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Russia Arrests 23 In Organized Crime Raid




Russian authorities say 23 people have been arrested at a meeting where suspected organized crime figures were discussing strategy following the killing of a reputed leading criminal chief.
The police raid occurred January 26 at the Family Elite Club restaurant in Nikolina Gora, near Moscow.
Those arrested are reported to include two senior crime figures from Russia, and two from Belarus.
The Interior Ministry said the raid was carried out after investigators learned that suspects from Russia and Belarus would be attending the meeting to discuss questions about criminal activities following the January 16 death of Aslan Usoyan, also known as Grandpa Hassan, who was gunned down in Moscow.
It said the suspects were expected to discuss coordinating the activities of criminal groups linked to Tariel Oniani, said to be a rival of Usoyan.






Latvia: Russia's playground for business, politics – and crime


Mystery of missing tycoon shows how Russian influence is growing again in small Baltic nation

The Russian tycoon Leonid Rozhetskin was last seen alive in the pretty seaside town of Jurmala, on the Baltic coast of Latvia. That was five years ago. Detectives found ominous clues inside his villa, including blood on the floor, but no body.
Then last summer police discovered human remains 25 miles away in a forest. Inside a pocket was Rozhetskin's credit card. So far officials have been unable to say for sure that the corpse is that of the missing multi-millionaire.
The presumed murder is a vivid example of how Latvia – a small Baltic nation of 2 million people on the doorstep of Russia – has become a playground for Russian interests: business, political and, above all, criminal. Or often, as in the Rozhetskin case, all three. Like many rich Russians he had numerous enemies. The Guardian has even been told the name of the hitman who allegedly killed him.
Two decades after Latvia declared independence from the Soviet Union, joining the EU and Nato in 2004, Russian influence is growing again.
It is most visible in Jurmala, the picturesque resort of pine forests and wooden dachas from where Rozhetskin is thought to have disappeared. Every summer Russia's fashionable super-rich gather here for the New Wave pop festival. They meet, socialise and party. A table in the VIP lounge of the town's concert hall costs £25,000. It is joked that their combined wealth exceeds Latvia's budget.
The guests are a who's who of Vladimir Putin's Russia – oligarchs, Duma MPs, crooners and spies. Two years ago Roman Abramovich dropped by and went for a walk in the sand dunes. Other summer visitors include Rinat Akhmetov, Ukraine's richest man, and Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman. Also there last year was Vladimir Pronichev, deputy director of Russia's powerful FSB spy agency, and the man responsible for guarding the country's borders.
According to Leonid Jakobson, an investigative journalist based in the capital, Riga, Jurmala also attracts another clientele: the Russian mafia.
Last year a Russian businessman, Nikolai Kirillov, was shot dead while returning from the beach with a 24-year-old female companion. There was a theory he was involved in smuggling. As is often the case, nobody was caught.
In 2010 Vyaschaslav Shestakov, a Russian alleged to be a gangster, moved to Jurmala. He was said to be an emissary of the mobster Aslan Usoyan, also known as Grandpa Hasan, who was gunned down last week while leaving his favourite Moscow restaurant. Last month the Latvian authorities banned Shestakov from the country, and from the rest of the EU.
"Jurmala isn't really a music festival. You don't need to go to Latvia to listen to Russian pop stars. You can do that in Russia," Jakobson said. "In reality Jurmala is an important moment. The Russian mafia and Russian government are together in one place. They discuss common problems, global problems and how to move money through the Baltics."
Some including Jakobson believe the Kremlin's agenda in Latvia is to slowly reverse the country's strategic direction from pro-west to pro-Moscow. This is not as far-fetched as it may seem. Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan and, arguably, Georgia have all recently returned to Russia's geo-political fold following unsuccessful revolutions.
Latvia has the biggest proportion of ethnic Russians of the three post-Soviet Baltic states, accounting for about 25% of Latvia's population. Some 37% speak Russian as a first language, the highest figure for any EU country. The charming capital Riga is effectively bilingual, with Russian and Latvian spoken on its art nouveau streets.
There is also growing evidence the country has become a haven for dubious Russian money.
In a report last week the European commission praised Latvia's post-2008 economic recovery. But it said the authorities had not done enough to stop Latvia's banking system being used for "complex economic, financial, money laundering, and tax evasion crimes".
In recent months wealthy Russians have abandoned Cyprus, which is seeking an EU bailout, and moved their company registrations to Latvia.
Half of all money now invested in Latvia – $10bn – comes from non-resident depositors. Most live in Russia and former Soviet republics such as Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The US state department has expressed concern that this reliance on outside money creates a "systemic money-laundering risk".
"Latvia seems to be the first point of call for money launderers to get their cash into the EU," said Tom Mayne, of the campaign group Global Witness. "Once you get money into the EU there are close relations between EU banks, and you can move it around easily. Latvia is one of the main hubs. It's a point of weakness."
Latvian financial regulators say they have introduced tough measures to clamp down on money-laundering and suspicious transactions. They say Latvia, with its large financial services industry, is not the only European country that does business with Russia. "The EU is still buying gas from Russia. We are part of the west," said Kristaps Zakulis, the head of Latvia's bank regulator, FKTK.
But many see evidence of Russian soft power at work. Jakobson's investigative website has made him plenty of enemies. Last year unknown assailants attacked him in the stairwell of his home, slashing his face with a knife.
He had also published emails that allegedly showed Russia's foreign intelligence agency, the SVR, had secretly financed the 2009 municipal election campaign of Nils Ušakovs, now Riga's mayor. Ušakovs does not dispute the authenticity of the emails but police interrogated the journalist for two days over their possible theft.
Ušakovs, a young and energetic former journalist, is ethnic Russian. He leads the Harmony Centre, a five-party coalition that predominantly enjoys support from Latvia's ethnic Russian voter base. Latvia's harsh post-2008 austerity programme may have delighted the IMF, but it has alienated many. The populist Harmony Centre could well play a role in a future national coalition government.
Ethnic Latvians view the party's rise with concern, seeing it as a proxy for Moscow's business and political interests. The party has fuelled suspicion by signing a co-operation agreement with Putin's United Russia party.
Moscow, meanwhile, has staged military exercises on Latvia's border, while the ultra-nationalist Duma MP Vladimir Zhirinovsky has called on Russia to annex the parts of eastern Latvia dominated by ethnic Russians.
EU diplomats in Riga confirm that Russian intelligence agencies in Latvia are highly active. "They have successfully penetrated Russian elites in this country," one said.
Boris Karpichkov, a Latvian former KGB agent now based in Britain, said Latvia's geographical position, bridging Russia and the west, made it an ideal entry point for Russian espionage, smuggling and laundering of criminal proceeds. He said: "Latvia is in the centre of the three Baltic states. Russia's security services use Latvia like a trampoline, to send their people to Europe and the US." Russian spies with Latvian passports can travel undetected across the EU, he said.
The Kremlin has also sought to bolster its influence via Latvia's Russian language press. An anonymous offshore company owns many newspaper titles; their real owner is suspected to be a pro-Kremlin businessman. All portray Putin favourably. Pro-Putin Russian state television is widely viewed; Russia has also distributed history textbooks to schools that portray Latvia's post-1944 Soviet occupation as "liberation".
Valeri Belokon, a Latvian banking tycoon, former owner of a Russian-language newspaper, and president of Blackpool FC, said Moscow was undoubtedly trying to return Latvia to its sphere of influence. "Unfortunately it's true. I'm afraid of all this Russian capital. Capital is influence. Latvia is an open country. And I'm not against tourism or business. But the danger for a small country is that we become dependent on Russia. We definitely have to defend ourselves."
Many of the apartments in Jurmala are Russian-owned. Buying property in Latvia entitles the owner to residency. This allows visa free travel across the EU. Even the Russian ambassador to Latvia lives here, in an imposing yellow and white mansion next to the sea.
Many ethnic Latvians despise the Jurmala festival. Local businesses, by contrast, welcome it.
From her home in the US, Rozhetskin's mother has accused Russian agents of murdering her son. The tycoon had fallen out with the Kremlin before his death, and was embroiled in business disputes with Russia's then communications minister and other well-connected oligarchs.
One tantalising version suggests Rozhetskin faked his own death, and is alive and well in the US living under a false name. Either way his house, next to Jurmala's cemetery, was eerily empty last week. There was no sign its owner will return any time soon.



The Russian Gangster Assassinated By A Sniper Was A Very Big Deal




Aslan Usoyan, one of Moscow's most notorious gangsters, was shot dead by a sniper as he left an exclusive restaurant after lunch on Wednesday.
Given the manner of his execution, it's clear Usoyan, also known as "Grandpa Hassan", was a big deal.
Charles Clover, writing about Moscow's mafia wars in 2011 for the Financial Times, observed that the last time someone tried to kill Usoyan it was an intricately planned exercise that led to Usoyan getting shot in the stomach with a Kalashnikov.
This is important because in the Russian underworld the manner you are executed is directly related to your importance, Clover wrote, so a Kalashnikov was a big honor. If Usoyan was shot with a sniper rifle today, that seems to be an even greater honor.
Over the course of the day tributes to Usoyan have flooded Russian social networks, and tabloid Life News has not only published a 3D simulation of the murder, but a graphic photo of the dead godfather's face.
But what does Usoyan's death mean for the Russian criminal underworld? NYU professor Dr Mark Galeotti has written a long post about Aslan Usoyan on his blog, In Moscow's Shadows, which details how Usoyan's death could be an ominous sign of things to come.
"The 75-year-old Usoyan was one of the foremost leaders within the Russian underworld," Galeotti writes, "but at a time when that underworld is going through a process of realignment due to a number of forces, not least the increasing flow of Afghan heroin through the country."
Usoyan, born in Georgia, was an old school Russian gangster — a member of the "vory v zakone" prison gang that dominated illegal activity during Soviet times. He had been to prison a number of times but managed to use Russia's 1990s "Wild East" crime wave to consolidate his position and become one of the most powerful criminal in Russia.
Evidentally he had become very wealthy. The swanky restaurant he was shot outside is just steps from the New Zealand Embassy and the German ambassador's residence. It had reportedly been serving as his "office".
Thankfully, Russia's crime world is nothing like the chaos of the 1990s, but things could be changing for the worse, Galeotti observes, with money from new drugs routes, and the Sochi Winter Olympics has been creating renewed tension.
Galeotti puts forward a few theories as to who killed Usoyan. Russian police seem to believe it was Tariel Oniani, fellow member of the "vory v zakone" who leads a dangerous Georgian-dominated gang from his prison cell.
Usoyan's young nephew Dmitry Chanturia is likely to take over as boss for his gang, Galeotti says. After that, there are only two options: war or peace. And the latter isn't looking very likely.

Mafia War Brewing As Second Russian Mob Boss Falls In Drive-By Shooting






A 31-year-old mob boss died today under a "hail of bullets," quite possibly in retaliation for the assassination of Aslan "Grandpa Khasan" Usoyan Jan. 16.
Astamur Guliya, a recently "made" mafioso, was leaving a restaurant in Georgia when a silver Mercedes pulled up and gunmen opened fire. His death comes only a week following the assassination of Usoyan, who was killed when a sniper wielding a "military rifle" shot him in the neck.
Uberto Bacchi of the International Business Times reports that Usoyan and Guliya weren't just bitter rivals, but their gangland leadership styles were on two ends of the extreme. Usoyan was of an old order of gangsters, whereas Guliya was part of a new breed, one seeking to supplant Usoyan.
From the report:
Guliya was known to be flashier and louder than the older gangsters. He was also an ally of Usoyan's rival, Azerbaijani gangster Rovshan Janiyev, and was made a mob leader during a gathering of mafia bosses opposed to Usoyan in the United Arab Emirates.
Usoyan referred to Guliya as the "pretender," a nickname derived from Guliya's perceived lack of experience, and which highlights the differences between the two men. Usoyan's death drew speculation from every corner about the possible emergence of a gang war. Russian police seemed to brace for impact once news hit the headlines.
“The killing of such an influential figure cannot go without revenge from his supporters,” Alexander Khinshtein, a Russian MP, told the Independent following Usoyan's assassination. “This is likely to bring about a new wave of attacks and murders.”
Some analysts seem to think the problems stem from competition over construction contracts for the 2014 Winter Olympics. Bid rigging is a very old, highly lucrative illegal business for criminals, but it's also deadly.
Russian security and underworld expert, and New York University professor, Mark Galeotti says the agreements which brought the end of violence in the 90s are unraveling. Current mobsters regard them as "ancient" and irrelevant.
From Galeottie:
As if all this were not enough, there are factional, ethnic and above all generational tensions. Usoyan was very much one of the last of the old order, and the newcomers are either thuggish (though not necessarily stupid) gangsters who enjoy calling themselvesvory v zakone (‘thief within the code’) like the old, Gulag-era leaders, without accepting the limitations of that code, or else they are criminal-entrepreneurs, largely Russian, eagerly on the make.

Aslan Usoyan: The Yazidi Kurd Who Became The Russian Mafia Godfather





In a scene worthy of a cinematic masterpiece, one of the top Mafia bosses in Russia was assassinated by a sniper in broad daylight on a Moscow street just outside one of his favorite restaurants on Wednesday.

Russian police and detectives are now searching for the killer (or killers) who ended the life of Aslan Usoyan, the ethnic Yazidi Kurd who rose to the top of Russia’s turbulent and extremely violent world of organized crime.
The 75-year-old Usoyan, known as "Grandpa Khassan," was likely the victim of a contract killing over gangland turf, said the state-controlled Itar-Tass news agency.
Usoyan’s two bodyguards were unable to track or capture the killer, who escaped into the Moscow twilight. A female restaurant worker was also shot in the ambush, but survived.
Adding to the cinematic intrigue, Russia’s Investigative Committee, the principal investigating authority in the country akin to the FBI, told Interfax news agency the weapon used in the attack was a silencer-fitted 9-millimeter VAL assault rifle that has a range of up to 400 meters -- the type of firearm normally used by elite special forces units of the military.
Russian media reported that it is nearly impossible to detect the location of a shooter who uses the VAL rifle. These weapons can also easily pierce body armor and even 6-millimeter-thick sheets of steel.
In addition, Usoyan was killed by a single bullet, suggesting the killer was a dedicated, highly trained professional marksman.
The fact that Usoyan was murdered was hardly a surprise, though, through the very public killing recalled the gang wars that plagued Russia in the 1990s.
RIA Novosti reported that Usoyan had survived at least two prior assassination attempts -- one in 1998 (in Sochi, southern Russia), the other in 2010 (also in Moscow). A police source told Interfax that the failed 2010 attempt and the successful 2013 killing were likely planned by the same parties.
During his multi-decade career in the underworld, Usoyan was involved in all the usual Mafia activities, including gambling, drug trafficking and illegal arms, but also in some rather exotic criminal endeavors, like the illegal extraction of mineral resources.
The Independent newspaper of the UK speculated that the Usoyan killing most likely was masterminded by followers of Tariel Oniani, a Georgian gangster who is currently in jail but had long been Grandpa’s enemy and rival.
However, according to some reports, one far-fetched theory posits that Usoyan’s Kurdish ancestry may have played a role in his demise. One week after the murder of three Kurdish nationalist women in Paris, it was rumored that Usoyan was smuggling illegal weapons to Kurdish separatists in Turkey, suggesting perhaps an Ankara connection.
Of greater concern now among Russian authorities is the likelihood of a new round of gangland killings to avenge Usoyan.
Russian MP Alexander Khinshtein, a member of the State Duma's Security Committee, told media: “The killing of such an influential figure cannot go without revenge from his supporters. This is likely to bring about a new wave of attacks and murders.”
Born in Soviet Georgia in 1937, Usoyan served his first prison sentence at the age of 19 following a fight with police. By the late 1960s (while serving in prison) he had already risen to the position of “thief-in-law,” a Russian term that roughly equates to “Mafia godfather.”
Mark Galleoti, a professor at New York University who is an expert on Russian organized crime. told the Independent that Usoyan was an old-fashioned gangster, the kind that is vanishing now.
“Usoyan was very much a Don Corleone figure,” Galeotti said. “He had enough links with political structures to ensure that he had protection, but he didn’t actually work directly with politicians.”
Usoyan also belonged to one of the world’s most mysterious and obscure ethnic groups – the Yazidi Kurds. Numbering less than 1 million in total, about one half of these people currently live in northern Iraq, with sizable communities in Armenia (where many work as shepherds and where they are well integrated), Russia and Germany (where many Turkish-based Yazidis have migrated).
Unlike the majority of their Kurdish brethren, the Yazidis are not strictly speaking Muslim -- rather they practice a faith called Yazidism, which combines elements of pre-Islamic Kurdish beliefs along with those of the ancient religion of Iran, Zoroastrianism, as well as Sufi Muslim mysticism and even Christianity.
The Yazidis are monotheistic, but they also worship lesser deities including Malak Taus, the “peacock god” -- and they do not consider Lucifer a fallen angel. (Some fundamentalist Muslims castigate the Yazidis as "devil worshipers" since the other name of Malak Taus, Shaytan, is the name found for "Satan" in the Quran.)
Yazidis have been targeted for sectarian violence in the chaos of Iraq in the decade since the U.S. invasion. The worst massacre occurred in August 2007 when a series of coordinated bombings perpetrated by Sunni Muslim extremists killed hundreds of Yazidis in and around the city of Mosul in northern Iraq.
Aside from Usoyan, perhaps the best known Yazidi Kurd in the world is Feleknas Uca, a former member of the European Parliament for Germany.

Russian Mafia Boss Astamur Guliya Killed in 'Retaliation' for Grandpa Khasan’s Murder


 A Russian criminal boss has been shot dead in what appears to be retaliation to the murder of mob leader Aslan Usoyan, aka Grandpa Khasan, in Moscow last week.
Thirty-one-year-old kingpin Astamur Guliya died in a hail of bullets as he was leaving a restaurant in central Sukhumi, the capital of Georgia's north-western breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Killers reportedly waiting in a silver Mercedes gunned him down in the restaurant's car park.

Like Usoyan, Guliya was a mob leader, having been 'made' last month. However he was a criminal of the new generation, diametrically opposed to the old-style mafia represented by his 75-year-old counterpart.

Usoyan strictly followed the strict and traditional criminal honour code of the so-called 'thieves in law,' the mob generation formed during Soviet times.

Russian mob expert and New York University professor Mark Galeotti described him as a "dinosaur" and a "classic gangster, like Corleone," referring to the character played by Marlon Brando in Francis Ford Copplola's movie The Godfather.

In contrast, Guliya was known to be flashier and louder than the older gangsters. He was also an ally of Usoyan's rival, Azerbaijani gangster Rovshan Janiyev, and was made a mob leader during a gathering of mafia bosses opposed to Usoyan in the United Arab Emirates.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Usoyan didn't recognise Guliya as a 'thief in law' and referred to him as a "pretender."

Last week, Usoyan was shot in the neck by a sniper in front of a restaurant in central Moscow.

Born in Tbilisi, Usoyan's family wanted him to be buried in his hometown but Georgian authorities refused to allow the plane carrying his remains to land.

His body was then taken back in Moscow where the funeral was held. The hearse was reportedly escorted by a motorcade of 100 cars and minibuses with blacked-out windows. Guliya was shot dead the same day.

"This could be a retaliation, but it could also simply be a part of a wider spill-out [of mob hostility]," Galeotti told RFLRE.

Some believe the two killings are part of an ongoing turf war surrounding construction contracts for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a Russian town just off the Georgian border, 140km North West of Sukhumi.



Mafia Boss's Slaying In Moscow Sparks Fears Of Mob War


The announcement from the Moscow police seemed innocuous enough. 

"In downtown Moscow, on Povarskaya Street, there was a shooting incident that resulted in a citizen born in 1937 being injured," spokesman Andrei Galiakberov said. "He was taken to hospital, where he died of his injuries. We can confirm that the man was Mr. Usoyan born in 1937. No further details."

But it sent shockwaves throughout Russia and much of the former Soviet Union. Aslan Usoyan -- aka Ded Khasan -- was one of the highest-ranking figures in the Soviet-era and post-Soviet underworld, and his assassination by a sniper on January 16 threatens to leave a vacuum that could spark a mob war.

Mark Galeotti, a professor of global affairs at New York University and a specialist in Russian crime and law enforcement, says the Usoyan killing comes at a time when the post-Soviet underworld is already out of balance.

"The underworld was already pretty unstable, with the pressures of the 2008 financial crisis and then the twin opportunities created by the Sochi Winter Olympics, and, above all, Afghan heroin, which is increasingly flowing through Russia. Almost a third so far," Galeotti says. "All that meant that there was a lot of volatility within the Russian underworld."

High Stakes

Russia plans to spend $18 billion on the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. It is impossible to estimate the value of the Afghan heroin trade to Russian organized crime, but Galeotti cites a Russian Interior Ministry official who estimates that by 2014 that business will be equal in value to all the other activities of organized crime in the entire country.

Vladimir Pribylovsky, an analyst with the Panorama think tank in Moscow, also emphasizes the money.

"There have been rumors that the criminal world has invested heavily in the Sochi Olympics and that the money was invested via Khasan [Usoyan]," Pribylovsky says. "You can list as many scenarios as you like [for why he was murdered] -- maybe someone wanted to interfere with the Olympics; maybe someone wanted to steal money off Khasan. You can make a lot of money by interfering with the Olympics. It's all about money and has nothing to do with politics."
 Aslan Usoyan

Usoyan, 75, was a career criminal from his adolescence in post-World War II Soviet Georgia. With the coming of the perestroika era under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, he began providing protection to black marketeers.

By the time he was killed, Usoyan was an influential "vor v zakone" (thief-in-law), the rough equivalent of a mafia godfather, and controlled a powerful underworld network in and around Moscow that extends south through Krasnodar and into the North Caucasus.

He was also a powerful force in Sochi, where the huge influx of money connected with the 2014 Winter Olympic Games opened up tremendous new vistas, Galeotti says.

"The Sochi Winter Olympics are proving to be an extraordinarily rich honey pot for corrupt officials and organized crime. And this is something that Usoyan recognized really quite quickly and his organization is most strongly entrenched around it," Galeotti says. "We are talking about everything from buying up real estate ahead of time so that you can sell it at artificially high prices through to penetrating and exploiting the construction and tourism industries."

'Old School'

Despite Usoyan's purported involvement in the Sochi Olympics, Galeotti downplays speculation that the mobster had close ties with senior officials, up to and including President Vladimir Putin. He notes that a photo has been making the rounds on the Internet purporting to show Putin together with Usoyan in the 1990s, but doubts have been raised about its authenticity.

Usyan simply wasn't that kind of a mobster, Galeotti says.

"He was very much a gangster of the old school," he says. "Whereas the modern ethnic-Russian gangsters -- remember, Usoyan was a Kurdish Georgian by descent -- the modern ethnic-Russian gangsters very much look to plug themselves in to national politics. Usoyan tried to keep away from that. He had a whole variety of clients and allies in local politics, but at the national level he really just wanted to make sure that he was left alone."

Usoyan was the target of at least two previous assassination attempts, first in Sochi in 1998 and the second in Moscow in 2010. After the latter incident, analysts say he began grooming his nephew, 32-year-old Dimtry Chanturia (aka Miron), to succeed him. According to media reports, he had a long-running dispute with Georgian mobster Tariel Oniani (aka Taro) since at least 2007. Oniani is currently in prison but continues to control his criminal network.

Usoyan was also reportedly in conflict with Azeri godfather Rovshan Janiyev (aka Rovshan Lenkoransky) and Georgian mobster Zakhar Kalashov (aka Shakhro Junior).

The Russian establishment has been quick to assert that Usoyan's killing marks the end rather than the beginning of a possible open mafia war. Veteran Interior Ministry officer Aleksandr Mikhailov told Interfax the killing means "the redivvying of the [criminal] market is over." United Russia Duma Deputy Irina Yarovaya was quoted as saying there can be no return to the lawlessness of the 1990s.

"Today we have a different country, different laws, and a different order," she told Interfax.

Other observers, however, are not so sanguine. Galeotti says the mafia might try to resolve the situation through talks, called a "skhodka" in Russian. Russia's Vesti television reported that such a meeting took place in the evening on January 16 at a posh Moscow restaurant just hours after Usoyan was killed. However, he says such meetings have failed to resolve tensions within the underworld in the past and there is no reason to be more optimistic now.

Instead, he sees a second scenario as more probable.

"The second option, and the one that I think is depressingly more likely, is that this really will trigger some escalation of underworld conflict -- not least because whoever takes over Usoyan's organization is going to have to show that he's tough and effective," Galeotti says. "And the only real way he can do that is by striking back. So we'd end up getting into the realm of tit-for-tat killings."










Q&A on Russian ‘crowned thieves’




The contract-style killing of Russian mobster Aslan Usoyan, also known as Grandpa Khasan, on Wednesday drew renewed attention to the extensive and elaborate culture of the country's underworld figures who call themselves "crowned thieves" and "thieves in law." Questions and answers about this shadowy world:

WHO WAS USOYAN?
The 75-year-old ethnic Kurd, born in Soviet Georgia, was first convicted in 1956. In the past two decades, he gained control over many criminal groups in Moscow, St. Petersburg and southern Russia, according to widespread accounts from police officials, organized crime experts and media reports. He purportedly controlled underground gambling, drug trafficking, prostitution and legal businesses including in the construction industry. He also kept obschak, an emergency fund for imprisoned top criminals behind bars _ a position that gave him immense power. He also was a "top judge" who settled conflicts between other criminal clans.

WHY WAS HE KILLED?
Usoyan's clan has been in a turf war since 2006 with the clan of Tariel Oniani, now serving a 10-year sentence for abduction and extortion. One of the prizes in the war is the allocation of multi-million-dollar construction projects in southern Russia, according to the respected newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

WHO ARE "CROWNED THIEVES?"
They are generally recruited in prison from among criminals who persistently refuse to follow prison administration rules, behave according to the thieves' code and show talent. The crowning has to be conducted by at least three "crowned thieves," and small handwritten notes are sent to other prisons with the new thief's name and nickname. The subculture emerged in the 1930s in the Gulag prison camp system, where the criminals were equally hostile to prison administration and to political prisoners. They forged their strict code and punished apostates with beatings, rape or death. There are hundreds in the ex-Soviet Union, most of them in Russia.
WHAT'S IN THE CODE?
Crowned thieves rejected the Communist doctrine and could not befriend men in uniform, work for the state or even sing the Soviet anthem. Hundreds of criminals were killed by fellow thieves for donning uniforms and fighting the Nazis during World War II. The code also bans them from marrying or having long-term relationships. Usoyan had two children, but never married.

HOW DO THEY LOOK?
Although crowned thieves are supposed to have a modest appearance, they bear characteristic tattoos. Some tattoos are code words: MIR (peace) means "Only capital punishment will correct me;" VOLK (wolf) means "a thief is resting while a cop is dying." Tattoos often have religious themes _depictions of the Virgin Mary and baby Jesus were the privilege of criminals who had served their first term as teenagers. A Russian Orthodox cathedral tattoo signifies by its number of domes how many terms the wearer has served. Only a top thief could have a tattooed crucifix with Jesus. Sometimes the tattoos denominate the bearer's specialty or attitude: pickpockets have beetles and cats, a Nazi swastika means rejection of everything Soviet (but does not make its bearer a neo-Nazi), and a tall ship means the thief has no permanent residence.
HAVE THEY CHANGED SINCE THE 1991 SOVIET COLLAPSE?
The first post-Soviet decade was their heyday. They controlled racketeering and abductions, killed competitors in broad daylight, took over factories and oil refineries and promoted young politicians. One crowned thief led a paramilitary group that launched a coup against Georgia's first president and effectively installed Eduard Shevardnadze as successor. Meanwhile, after absorbing Western mafia culture _ mostly from movies like "Godfather" and "Pulp Fiction" _ they started changing their ways by adopting a luxurious lifestyle and "crowning" young thieves who never served time, prompting fierce disputes among their ranks.
The emergence of heroin, cocaine and synthetic drugs, which were not available in the Soviet Union, enriched them, but also contributed to the rise of their enemies such as ethnic gangs from Chechnya and other provinces of Russia's Caucasus regions.

WHAT IS THEIR STATUS NOW?
Their caste faces extinction or radical change in most ex-Soviet states. Some of them have evolved into godfather-like figures that run legal businesses and support sports clubs. Some have moved to the West, others are losing the war with a new generation of gangsters and ethnic mobsters who disrespect the old prison laws and enjoy the support of corrupt police officers.

WHAT DO THEY DO IN THE WEST?
They started migrating to the West in the late 1980s and soon became feared enemies of "traditional" criminal groups such as Italian and Colombian gangs. They smuggled Iraqi oil and pulled off scams such as the 2011 Medicare fraud by ethnic Armenian "crowned thieves" in California who used phantom health care clinics to try to cheat Medicare out of $163 million. They also dabbled in racketeering, drug smuggling, money laundering, human trafficking and prostitution. "Eastern Promises," a 2007 criminal drama by David Cronenberg, depicts human trafficking schemes by Russian "crowned thieves" in Britain.

WHAT WAS THEIR INFLUENCE ON AVERAGE RUSSIANS?
In the Soviet era, street hoodlums romanticized them as the dark princes of the criminal underworld. Hundreds of folk songs about the hardships that jailbirds face on the inside and outside have evolved into a whole genre of popular Russian music known as shanson _ torch-songs about unhappy cons, their mothers and sweethearts based on simple chord changes and old-fashioned electronic loops. Radio Shanson is one of the most popular stations in the country, and many cabbies drive their passengers crazy by playing it non-stop.

Crime Boss Murder Won’t Mean Comeback for Russian Mafia





MOSCOW, January 18 (Alexey Eremenko, Alexandra Odynova, RIA Novosti) – Aslan “Gramps Khasan” Usoyan was leaving his favorite restaurant in central Moscow when a bullet from a silenced assault rifle hit him in the neck.
The portly 75-year-old’s private guards pushed him back inside, but more bullets sailed through the closed door, piercing the backside of a woman nearby, costing her 4½ liters of blood. Usoyan’s consorts sped him to the hospital in a Mercedes jeep, where doctors proclaimed him dead on arrival.
Wednesday’s assassination robbed the Russian underworld of one of its last legendary greats, and stirred up memories of the bloody turf wars that grabbed headlines in the country’s “turbulent 1990s.”
But experts do not foresee a revival of the all-mighty “Russkaya mafiya” of that time, with its glorified image and omnipresence in pop culture. On the contrary, they believe Russian organized crime has settled into a pattern similar to many other countries’, focusing on a few lucrative, mostly illegal domains, but outgunned and outmanned by government bodies, who have regained the upper hand over the past decade or so.
“Organized crime has been marginalized in Russia in recent years, returning to the niche it is supposed to occupy,” said sociology professor Vadim Volkov, an expert on Russian mafia at the European University at St. Petersburg.
Life After Gramps
In press reports, Usoyan had long been labeled Russia’s most influential “thief-in-law” – a title denoting a don of the underworld both in Soviet and post-Soviet criminal culture. His spheres of activity have been rumored to include drugs, guns and construction materials, including some lucrative deals involving next year’s Olympics in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
After his death, Russian media swelled with speculation, blaming the hit on Usoyan’s numerous rivals, who supposedly opted not to wait until his planned retirement later this year and the ascent of a nephew he had carefully groomed as successor.
The Investigative Committee, roughly comparable to Russia’s FBI, also said it was looking into a possible dispute among crime bosses as the cause of Usoyan’s shooting.
Logically, predictions of impending gang warfare followed.
But similar forecasts abounded after the 2009 assassination – possibly by the same killer, according to one tabloid – of thief-in-law Vyacheslav Ivankov, known as Yaponchik or “Little Japanese.” And those forecasts failed to materialize, at least in any high-profile way.
The Russian mafia has reached an era of stability, settling all its major disputes and dividing up territory, said Alexander Gurov, a former head of the State Duma Security Committee who made his name in the Soviet Interior Ministry fighting organized crime in the 1980s.
“It took the Sicilian mafia about two centuries, a few decades for the United States. It took the Russian mafia two decades,” Gurov said.
Racketeering Regulators
One obituary called Usoyan, before his death, “the last surviving mammoth” of a bygone age. Indeed, Gramps Khasan emerged from a criminal subculture believed to have started taking shape around the time of his birth, in the 1930s.
Soviet-era thieves-in-law, who earned their stripes in prison, had intricate codes of etiquette and behavior enforced with no less zeal than the Criminal Code. They eschewed the state and derived sustenance from a classic mix of robbery and fraud, but gradually also from a shadow economy that started taking root in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, despite – or, perhaps, because of – bans on private entrepreneurship.
And it was this very connection to business that came to play the pivotal role in the rise of Russian mafia in the 1990s, experts told RIA Novosti.
The Soviet Union’s demise wreaked chaos in established state institutions in Russia and other post-Soviet countries, leaving them crippled and unequipped to deal with a new capitalist reality, said Andrei Soldatov, editor-in-chief of Agentura.ru, a non-profit online think-tank studying Russian law enforcement services.
Old bastions of law enforcement like police and courts were incapable of helping newly emerging businessmen settle disputes or providing them with protection, Soldatov said.
And so the mafia stepped in to fill the void.
Protection became a service offered by ubiquitous and highly territorial racketeer gangs that settled conflicts through organized showdowns involving dozens of people and, as often as not, a lot of rapid machine gun fire. The country’s most prominent newspapers, like Kommersant and the now defunct Segodnya, devoted daily spreads to casualty reports and stories about thieves’-in-law activity.
The State Duma said in a report in 1998 that up to 40 percent of private companies and 85 percent of banks nationwide were controlled by organized crime.
A rare poll from 1998-1999, cited in a textbook by the Russian Criminological Association, showed that 30 percent of businessmen in Moscow were somehow involved with organized crime groups.
At the same time, the old-school Soviet criminal culture collided with a new crop of gangsters, unencumbered by such elaborate rules and balking at nothing to carve themselves a piece of someone else’s juicy turf.
These SUV-driving, gun-toting, crimson-jacket-wearing thugs, who constructed mammoth marble tombstones to their fallen brethren, permeated the nation’s life and sensibility.
Kitschy, sappy and primitive tunes about the mafia’s struggles, known as “chanson,” became a staple of Russia’s musical diet in the 1990s, even among those who’d never been near a gun or jail, and the first domestic films and television shows to rival Hollywood productions were gangster tales.
This was also when the Russian mafia became a global phenomenon, taking advantage of the newly opened opportunities for travel and tapping immigrant communities abroad to join global networks of drug, arms and human trafficking – and to popularize the notions of onion-dome tattoos, perpetual scowls and ridiculous accents that can now be found anywhere from a Grand Theft Auto video game to David Cronenberg’s filmography.
The Silovikis’ Revenge
The tide changed at the turn of the third millennium, when the Russian state started to restore its functions as arbiter and its coercive power.
Disputes could now be solved in arbitrage courts and protection obtained from private security companies, said Volkov of St. Petersburg’s European University.
Lower taxes in the early 2000s also delivered a blow to the shadow economy, he said.
Most crucially, the security and law enforcement services, or “siloviki,” resurgent under the presidency of ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin, could now provide high-level protection to entrepreneurs, who were quick to capitalize on it.
“When the law enforcement services got their strength back, the businessmen flocked to them,” said Soldatov of Agentura.ru.
The new system was very corruption-prone, with law enforcement officials charging money for protection and abusing the law when it suited them or businesses in their care, Soldatov said. By the late 2000s, the Russian business community realized it had been overwhelmed and taken over by those it originally hired to protect it, he added.
Corrupt officials, or “white-collar criminals,” pose a much greater danger to Russia today than the thieves-in-law, Gurov said.
But early in the game, the “siloviki” option looked much more attractive than the mafia, with its violent gunfights and other rough tactics. So the official-looking guys took away market share from the shadier-seeming ones, both experts said.
No More Songs
In 1998, Russian police estimated the number of known thieves-in-law across the world at 1,560. But by 2010, the last year for which statistics were available, they numbered about 150, according to Russia’s Interior Ministry.
Back in 2008, declaring the war on the Russian mafia victorious, the Kremlin disbanded police units combatting organized crime and created an anti-extremism department instead, which busied itself cracking down on political dissenters.
Russian organized crime has not disappeared, but its activity is now mostly limited to traditional domains such as arms trade, illegal drugs and prostitution, Volkov said.
“It is a part of the [society’s] eco-system, you could say, and nobody [in the law enforcement services] sees it as a serious threat anymore,” Soldatov said.
Many crime bosses have turned a new leaf, investing money earned in the 1990s in perfectly legitimate enterprises, said Kirill Kabanov, who heads the National Anti-Corruption Committee. The late Usoyan was reported to run several hotels in southern Russia in addition to his other pursuits.
A handful of minor gangs from the past “that attract the youth through a romanticized vision of crime” have survived, but only in remote backwaters, Kabanov said.
“New ethnic Asian groups from Tajikistan and others” have emerged, but “they are not yet rich and don’t wield much power,” he added.
Most importantly, the legend of the Russian mafia itself is fading from the nation’s mind. There are no more daily briefs on goings-on in the gangster world in the media, and a criminal career is not attracting the young: According to a nationwide poll by state-run VTsIOM in 2009, the list of young Russians’ dream jobs is topped by posts at national gas giant Gazprom and the Kremlin administration. By contrast, media in the 1990s often cited anonymous polls of high school students who named “mafia hitman” and “prostitute” as their highest job aspirations.
Glorious mafiosi have been sidelined by college students and medical interns on primetime television, and “chanson” performers are outsold by a new breed of artists who, music reviewers say, sing essentially the same songs, but with lyrics about love and life instead of gang shootings and doin’ time.
“The Russian mafia is sticking to its old violent ways,” Volkov said. “It’s just that the public isn’t paying much attention to it anymore.”

Crime Boss Murder Won’t Mean Comeback for Russian Mafia




MOSCOW, January 18 (Alexey Eremenko, Alexandra Odynova, RIA Novosti) – Aslan “Gramps Khasan” Usoyan was leaving his favorite restaurant in central Moscow when a bullet from a silenced assault rifle hit him in the neck.
The portly 75-year-old’s private guards pushed him back inside, but more bullets sailed through the closed door, piercing the backside of a woman nearby, costing her 4½ liters of blood. Usoyan’s consorts sped him to the hospital in a Mercedes jeep, where doctors proclaimed him dead on arrival.
Wednesday’s assassination robbed the Russian underworld of one of its last legendary greats, and stirred up memories of the bloody turf wars that grabbed headlines in the country’s “turbulent 1990s.”
But experts do not foresee a revival of the all-mighty “Russkaya mafiya” of that time, with its glorified image and omnipresence in pop culture. On the contrary, they believe Russian organized crime has settled into a pattern similar to many other countries’, focusing on a few lucrative, mostly illegal domains, but outgunned and outmanned by government bodies, who have regained the upper hand over the past decade or so.
“Organized crime has been marginalized in Russia in recent years, returning to the niche it is supposed to occupy,” said sociology professor Vadim Volkov, an expert on Russian mafia at the European University at St. Petersburg.
Life After Gramps
In press reports, Usoyan had long been labeled Russia’s most influential “thief-in-law” – a title denoting a don of the underworld both in Soviet and post-Soviet criminal culture. His spheres of activity have been rumored to include drugs, guns and construction materials, including some lucrative deals involving next year’s Olympics in the southern Russian city of Sochi.
After his death, Russian media swelled with speculation, blaming the hit on Usoyan’s numerous rivals, who supposedly opted not to wait until his planned retirement later this year and the ascent of a nephew he had carefully groomed as successor.
The Investigative Committee, roughly comparable to Russia’s FBI, also said it was looking into a possible dispute among crime bosses as the cause of Usoyan’s shooting.
Logically, predictions of impending gang warfare followed.
But similar forecasts abounded after the 2009 assassination – possibly by the same killer, according to one tabloid – of thief-in-law Vyacheslav Ivankov, known as Yaponchik or “Little Japanese.” And those forecasts failed to materialize, at least in any high-profile way.
The Russian mafia has reached an era of stability, settling all its major disputes and dividing up territory, said Alexander Gurov, a former head of the State Duma Security Committee who made his name in the Soviet Interior Ministry fighting organized crime in the 1980s.
“It took the Sicilian mafia about two centuries, a few decades for the United States. It took the Russian mafia two decades,” Gurov said.
Racketeering Regulators
One obituary called Usoyan, before his death, “the last surviving mammoth” of a bygone age. Indeed, Gramps Khasan emerged from a criminal subculture believed to have started taking shape around the time of his birth, in the 1930s.
Soviet-era thieves-in-law, who earned their stripes in prison, had intricate codes of etiquette and behavior enforced with no less zeal than the Criminal Code. They eschewed the state and derived sustenance from a classic mix of robbery and fraud, but gradually also from a shadow economy that started taking root in the Soviet Union in the 1960s, despite – or, perhaps, because of – bans on private entrepreneurship.
And it was this very connection to business that came to play the pivotal role in the rise of Russian mafia in the 1990s, experts told RIA Novosti.
The Soviet Union’s demise wreaked chaos in established state institutions in Russia and other post-Soviet countries, leaving them crippled and unequipped to deal with a new capitalist reality, said Andrei Soldatov, editor-in-chief of Agentura.ru, a non-profit online think-tank studying Russian law enforcement services.
Old bastions of law enforcement like police and courts were incapable of helping newly emerging businessmen settle disputes or providing them with protection, Soldatov said.
And so the mafia stepped in to fill the void.
Protection became a service offered by ubiquitous and highly territorial racketeer gangs that settled conflicts through organized showdowns involving dozens of people and, as often as not, a lot of rapid machine gun fire. The country’s most prominent newspapers, like Kommersant and the now defunct Segodnya, devoted daily spreads to casualty reports and stories about thieves’-in-law activity.
The State Duma said in a report in 1998 that up to 40 percent of private companies and 85 percent of banks nationwide were controlled by organized crime.
A rare poll from 1998-1999, cited in a textbook by the Russian Criminological Association, showed that 30 percent of businessmen in Moscow were somehow involved with organized crime groups.
At the same time, the old-school Soviet criminal culture collided with a new crop of gangsters, unencumbered by such elaborate rules and balking at nothing to carve themselves a piece of someone else’s juicy turf.
These SUV-driving, gun-toting, crimson-jacket-wearing thugs, who constructed mammoth marble tombstones to their fallen brethren, permeated the nation’s life and sensibility.
Kitschy, sappy and primitive tunes about the mafia’s struggles, known as “chanson,” became a staple of Russia’s musical diet in the 1990s, even among those who’d never been near a gun or jail, and the first domestic films and television shows to rival Hollywood productions were gangster tales.
This was also when the Russian mafia became a global phenomenon, taking advantage of the newly opened opportunities for travel and tapping immigrant communities abroad to join global networks of drug, arms and human trafficking – and to popularize the notions of onion-dome tattoos, perpetual scowls and ridiculous accents that can now be found anywhere from a Grand Theft Auto video game to David Cronenberg’s filmography.
The Silovikis’ Revenge
The tide changed at the turn of the third millennium, when the Russian state started to restore its functions as arbiter and its coercive power.
Disputes could now be solved in arbitrage courts and protection obtained from private security companies, said Volkov of St. Petersburg’s European University.
Lower taxes in the early 2000s also delivered a blow to the shadow economy, he said.
Most crucially, the security and law enforcement services, or “siloviki,” resurgent under the presidency of ex-KGB officer Vladimir Putin, could now provide high-level protection to entrepreneurs, who were quick to capitalize on it.
“When the law enforcement services got their strength back, the businessmen flocked to them,” said Soldatov of Agentura.ru.
The new system was very corruption-prone, with law enforcement officials charging money for protection and abusing the law when it suited them or businesses in their care, Soldatov said. By the late 2000s, the Russian business community realized it had been overwhelmed and taken over by those it originally hired to protect it, he added.
Corrupt officials, or “white-collar criminals,” pose a much greater danger to Russia today than the thieves-in-law, Gurov said.
But early in the game, the “siloviki” option looked much more attractive than the mafia, with its violent gunfights and other rough tactics. So the official-looking guys took away market share from the shadier-seeming ones, both experts said.
No More Songs
In 1998, Russian police estimated the number of known thieves-in-law across the world at 1,560. But by 2010, the last year for which statistics were available, they numbered about 150, according to Russia’s Interior Ministry.
Back in 2008, declaring the war on the Russian mafia victorious, the Kremlin disbanded police units combatting organized crime and created an anti-extremism department instead, which busied itself cracking down on political dissenters.
Russian organized crime has not disappeared, but its activity is now mostly limited to traditional domains such as arms trade, illegal drugs and prostitution, Volkov said.
“It is a part of the [society’s] eco-system, you could say, and nobody [in the law enforcement services] sees it as a serious threat anymore,” Soldatov said.
Many crime bosses have turned a new leaf, investing money earned in the 1990s in perfectly legitimate enterprises, said Kirill Kabanov, who heads the National Anti-Corruption Committee. The late Usoyan was reported to run several hotels in southern Russia in addition to his other pursuits.
A handful of minor gangs from the past “that attract the youth through a romanticized vision of crime” have survived, but only in remote backwaters, Kabanov said.
“New ethnic Asian groups from Tajikistan and others” have emerged, but “they are not yet rich and don’t wield much power,” he added.
Most importantly, the legend of the Russian mafia itself is fading from the nation’s mind. There are no more daily briefs on goings-on in the gangster world in the media, and a criminal career is not attracting the young: According to a nationwide poll by state-run VTsIOM in 2009, the list of young Russians’ dream jobs is topped by posts at national gas giant Gazprom and the Kremlin administration. By contrast, media in the 1990s often cited anonymous polls of high school students who named “mafia hitman” and “prostitute” as their highest job aspirations.
Glorious mafiosi have been sidelined by college students and medical interns on primetime television, and “chanson” performers are outsold by a new breed of artists who, music reviewers say, sing essentially the same songs, but with lyrics about love and life instead of gang shootings and doin’ time.
“The Russian mafia is sticking to its old violent ways,” Volkov said. “It’s just that the public isn’t paying much attention to it anymore.”


Russia's 'top gangster' Grandpa Khasan shot dead


A man said to have been Russia's top gangster has been shot dead leaving a restaurant in the centre of Moscow, reportedly by a sniper.
Aslan Usoyan, widely known as Grandpa Khasan, died in hospital after being brought there by his bodyguards, Russian media report.
A woman, said to be a restaurant employee, was injured in the leg.
Usoyan, 75, survived two previous assassination attempts in 1998 and 2010, when he was seriously injured.
According to a Financial Times report into organised crime from December 2011, he was "reckoned to be the highest-ranking mafia boss in Russia".
Born in Soviet Georgia in 1937, he received his first prison sentence in 1957 for resisting arrest and, during his third in the 1960s, became a "thief in law", a Russian term comparable to a Mafia "godfather".
His killing sparked fears of a turf war between organised crime groups. Russian MP Alexander Khinshtein, who sits on the State Duma's security committee, wrote on Twitter: "I am sure that a new criminal redistribution will begin now."
'Single bullet'
Usoyan was killed by a single bullet, Russia's federal Investigative Committee (SK) said on its website, announcing that an investigation had been opened.
Possible motives for the crime, it said, included his (unspecified) criminal activities.
Early Russian media reports suggested Usoyan had been shot in the stomach but a grainy photo of his body in a morgue has emerged, which suggests he was hit in the face. The morgue is under police guard.
Russian media say the attack appears to have been the work of a professional killer, who opened fire as Usoyan left the restaurant early on Wednesday afternoon.
The gunman was lying in wait in a building opposite the restaurant on Povarskaya Street, about a mile (1.6km) from the Kremlin, Russian news agencies report.
Six bullet cases were found on a staircase between the fourth and fifth floors of the building, along with a folding chair and a piece of cloth, SK spokesman Sergei Stukalov told Interfax news agency.
While no gun was reportedly recovered, an unnamed security source told Interfax the killer appears to have used a Val assault rifle fitted with a silencer - a weapon favoured by Russian special forces.
After news of the attack, Usoyan's nickname became a top trending name among Russian users of Twitter.
"Russia's missing its gangsters," one blogger tweeted. "Romance."
"End of an era," wrote another.

Gangster killed in Moscow

The scene after the killing outside the Karetny Dvor restaurant in Moscow.


Police said a single shot was fired as Aslan Usoyan, known as Grandpa Khasan, left a restaurant in the capital.

He was taken to hospital, but died on the way. A female bystander was also wounded.

Usoyan, 75, survived two previous assassination attempts in 1998 and 2010, when he was seriously wounded.

Born in Soviet Georgia, Usoyan was considered the most influential criminal in the former Soviet Union. He was first convicted when he was 19.

Russian MP Alexander Khinshtein expressed fear that his killing might trigger gang wars and more trouble.

Dressed to kill: Gaudy tombstones of Russian gangsters depict them wearing designer suits with flash cars


They used to spend their days collecting protection money, kneecapping those who would not pay up and planting explosives in the cars of their rivals.
But now the only reminders of the gangsters that made up the Russian mobs in the 1990s are their tombstones with gaudy sketches of them etched into the granite.
The men, who are casualties of the Russian business world and were relatively young when they were killed, are sculpted standing in designer suits and leather jackets.

Their graves are marked by life size headstones, where their images are expertly engraved into imported marble.
On the edge of the Russian city of Yekaterinburg lies the Shirokorechenskoye cemetery.
This is the final resting place for mobster, Miklhail Kuchin, boss of the notorious Centralnaya gang who was gunned down aged 35 as he left his home.

His gravestone shows him as thick-necked, dressed in a double breasted suit. and he is depicted clutching the keys to his beloved Mercedes 600.
This, in a country where buying a Lada is beyond millions of people's pockets, working or not.
Nearby are the graves of father and son gangsters Nikolai and Andrei Kravtsov, shot by contract killers as they drove in their Volvo in 1996. They were cut down at the ages of 44 and 22.
Hefty gravestones commemorate the two men and between them a separate stone is dedicated to their precious car.
On their tombs, some are depicted with their tattoos, or smoking cigarettes.
Others are buried with their mobile phones so they can be kept up to date with the daily round of gangland shootings and beatings.
In an enormous tomb-Oleg Vagin is buried alongside his three armed bodyguards, who couldn't draw their guns fast enough to save him when they were all massacred in 1992.

Vagin owned the lucrative local gravestone factory which had become embroiled in a dispute between rival gangs.
Next to the grave of Khakimzhan Burma, leader of the Viz mafia gang, a huge summerhouse has been thoughtfully erected for mourners.
Ekaterinburg has been long infamous for its slayings.
The burial ceremonies for those caught up in armed business disputes are magnificent occasions.
'There's always a lot of people,' gravedigger Alexei Yurkov told the BBC.




Some of us might choose a simple stone cross
Mapmmypa
Ostentatious: Now the only reminders of the brawn of the Russian mobs are their gravestones where gaudy sketches of them are etched into the granite of tombstones

Flashy: The cemeteries in the mafia city of Ekaterinburg are littered with brash, life-size memorials carved out of hugely expensive imported marble
Flashy: The cemeteries in the mafia city of Ekaterinburg are littered with brash, life-size memorials carved out of hugely expensive imported marble

Gangster
Gangster: They stare back at the onlooker, smiling or stern, as proud in death as when they were alive
They stare back at the onlooker, smiling or stern, as proud in death as when they were alive.


Appearance: The etchings stare back at the onlooker, smiling or stern, as proud in death as when they were alive
Work of art: Their graves are marked by life size headstones, where their images are expertly engraved into imported marble
Some of us might choose a simple stone cross
Some of us might choose a simple stone cross.
Showing off from the grave: Many of the etchings feature cars as reminder to onlookers that the gangsters have enjoyed wealth when they were alive

Money-making: Criminal gangs made fortunes following the collapse of communism by ruthlessly exploiting the newly-privatised heavy industries
Money-making: Criminal gangs made fortunes following the collapse of communism by ruthlessly exploiting the newly-privatised heavy industries
Some of us might choose a simple stone cross
Some of us might choose a simple stone cross
Hard graft: The drawings are very detailed and intricate taking an engravers hours to put together

Fallen: The gangsters who fell in the 'metal wars' of the 1990s are sculpted standing in designer suits and leather jackets
Fallen: The gangsters who fell in the 'metal wars' of the 1990s are sculpted standing in designer suits and leather jackets

.
Engravings: On their tombs, some are depicted with their tattoos, or smoking cigarettes
Engravings: On their tombs, some are depicted with their tattoos, or smoking cigarettes

Some of us might choose a simple stone cross
rime, the last thing you want is an understated gravestone.
Image: Most of the gangsters are depicted in smart suits and look formal - often with a cigarette in hand

Grand display: The burial ceremonies for those caught up in armed business disputes are magnificent occasions
Grand display: The burial ceremonies for those caught up in armed business disputes are magnificent occasions

Crowd drawer: At a funeral for a gangster it was usually packed with well-wishers
Crowd drawer: At a funeral for a gangster it was usually packed with well-wishers
Some of us might choose a simple stone cross
Some of us might choose a simple stone cross
Shiny display: Many of the tombs are surrounded by black highly-polished stone


2012-й оставил о себе недобрую память. Весь год народ жил в ожидании конца света. Вдвойне обидно было умирать людям, не имеющим средств на память. А таких – 90% населения России. Между тем, буржуазия страны не жалеет денег на увековечивание себя на кладбищах.
Блог Толкователя просто оставит эти картины на память буржуазии России и их приспешникам, сислибам (системным либералам), как мрачное напоминание их неправоты.