Sep 17, 2015 ยท 13 minutes

Previously: Part Four

Anna Loginova was killed on Sunday evening, 8:45 at night, on a residential street in southern Moscow.

Even with her pistol and her limited jujitsu and selfdefense skills, she never had a chance. As a veteran crime reporter for Moscow’s leading city newspaper explained to me, “Carjacking is a very serious business in this town, controlled by just two or three extremely ruthless and professional gangs. The one I investigated had 26 members, all specialized, from the carjacker to specialists for changing the serial numbers to distributors. They even use professional race car drivers to spirit the stolen cars out of Moscow and somewhere far away, usually to the Caucasus. They drive the cars only at night and only on small village sidestreets in order to avoid police checkpoints — and they drive them incredibly fast, no less than 120 miles per hour, to cover Russia’s huge distances.” 

The evening Anna was killed, as Tatyana fed Kirill his dinner, she felt something was wrong. Perhaps she was still a bit upset because earlier that afternoon, she’d taken Kirill out to a nearby hill to go skiing with Kirill’s neighborhood friend Nastya, who lives in the same building. The skis were a gift from Anna, after Kirill told his mother how he wanted to ski with Nastya. “We went out to a hill, Kirill was so happy, but when Kirill skied down to me at the bottom, he looked over and saw that Nastya’s father was waiting, and he picked Nastya up in his arms. Kirill turned to me and asked, ‘Grandma, why don’t I have a father?’ Four hours later, he had no mother either.” 

By 9pm, Anna was already lying in the street dead. 

“I said to Kirill, ‘What’s up with your mother, why hasn’t she called yet?’ So I dialed her myself, and her phone was out of coverage. I figured she was in the elevator or something. Five minutes later, ‘The phone is out of coverage.’ Ten minutes, fifteen, thirty minutes, the same. Finally by 10pm, I called my son and said something was wrong. He dismissed it. ‘Nothing’s wrong, mom. Stop worrying.’ I called my son again. ‘Mom look, I’m in a meeting, call me tomorrow.’ I knew something was wrong though — from the moment she left for Moscow, she was always in constant contact. We even had a designated time when she’d call, from 8pm to 10pm we’d talk every night — if she was overseas, then we’d be in contact by SMS messaging. At 10:30 that night, I got a call from the local police here in Vladimir telling me that they found her Porsche Cayenne abandoned, and they asked me if I knew where she was. ‘How would I know?’ I said. ‘She should be there with her car!’ I called my son back again, and he said, ‘Mom, Anna probably hit someone with her car and fled the scene.’ But that made no sense — she would never hit someone and run away.” Investigators who were with Anna’s Porsche Cayenne had already told the Russian media a very different story: They said that from their experience, it looked as though they’d killed the car owner, and abandoned the car because it was now too hot. “And then I got the call,” Tatyana tells me. She pulled out a napkin and began crying. “They called, and told me that she’d died from hitting her head on the curb. I couldn’t turn on the television. I couldn’t bear to see what they’d say. My neighbor told me that at her work the next day, they were saying, ‘Look at what happened: Anna Loginova goes to Moscow, and gets herself killed. My daughter Natasha is much prettier than Anna, and she’s stayed right here with me. And she’s still alive.’” Tatyana agreed to go to Moscow to identify her daughter’s body. “I had to see her for myself, my daughter. I stroked her poor arms, and then I noticed bruises on her wrists. A row of deep indented bruises, where the monster grabbed her and threw her out — he squeezed her little wrists so hard that even then, when she was dead right in front of me, I could see the deep bruises where that monster’s hands had been.” 

And she has questions about Anna’s death that don’t square with the official version: “It doesn’t make sense that the criminal could open her car door — I’ve been in her Cayenne, the doors automatically lock after you close them. How did he get in? And everyone’s saying that it was all her fault for holding on to the door handle — but tell me, who actually saw this? Where is that witness? How do we know that the thief didn’t hold on to her himself? Or that her clothes weren’t caught in the door? She loved life and she loved her Kirill! She was not at all the type who’d put her car over her life! How can they say that, how can they write that about her? And where was everyone else when this happened? It took place on a busy enough street, housing blocks everywhere, early in the night — people had to have seen it, so why didn’t they do anything? Why didn’t they stop it?” 

She was right — it made no sense at all. One psychologist on Russian television theorized that she’d frozen to the door handle in fear; another that her training had made her feel invincible, that she was killed by her own hubris. No one suggested perhaps the most obvious reason why she’d hold on to that car — because it was the only thing she owned. No apartment, no dacha, no investments. But it was more than just her only asset — that Porsche Cayenne was the symbol of Anna’s impossible success. That she could come to Moscow with everything stacked against her, and through her own effort and determination and wits, reach a point where she owned one of the few treasured symbols that mattered most to Russia’s uber-elite at the end of the Putin Era — and in one quick swoop, all of that was being stolen away from her. Given that, what is so unusual about dying for a “hunk of metal,” as one blogger put it? Who wouldn’t instinctively try to cling on for life? Countless people have died for so much less: a flag, a god, a “good story” — and they’ve been made into heroes for it, even though they were just taking someone else’s orders. It’d make more sense to sneer at them for being suckers with no thoughts of their own: “It’s just a god! Just a flag!” Gawker will never run sneery headlines at the thousands of Americans corpses shipped back home, “All for a country!” Yet whether or not Anna really did hold tightly to her Porsche as the thief sped away, or why she would have — that is how she’ll be remembered, “All For A Porsche.” If she’s remembered at all. 

Just a few weeks after Anna’s death, Tatyana’s son, who’d just divorced his wife for a new lover, pounced on Tatyana with an offer that he demanded an answer on: Sell the Porsche Cayenne (new ones in Moscow in 2008 cost about $215,000) — give the money to her son and his new lover, let them invest it in an automobile transport business scheme they’d cooked up, and, he promised his mother, “When Kirill comes of age, he’ll have much more money in his bank than he would otherwise.” But Tatyana balked — she didn’t want to risk the child’s safety net. Whatever money that Porsche Cayenne was worth, Tatyana decided it should go towards Kirill’s education, not to her son and her son’s lover’s crackpot investment schemes. Her son and his lover demanded that Tatyana agree, fought with her, and finally, Tatyana says, “My son called me names, things, that I can never repeat.” 

Tatyana was so shocked by her new daughter-in-law’s cruelty, she called her mother to find out what her problem was. The mother’s answer was simple: “My daughter’s not even a human being.” Six months later, and Tatyana still hadn’t spoken a word with her son or his wife. 

On a Russian news forum that I read while researching this article, I saved a comment posted at four in the morning on January 31, by a girl named “Natalia.” It stood out from the rest as the one rare example of someone commenting on Anna Loginova’s murder without malice or spite: “I couldn’t believe it when I read about this. I was there, I drove past after it happened and saw the scene. There wasn’t even an ambulance there. It must have been not long after she died. It was a horrible scene! I’m so sorry for this girl, I really mean it. It doesn’t matter who she was or what she owned.” 

Natalia saw Loginova’s body lying on the cold icy gutter — on Novomarinskaya Street number 3. Right in front of a state-run shelter for runaway children. It does matter. All of it: Who Anna Loginova was, where she came from, and what she owned, and how she died. That is what is so incredible about this story — even more incredible than the way it was framed for mass consumption, the story of a supermodel-bodyguard killed in a carjacking. 

So who did kill Anna Loginova? The answer, like so many murders in the Putin Era of journalists or politicians, will probably never be known. There’s so little incentive built into the system to solve these types of crimes — a dead person can’t bribe you or threaten you the way a living carjacking gang with all sorts of cops and officials on its payroll can. Better to sit on it and let it slowly suffocate. 

When we last spoke, just as I got kicked out of Russia in the summer of 2008, Tatyana had very little hard information on the investigation into her daughter’s murder. That’s because it’s hard to know who is investigating it, or if it’s even being investigated at all. The last time she had spoken with the Moscow authorities, in March 2008, she was told that the investigation had been moved to another branch, “But I no longer have any faith that they’ll find the killers.” At that time, Tatyana had just called the investigators and was essentially blown off. “They told me, ‘The investigation is continuing.’ That’s it. 

Nothing more. It’s been half a year since my daughter was killed, and no one’s answered for it.” She sighed and added, “I personally feel that they know who did it, but that the carjacking gangs are doing such big business that they’re paying hush money to buy everyone off. There’s too much money being made, so it’s in no one’s interest to find the people who run these gangs. Meanwhile, I am here alone with her son, and no one else. Just her cursed Porsche and her son.” 

Just in the first five months of 2008, at least 24 Porsche Cayennes were stolen in Moscow, including one owned by gold-medal figure skating champion Alexei Yagudin. Porsche Cayennes were more than cars in that last year of the First Putin Era. You weren’t at the top unless you had a Porsche Cayenne. Kremlin officials zoomed around in them, oligarchs were chauffeured in Cayennes… Even Putin’s handpicked president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, rolled around his war-torn province in a convoy of armored Porsche Cayennes. 

In one day alone in July of 2008, two Cayennes were stolen. They were like precious commodities, whose value rose right up to the global financial crash. The Cayenne was more important than the murdered owner; and the refrain was always, “the investigation is continuing.” 

I tried to track down the investigator myself — Moscow’s main police branch pointed me to a district prosecutor named Oleg Pavlov. Repeated calls to the southeast district prosecutor’s office were met with a mixture of slapstick evasions (one prosecutor changed his voice on the phone and tried to tell me that he had been fired and no longer worked there), and finally, a direct fuck you: “We don’t talk to journalists.” This Sergeant Shultz approach to crime-investigations comes as no a surprise in a country where hardly a single high-profile murder case — whether it was Forbes editor Paul Khlebnikov or investigative journalist Anna Politkovskaya, or a senator gunned down on the Arbat or the deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank killed outside of the Spartak Stadium — has been solved. The carjacking gangs that prey on Moscow are powerful, tightly organized, vicious, and have their tentacles deep in the highly-corrupt and woefully underpaid city police structures — with their professional, violent thieves for stealing the cars, mechanics for changing the numbers, professional race car drivers for transporting them down to the Caucasus in the dark of the night along Russia’s pocked village roads, and distributors in the lawless Caucasus regions to sell them there or ship them abroad. 

The Porsche was the only thing Anna had to show for her five-year struggle in Moscow, her covergirl fame — it was all that separated her from the destitute Vladimir life she tried to escape. What they were stealing was her impossible triumph. Beneath the glamour and excess, Putin’s Russia was a brutal and pitiless place, with demons up and down every strata, in every concrete Soviet slum or overpriced Moscow nightclub. Anna Loginova’s struggle was nothing less than heroic, in a world of brutal husbands and fathers and grandfathers, of sniping leggy models and foul snobs, of resentful neighbors and scornful Oksana Robskis. It was impossible for her to rise up to where she did — and not to become one of the vicious demons herself. It’s as if she was killed for doing the impossible, for struggling to rise above the fate that Putin’s Russia intended for her. 

There is a verse in the New Testament that captures Anna Loginova’s cruel fate in Putin’s oligarch-mad Russia. It’s when Jesus declares, “For to everyone who has, more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but from the one who does not have, even what he does have shall be taken away.” (Matthew 25:29)


Editor's Note: This article also appears in NSFWCORP: A Long Fucking Story, an oral history of NSFWCORP including interviews with former writers and previously out of print long-form features.