A Russian “mafia” group has attacked the official tour operator for this week’s kaZantip music festival in a bid to extort money, the operator’s representative has claimed, as rumours swirl about the involvement of prominent members of Sihanoukville’s Russian business community.
Armed with guns and what witnesses described as a samurai sword, a group of men launched an assault on Lotus Tours at their headquarters at the Queenco Hotel in Sihanoukville on Friday, February 13.
According to Emergency Legal Consulting Agency (ELCA) – which is representing Lotus – the attackers “started shooting and stabbing indiscriminately” injuring three tourists, one seriously, after their attempt of extorting cash from the company was rebuffed by staff.
“The criminals armed with machetes and guns introduced themselves as the mafia protector roof of the entire Russian business in Sihanoukville,” the statement says. “The attackers knew from their sources that Lotus Tours is associated with KaZantip music festival.”
ELCA – which also serves Sergei Polonsky – maintained the attack was led by a man who claimed affiliation with Snake House Security, a company run by Polonsky’s rival Nikolai Doroshenko.
However, Nikolai’s son Ostap Doroshenko, a captain in the Sihanoukville police department, flatly rejected the accusation.
“I know for sure my family was not involved in this,” said Ostap Doroshenko, who is currently in Thailand.
He said the man identified by ELCA as the main suspect had never worked for Snake House.
“I only know him to say ‘hello’,” he said.
According to deputy provincial prosecutor Huoth Vichet, four foreigners and “a few” Cambodians have been summoned for questioning over the incident, which left 20-year-old Mihai Bulgar with a stab wound in his stomach.
Vichet said a search of the villa where the group of summonsed foreigners were staying – and are now being kept under guard – uncovered gas-powered pellet guns and plastic pellets but no live ammunition.
Suth Kim Seng, deputy chief of Commune 3, said five such guns had been found while security camera footage from the venue was being analysed.
He said Bulgar was recovering at a clinic under police guard for his own safety.
According to a Queenco employee who spoke on condition of anonymity, the incident happened about 8:30pm near the venue’s beachside bar between “two groups of Russians”.
“[The victims] had been in the bar for 10 minutes,” he said. “The other group, I don’t know how many, came in with a sword. People ran away because they had a gun.”
The employee said his colleagues heard a few gunshots while the assault, which he didn’t see, lasted about five minutes before the attackers fled and police arrived.
The annual kaZantip festival is relocating to Sihanoukville this year due to security concerns in its long-time location, Ukraine.
ELCA representative Ilya Rosenfeld – who also works as Polonsky’s spokesperson – said Polonsky has “no connection” with kaZantip, even though ELCA represents Polonsky as well.
The long-running dispute between Doroshenko and Polonsky, who were former business partners, revolves around Polonsky’s claims that Doroshenko “stole” property he claims ownership of in Cambodia.
KaZantip organisers did not respond to questions as of press time.