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Thursday, 10 August, 2000, 16:01 GMT 17:01 UK
Russian biathlete held in poison plot
Aman Tuleyev
Aman Tuleyev campaigning for the presidency
Reports from Russia say that a former biathlon world champion, Alexander Tikhonov, has been arrested in connection with an alleged plot to kill the governor of a region in western Siberia.

When I took over the region three years ago, it was in the hands of criminal mobs

Aman Tuleyev
Mr Tikhonov was detained in Moscow on Tuesday, after security forces claimed to have foiled the plot against the governor of Kemerovo, Aman Tuleyev.

Mr Tuleyev, who came fourth in Russia's presidential election in March, said he believed the plot was linked to attempts to control the aluminium industry in the Kemerovo region.

Russian news reports suggested that hired assassins had been promised $700,000 to carry out the hit.

Sports community disturbed

Mr Tikhonov, who won four Olympic and 10 world titles in the winter skiing and shooting event in the 1970s and 80s, became the head of an agroindustrial firm after retiring in 1984.

Last year he ran for election to the governorship of the Moscow region, but lost in the first round.

He is head of Russia's Biathletes Union, and earlier this year was voted athlete of the 20th Century by the International Biathlon Federation.

The chairman of the Russian State Committee on Sports, Pavel Rozhkov, said Mr Tikhonov's detention had "disturbed the sports community".

He added that he was writing to law-enforcement authorities asking them to improve Mr Tikhonov's conditions of detention.

Lucrative industry

The aluminium industry is one of the most lucrative in Russia, and is reputed to be infiltrated by organised crime.

Aman Tuleyev
Aman Tuleyev: Launched aluminium shake-up
Mr Tuleyev told Russian television that the Kemerovo region was in the hands of criminal mobs when he took over as governor three years ago.

"Professional criminals sat on the boards of directors at numerous companies," he said.

Mr Tuleyev once sent police into the steel mill of the Kuznetsk Metallurgical Combine in order to oust a top manager.

This combine, and the Novokuznetsk Aluminium Plant had been owned by the Mikom conglomerate until Mr Tuleyev's administration declared them bankrupt earlier this year.

Industrialist missing

Representatives from the powerful Siberian Aluminium conglomerate were appointed to take over.

The director of Mikom, Mikhail Zhvilo, was reported missing earlier this week.

After learning of the alleged assassination plot, police asked Mr Tuleyev to enter hospital so that they could announce that he was dying, in the hope of catching the instigators of the crime as they paid the assassins.

But Mr Tuleyev rejected the plan.

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