MOSCOW — Unidentified attackers gunned down a Russian lawmaker while he was walking his dog in a park Wednesday, the eighth member of parliament to be killed since 1994.
The killing of Vladimir Golovlyov, 54, as he was walking his Asian-Turkmen wolfhound had the earmarks of a professional hit and followed what may have been a thwarted assassination attempt against him only a few months ago, police and associates said.
But fellow politicians were unsure whether Golovlyov was more likely killed because of an allegedly corrupt past or because of his role leading the small Liberal Russia faction in the lower house of parliament. The group is loyal to self-exiled tycoon Boris A. Berezovsky, one of President Vladimir V. Putin's chief political enemies.
Golovlyov's body was found near his home in woods where he often took walks. He had been shot once in the body and once in the head, a wound that police said looked like an "insurance" shot.
His 75-year-old mother, Moza, who lived with her son, said he had left their apartment at 7:50 a.m. Within 15 minutes, a neighbor was at her door telling her that something terrible had happened.
"I dropped everything and hurried to the park where he usually walked the dog. Volodya was lying on the grass, already dead," she said, weeping softly. "The police had already arrived, but they let me approach Volodya's body."
Moscow Prosecutor Mikhail Avdyukov told the Interfax news agency that unknown attackers had carried out the killing in the city's Mitino district. Golovlyov had two bodyguards nearby "who said that they didn't see anything," Avdyukov was quoted as saying. An automatic pistol cartridge case, but no weapon, was found at the scene.
Within hours, investigators for the state prosecutor's office went through the office of Golovlyov's faction looking for documents that might shed light on the case, according to Yelena Sokolova, a spokeswoman for the political group.
"The murder of a lawmaker is, in any case and circumstance, a political matter," said Boris Y. Nemtsov, leader of the Union of Right Forces, who urged prosecutors to conduct a full investigation.
Golovlyov was elected to the lower house, or State Duma, in 1993 and served for a time as its budget committee chairman. He quit Nemtsov's party this year to co-found Liberal Russia, which is highly critical of Putin, accusing the president of autocratic government.
The slaying "is without a doubt politically motivated," said Sergei Yushenkov, a co-chairman of Liberal Russia.
Yushenkov said that Golovlyov had spoken recently of being followed and that two or three months ago he turned his dog on two men who he believed were about to attack him.
"The death is a huge loss for all liberal political forces in Russia and ultimately the Russian people," Yushenkov said. "We have lost a person who understood very well what was happening in the country and who had the guts and determination to fight for what he thought was right."
Under a Legal Cloud
But Golovlyov had been under a legal cloud because of allegations that he had misappropriated $10 million in the early 1990s from social service and regional investment funds of Chelyabinsk, an industrial center in the Ural Mountains. The slain lawmaker had said the charges, issued last year by the Chelyabinsk regional prosecutor, were false and a political reprisal for his support of Berezovsky.
Nevertheless, the State Duma voted in November to lift his parliamentary immunity, a move that allowed the investigation to continue while still blocking his arrest. Meanwhile, Golovlyov was barred from leaving Russia.
Some State Duma colleagues speculated that the killing may have been to keep Golovlyov from implicating at any trial individuals who may have enriched themselves illegally in the Chelyabinsk industrial privatization of the 1990s. In any case, the slaying seemed likely to reinforce the image of rampant gangland violence in Russia.
Since 1994, seven other members of the State Duma have died violently, among them liberal St. Petersburg politician Galina V. Starovoitova, whose 1998 shooting death remains unsolved. Aside from State Duma members, municipal officials and business executives frequently have been targeted.
Moza Golovlyov, in a telephone interview Wednesday night, described her son as a "truly great person." She said she had no idea who or what was behind the killing, but she doubted that the Chelyabinsk matters dating back almost a decade would have been the cause.
"What is there to be said about a country where even the people's deputies are not safe? ... What kind of a country is it where a Duma deputy steps out of his apartment to walk his dog and in 10 minutes he is already dead?" she asked.
"Assassinations of politicians give the country a very bad name, proving that lawlessness and criminal outrage are not just empty words in Russia," she went on. "Regrettably, they have become the reality in our daily life."
Alexei V. Kuznetsov of The Times' Moscow Bureau contributed to this report.