At 7:05 a.m., Mayor Yevgeny Dushko, 35, four months into his term and astonished by the graft he had found at City Hall, walked briskly out of the house where he lived with his wife and parents halfway down Soviet Street. Always in a hurry, he was determined to get at the rot, had said as much on local television and thought he could mobilize the city’s residents behind him.
As he slid behind the wheel of his Volvo S60 sedan, a man emerged from the cellar of the house being built across the street. He walked up to the driver’s side of the car and shot Dushko six times, in the head, the heart and the liver. Then he walked away.
That was Aug. 22, 2011. Since then the police have found no suspects, nor have they in fact shown much interest in conducting an investigation. No reforms have tackled graft in Sergiev Posad. The old ways continue, part of the scourge of corruption that has left cities and towns across Russia too broke to provide basic services.
After half a year of protests in Moscow against corruption at the country’s highest levels, the local burdens of graft and kickbacks still go unremarked and unaddressed. The plight of Sergiev Posad, just 40 miles northeast of Moscow, and the likelihood that nothing will be done about it, could serve as a rallying point for those in the opposition who are critical of the system constructed by Vladimir Putin, now entering his third term as Russia’s president. But it has attracted little attention in the capital.
Anatoly Dushko, the mayor’s father, an athletic 69-year-old weightlifting coach, had gone to church that day, as he did regularly, to light a candle, in hopes that it might somehow protect him and his family. It had taken longer than usual; some women ahead of him had been annoyingly slow.
Now, 15 minutes after the shooting, he pulled up at the house. Here was his wife, Nina, screaming over their son, in a frenzy and unable to call anyone — police, ambulance or husband. Anatoly dragged Yevgeny out of his car and got him into his sport-utility vehicle. He raced to the hospital, but the doctors took one look at the mayor and told Anatoly there was no rush: Yevgeny Dushko had been dead from the moment he was shot. It was a professional hit.
“There was a criminal system here,” Anatoly Dushko said. “He tried to change it. But the system won.”
Dushko’s successor as mayor has found himself at war with the heads of the city departments, who refuse to recognize the administrator he appointed and have been taking orders from another man, who styles himself “acting head” of administration — and is so identified on the city Web site.
Home to 100,000 people, Sergiev Posad is the seat of the Russian Orthodox patriarch and boasts a sprawling, exquisitely restored cathedral complex that attracts pilgrims from across the country. But the church remains aloof, and the city remains in the hands of Dushko’s enemies.