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That summer day in 2005 completely changed the life of Pavel Yakshis, an ordinary St Petersburg motorist moonlighting as a deliveryman. He was driving his Gazelle van along Tikhoretsky Prospekt in the northern capital when a concrete mixer in front of him braked unexpectedly.
To avoid a crash, Yakshis swerved to the right and immediately heard a loud, exasperated hooting. He had inadvertently carved up a black Toyota Land Cruiser and Mitsubishi Pajero. The jeeps overtook him and stopped, hemming him in. Two athletic-looking men in garish Hawaiian shirts and with gold chains round their necks emerged from the Land Cruiser and, with a sporty gait, advanced on Yakshis. One came to the door of his Gazelle and tried to haul Yakshis out. Failing to do so, he punched the driver in the face. Yakshis took out a Wasp rubber bullet handgun and warned him, ‘I will fire this.’ That provoked a contemptuous smirk from his assaillant, who punched him again. The driver then fired a rubber bullet, which hit the attacker in the chest. He lifted his shirt, looked at the mark, and hissed through clenched teeth, ‘That’s it. My people are going to bury you.’
Yakshis later wrote in his evidence to the investigation that his attackers looked like ‘gangsters’, but they were not. The motorist had had the misfortune to fall foul of Boris Rotenberg, one of the most influential people in the country, co-owner of the Northern Sea Route Bank, practitioner of judo, and friend of President Vladimir Putin.
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