Man Is Delared Dead, Thanks to His Ex-WifeJul 15, 2004
The Moscow Times
It never occurred to Oleg Lunkov that he might be dead.
But on April 29, when he walked into a Butyrsky district police station in northern Moscow to pick up his new passport, an officer informed him that he was officially no longer among the living.
He had apparently died on Feb. 6.
Lunkov said by telephone Tuesday that his first thought was about his corpse.
"I thought, 'I hope they didn't bury me on my birthday,'" Lunkov said. "But it turns out they did."
Indeed, a Miusskoye Cemetery employee confirmed Wednesday that Lunkov had been buried in the cemetery on Feb. 12, the day of his 42nd birthday.
After contemplating the officer's revelation, Lunkov said he wasn't particularly rattled.
"I just thought it was kind of funny," he said.
But "deceased" is not exactly an ideal legal status, and Lunkov set out to return to the world of the living.
The passport officer had told him that his death certificate was registered in the Zamoskvoretsky district in southeast Moscow.
At the district's registry and notary offices, Lunkov discovered that his ex-wife, Alla Timofeyeva, from whom he has been divorced since 2001 and whom he rarely sees, had reported him to police as missing after the Feb. 6 metro bombing, saying she feared he could have been killed in the explosion.
The explosion, which took place on a metro train between the Paveletskaya and Avtozavodskaya metro stations, killed at least 40 people and injured more than 100 others.
In a further bizarre twist, Lunkov said Timofeyeva, a lawyer, is registered as legally blind, so she had to have her mother make the identification of his remains.
"I saw the official identification papers," Lunkov said. "My mother-in-law said, 'I recognize some of the clothes, but I can't be positive they are his.'"
Lunkov also found it strange that he might have breathed his last on the metro. He said he makes a living as a gypsy cab driver and hasn't been on the metro for years.
"The last time I rode it I couldn't figure out how to use the little card," he said, referring to the ticket that allows passengers to go through the turnstile.
The next question, of course, is why Timofeyeva would declare him dead.
Lunkov indicated that he was the legal owner of an apartment that his ex-wife might have wanted to sell.
Vremya Novostei, citing a source in the city government's social protection department, said Timofeyeva had received 100,000 rubles ($3,400) in compensation handed out to relatives of those killed in the bombing -- and a separate 10,000 rubles in compensation for "loss of property."
Whether payments had been made could not be independently confirmed, and calls to Timofeyeva went unanswered Wednesday.
A spokeswoman from the City Prosecutor's Office said Wednesday that police were investigating Timofeyeva on suspicion of possible criminal fraud, though she could not confirm whether a criminal case had been opened.
In the meantime, Lunkov is still officially dead.
In fact, the Feb. 10 list of 38 victims from the City Prosecutor's Office can still be found on the Internet, with "Oleg Alfredovich Lunkov, born 1962," at No. 17.
City prosecutors have already had the remains from his grave site exhumed.
"Everything's gone," the cemetery employee said. "The plot is entirely clean."
But only a court can legally resurrect Lunkov, and he said he is not optimistic it will happen anytime soon, especially given his ex-wife's background in the legal profession.
"She is an excellent lawyer," Lunkov said. "She has won several difficult cases."
And Timofeyeva does not appear to be backing down, either. "Without a doubt, I will take this man to court on grounds of fabricating his own death if he is identified as my husband," Vremya Novostei quoted her as saying.
Lunkov was puzzled at this statement. "If I did fake it, what good would it do me?" he said. "She would get everything: a pension, the apartment and the inheritance."
He appeared equally baffled at the logistics of such a scam. "How would I even go about faking my own death?" he said.