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Monday, November 23, 1998 Published at 12:08 GMT

World: Europe

Murdered MP's aide regains consciousness

Remembering the reformer

A potentially key witness to the assassination of Russian reformer Galina Starovoitova has regained consciousness in hospital.

Paul Anderson: "Uncompromising stand made Galina Starovoitova many enemies"
Ruslan Linkov was shot in the head during the attack in which Mrs Starovoitova was murdered.

But doctors treating Mr Linkov say his condition remains serious and it may be some time before he can be questioned.

Mrs Starovoitova, a key reformist in the Russian Duma, was also a former adviser to President Boris Yeltsin.

He has said he will be supervising the investigation.

[ image: Mrs Starovoitova: Gunned down]
Mrs Starovoitova: Gunned down
The president and rival political leaders united to condemn her murder. Mr Yeltsin said her death was a challenge to all society.

Mrs Starovoitova was shot by two men at point-blank range at the entrance to her St Petersburg apartment block on Friday.

Many Russians are turning the murder scene into a makeshift shrine, placing wreaths at the entrance to the block.

In a telegram to Mrs Starovoitova's family, Mr Yeltsin called her "one of the most vivid figures in Russian politics" who "consistently upheld the lofty ideals of freedom and democracy".

September 1998: Mrs Starovoitova expresses her support for President Yeltsin
Mr Yeltsin has ordered Russian Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, Federal Security Service (FSB) Head Vladimir Putin and Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov to investigate the murder.

On arrival at St Petersburg's airport Mr Stepashin said: "I brought with me a team of experienced investigators. I think we will clear it up soon."

He added that that finding her killers is a matter of personal honour for him.

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov said he was "angered by the news" of Mrs Starovoitova's murder, adding: "This banditry must be done away with immediately."

The Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, called for emergency measures to fight crime in Russia.

Mrs Starovoitova, 52, was an outspoken defender of human rights and a former advisor to President Yeltsin on ethnic minorities.

The BBC Moscow Correspondent, Robert Parsons, says contract killings of prominent figures have become commonplace in Russia but Mrs Starovoitova was widely respected, and there will be popular outrage at the killing.

Police have not speculated on the cause of her murder but amongst possible motives investigators will have to ask whether anti-Semitism and ethnic intolerance - important issues for Mrs Starovoitova - could be linked to her killing

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