23/03/2012 14:13 GMT | Updated 23/03/2012 14:20 GMT

German Gorbuntsov Shooting: Russian Mysteries Are Nothing New In London

It's a cliche to say that the apparent attempted murder of Russian banker German Gorbuntsov, who was gunned down in a hail of automatic fire near Canary Wharf on Tuesday, sounds like something from a Cold War film.

Scotland Yard said it was "too early to speculate" on Russian reports that the attack on Gorbuntsov may be linked to a 2009 investigation into a murder attempt on another Russian banker, Alexander Antonov, in Moscow.

But it's hard to deny that the shooting recalls several other murky real-world crimes against Russians in London that have terrified the public - and captured their imaginations.

Perhaps most famously - and weirdly - of all, in 1978 Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian novelist and playwright, was murdered in London when a pellet of ricin was fired into his leg by an umbrella gun wielded by the Bulgarian secret police.

Markov was walking across the Waterloo bridge when he was attacked, and was said to have felt a sharp sting in his leg before later developing a red mark at the injection point, falling into a fever and dying three days later.

More recently the death of Russian dissident Alexander Litvinenko in 2006 raised dozens of questions about the work of Russian gangs - or even official agents - in London.

Litvinenko died of polonium-210 poisoning in London, apparently after his tea was spiked at a top hotel.

Nobody was ever charged for Litvinenko's death, and no links to the Russian government have ever been proven.

However among the many conspiracy theories used to explain Litvinenko's death, most centre on accusations he made about the Russian secret services staging bombings and terrorist attacks for political aims.

British prosecutors have named fellow ex-KGB agent Andrei Lugovoy as the main suspect.

In 2007 Russian Boris Berezovsky was also said to have been the target of an assassination plot in Britain, according to media reports.

A high-ranking British official reportedly told the BBC in 2008 that an alleged Chechen agent, identified elsewhere as Movladi Atlangeriyev, was linked to the plot.

Atlangeriyev later disappeared in Moscow.

There are more than 30,000 Russian-born people living in the UK, and more than 300,000 people of Russian descent.