the post of FSB head," Litvinenko said.

Before becoming Russian president, Vladimir Putin was the top official for the entire Federal Security Service.

City police referred all calls to prosecutors Monday morning and Sergei Marchenko, a spokesman for the federal Prosecutor General's office, said the investigation was continuing. The FSB refused comment.

Trofimov, who also served as head of the FSB's Moscow branch, was fired by Yeltsin in 1997 following an examination by federal accountants for "gross violations and flaws in his work."

The Federal Security Service is the main successor agency to the KGB.

Top business and political leaders are routinely attacked in Russia, often as a part of shady business deals. Last month, Anatoly Chubais, the head of the state-controlled Unified Energy Systems power grid, was ambushed by assailants who detonated a bomb and raked his armored car with automatic weapons fire as he was being driven to work just outside Moscow. He escaped unhurt.

MIKE ECKEL, Associated Press Writer

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Author`s name: Editorial Team