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Last Updated: Monday, 25 September 2006, 16:13 GMT 17:13 UK
Russian bodyguards make their mark
By James Rodgers
BBC News, Moscow

Training at the shooting range in southern Moscow
Most of Russia's bodyguards are ex-servicemen in their late 20s
"In this target, all the bullets are in the head. So the result is quite good. Let's look at the next one," says Dmitri Fonaryev.

The men he is training wait anxiously for his verdict. Their livelihoods, and more importantly, their lives, could depend on how well they do.

At 48, with his ponytail and faded jeans, Dmitri looks a bit like the ageing rocker he apparently dreams of being.

When we chat again later - the shots from the range now dull thuds from along the corridor - he says that he is looking forward to bringing out his second CD.

For now, music is just a hobby. Dmitri did not start his professional life as an up-and-coming pop star.

'Gorbachev's bodyguard'

He was in the KGB. His job was to make sure that no harm came to the leaders of the Soviet Union, and their guests.

Dmitry Fonaryev
Your skills must be perfect, otherwise you will be dead
Dmitri Fonaryev
Head of National Bodyguard Association of Russia

He was part of Mikhail Gorbachev's personal protection. Dmitri told me he also guarded Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan when they visited Moscow.

The shooting range is in an office block in southern Moscow. From the outside, you would never guess it was there.

"Oh no, this is not good precise shooting," Dmitri sighs as he looks at another target, "because we see a lot of holes, but in different directions".

I am not sure how much English the shooter understands, but his sheepish look suggests that the appearance of his target speaks for itself.

Lucrative business

There are three men being trained today. Two of them work for a diamond company in Siberia. The third guards a businessman in Ukraine.

Training at the shooting range
In Moscow a skilled bodyguard earns twice the average salary

Dmitri says most of the members of the National Bodyguard Association of Russia, which he heads, are former servicemen. They take up their new jobs when they are in their late 20s.

In Moscow, a properly trained professional can expect to earn $1,500 (792) a month. That is about twice the average salary, but well within the budget of Moscow's millionaires.

Life at the top of Russian business can be dangerous. Contract killings are a fact of life. Although there are fewer of them than there were in the chaotic 1990s, they still happen.

"The situation with our famous banker, Andrei Kozlov, he was not guarded at all," Dmitry mentions, as he discusses the need in Russia for people with his skills.

High demand

We were speaking just a week after the death of Mr Kozlov.

The 41-year-old deputy head of the Russian central bank was gunned down as he left a sports centre in eastern Moscow. His driver was killed on the spot. Mr Kozlov died later in hospital.

Andrei Kozlov (pic: NTV)
Andrei Kozlov was in charge of licensing commercial banks

It seems almost certain that his campaign to drive money launderers out of Russian banking cost him his life. Investigators believe he would have made powerful enemies who ordered his killing.

Mr Kozlov had apparently decided he did not want a bodyguard.

Many Russian business people take a different view. Well-built men lounge in bullet-proof cars outside Moscow's most expensive shops and restaurants - waiting to get their employers home, safely.

Dmitri gives more instructions. He drops to his knee, takes cover behind an imaginary car, and then acts out returning fire.

He finishes his demonstration, then concludes: "Your skills must be perfect, otherwise you will be dead."


SEE ALSO
Obituary: Andrei Kozlov
14 Sep 06 |  Europe
Russian MP's death sparks storm
18 Apr 03 |  Europe
Country profile: Russia
05 Sep 06 |  Country profiles

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