Lt. Gen. Yakunin on policing Moscow

Yakunin copLt. General Anatoly Yakunin (yes, the other Yakunin], Moscow city police chief, gave an interesting interview to the government newspaper Rossiiskaya gazeta, which was published on 24 August 2015, and I think it is worth reproducing some passages from it. Notes and subhead in red are mine, other text my translations from the original [italics are questions in the interview].

Making cuts?

[Following the government’s requirement that the Ministry of Internal Affairs cut its total payroll by 10%]

AY: Of course, every leader wants to have more staff – it means less load. I want to say that this reduction has been well thought out in the ministry. In particular, we were instructed not to reduce front-line staff. We have already cut nearly 7,000 positions – the required 10%. We had almost 70,000 certified staff, and there are now about 62,000.

I must say that security in the city is not affected. Firstly, we have not cut a single precinct officer, a single patrol police officer.  We cut 46 investigators [lit: opers] from the whole contingent [lit: garrison] and the central staff where there is a shortage. …

… we did not touch all of the services that are engaged at the district level directly in fighting crime and protecting the population. We have made cuts in the logistics and personnel services, and at the level of central staff.

[He adds that most of the “cuts” just mean closing or freezing unfilled vacancies, as they were already 4,000 below their establishment strength.]

Basically, we have cut the Extradepartmental Guard [the police’s private security arm] … by about 6 thousand. And they had a shortage of only 800 officer. But we are now offering them other vacant positions, as we [still] have some 2,500 vacant positions in the city. … Plus we still have nearly 1,500 employees, who are at retirement age…

Hiring ex-Ukrainian policemen?

AY: We have taken on something like a hundred from “Berkut” [the infamous Ukrainian riot police] to our Center for Special Purposes, as OMON [riot police].They are working well. They are honest guys, all well trained.

Interesting: do they retain their own symbols, badges?

AY: No, they are wear our uniform and badges, and they are happy. We have solved the [housing] problem, again through the Moscow government, the allocation of grants to them of 15,000 rubles for rent. … Teams have accepted them as if they had always served in our Center for Special Purposes.

Do you have helicopters?

AY: We have three helicopters – that is enough. In the future, we are preparing for the World Cup in 2018.  Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, in response to our repeated petitions and with the support of the Interior Ministry leadership, has decided to implement an initiative on the construction of an additional building at Petrovka, 38 [HQ of the Moscow police]. The plan is to build a helipad on top. Once we have drawn up the terms of reference, we will hold a competition and prepare the project. Construction will start next year.

[Yakunin is asked about the Tourist Police who patrol some key central areas. He says they get an extra 20,000 rubles a month, covered by Moscow City Council, and there are now more than a hundred, English-speaking, patrolling 13 pedestrian areas in the centre.]

Security outside the centre?

AY: I do not deny that security in some of the residential districts is much less than in the Central District. But we are gradually going to the outskirts. We are increasing the number of cameras, we are carrying out raids. We are working in all of the former industrial areas, including in the area “Gardener” market area [Sadovod market in SE Moscow, a notorious den of crime, counterfeit and illegal migrant labour], where there is also a problem. …

A return to more street patrols?

AY: I know that the residents of Moscow constantly go back in time and ask whether we can restore foot patrols. They are familiar, of course. When I was a kid and came to Moscow, I saw foot patrols here. They were all wearing white gloves, smart, handsome, stern. … Unfortunately, it is no longer possible to bring back foot patrols…

What about crime committed by foreigners?

AY: According to our statistics, of the foreigners who have committed crimes, 98% came from the former Soviet republics. And only 2% are visitors from the far abroad [a term still used to contrast with the “near abroad” of the ex-USSR].

But in general, is the share of foreign visitors in crime increasing or decreasing? At one time, it was said that almost 60% of Moscow’s crime was committed by visitors. What is changing?

AY: Almost nothing changes, 50% is nonresident crime. What is important, is that this crime is not only because of our former republics, but also from Russian regions.

So-called “on tour”?

AY: Yes. So that you get the whole picture, the alignment is as follows: 50% of crimes are committed Muscovites and 50% by nonresident citizens, including foreigners. The “real” foreigners commit more than 20% of the 50% of crimes [so presumably that means “more than 10% of the total.”]. It is mainly immigrants from Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. This year, we have eliminated 15 criminal groups, 12 bands plus a large number of organized criminal groups. [The technical distinction between these is pretty arcane.]

… [The so-called ethnic criminals] live very often in the Moscow region, and are plan their crimes in Moscow – here, in their view, is the big money…

As gangsters from 1990s released, can expect new gang wars?

[The term used is a return to the likhy – literally “dashing” but colloquially “nasty” or “tough” – life.]

AY: … We will not allow a return to the previous state of affairs. This is not the time. Now, we have powerful intelligence services, the police is not the same, nor is the state. Therefore, a return to the old dashing life will not be permitted.

Moscow’s criminal world

AY: Here in Moscow there are, so to speak, “registered” about 40 “thieves in law.” Of these, ten are in detention, ten outside Moscow.

At the moment, organized criminal groups of citizens of Tajikistan are very bold, they are carrying out highway robbery. And specialization are being maintained. Georgian organized crime groups were and still are involved in apartment burglaries. There are other crimes, but most of their specialization is burglary. By the way, the percentage of thefts solved has increased, but it is still low: only 21%.

The “Safe City” program

AY: We now have 128,000 cameras. They are different, monitoring entranceways, yards, streets, the metro, and so on. We have uncovered many crimes.

Why not use the Soviet experience or local informants?

Why do not we use the good Soviet experience and do not reach out to the population? In every apartment building there are very active citizens – former retirees, pensioners who are willing and able to help the police.  A grandma on the bench. Why not create a small neighborhood activist cell [lit: aktiv]? For example, the district inspector would come to them, they would go out on patrol, like auxiliaries [lit: druzhinniki]. I think many would agree.

AY: I agree… Unlike many regions, we have preserved the Soviet system. Public order enforcement points [OPOP: Obshchestvennyi punkt okhrany pravoporyadka] are very effectively run. There is a chairman of the OPOP, who as a rule is a former law-enforcement officer…

Russian Crime Today

arrestThe latest in an occasional series of longer articles of mine on Russian crime has recently been published. The articles, for RFE/RL’s Russian-language service, are then being published in English by the Henry Jackson Society. Last year, I wrote Crime and Crimea: Criminals as Allies and Agents, considering the extent to which organised criminal structures were involved in the Russian takeover and how they were affected by the annexation of the peninsula (here in Russian, here in English). This most recent piece, Tough Times for Tough People: Crime and Russia’s Economic Crisis, instead uses a series of individual cases to explore instead the impact of sanctions and hardship on organised crime inside Russia, both the losers and the winners (here in Russian, here in English). A third, future article will explore how corruption is changing.

Breaking up the Khinkalnaya sitdown: Georgians being warned off trying for a slice of the Crimean pie?

Rys' SOBR of the kind deployed to break up the skhodka

Rys’ SOBR of the kind deployed to break up the skhodka

On 24 May, Moscow police including Rys’ SOBR commandos broke up a skhodka–sit down–of mainly Georgian gangsters reportedly at the Khinkalnaya restaurant on Savvinskaya embankment, briefly detaining 38 of them. (The perennially well-connected Life News has the list of detainees here.) In part they were there apparently in another bid to resolve the long-running and periodically-violent feud between the Tbilisi clan of “Dead Ded” Khasan (Aslan Usoyan) and Tariel Oniani’s Kutaisi clan. However, they were also going to talk about expanding their activities in Crimea and how to apportion the profits. These may well be significant, not only in diverting some of the massive investment being channelled there to make it a showcase “why it’s great to be in Russia” region, but also if Sevastopol comes to rival Odessa as a smuggling hub. I suspect that this latter agenda item is why the meeting had to be raided. After all, the ethnic Russian networks are also moving into Crimea, looking to strike deals with local gangs, and they are a much more known and trusted factor for the government. It’s futile to try and keep the Georgians out of Crimea, but I imagine that a pernicious alliance of ethnic Russian mobsters and the government will try to minimise their role there.

Poor Dmytro (Firtash)?

Firtash may be caught by the throat, but most other oligarchs are feeding merrily still

Firtash may be caught by the throat, but most other oligarchs are feeding merrily still

Can one feel sorry for a multi-millionaire ($673M according to some, $2.3B according to alternative accounts, and $3.8B to others) suspected of bribery, who reportedly admitted consorting with wanted gangsters and once boasted of his close ties to Yanukovych? If so, then spare a thought for Ukrainian gas and titanium tycoon Dmytro Firtash, arrested in Vienna on a US warrant on bribery and organised crime charges. Why on earth might one feel any sympathy for him? Not for the philanthropy, not even for the massive donations to my alma mater at Cambridge to endow Ukrainian studies. Rather than Firtash would seem to be a businessman of the regular Ukrainian oligarchic variety. What does that mean? It means certainly not clean by Western standards, but nor, in any meaningful sense, an organised crime figure himself. So what might he have been?

When he first started building his energy empire, bringing Russian gas into Ukraine, the infamous financial crime lord Semen Mogilevich was a shadowy but indispensable fixer and broker. His  involvement was pretty much essential to make any Russo-Ukrainian gas deals work. So, of course, I was entirely unsurprised when the accounts (subsequently denied) of an admitted connection arose. If nothing else, there had been widespread rumours beforehand. Furthermore, Mogilevich–who has an interestingly unique role as, in effect, the boutique personal banker of choice to post-Soviet crooks of every stripe–would conceivably also have been a useful contact and service provider for subsequent sub rosa activities such as moving money abroad discreetly, evading taxes or doing any of the other patriotic parlour games at which post-Soviet plutocrats excel. (more…)

The risk of a gangster “Transdnestrianisation” of the Crimea

Now, does he look like a gangster to you?

Now, does he look like a gangster to you?

Just a quick note to the effect that over at Russia! magazine I have a piece looking at the allegations that de facto Crimean premier Sergei Aksenov was in the 1990s a gangster known as ‘Goblin’ in one of the two main gangs in Simferopol. I go on to consider, regardless of the truth of these allegations, the risk that an annexed or even maximally-autonomous Crimea might become a criminalised pseudo-state like the ‘Transdnestr Moldovan Republic’, just distinctly larger and more closely linked to Russia.

Will ‘Goblin’ Make Crimea a “Free Crime Zone”?

The claims that Crimean premier Sergei Aksenov was once a gangster with the underworld nickname of ‘Goblin,’ has at once been a gift to headline-writers and also a potentially alarming portent for the peninsula’s future.

Aksenov, head of the Russian Unity party, was installed as Crimea’s new premier despite his being elected to the regional parliament in 2010 with only 4% of the vote. His role appears to be the face of Russian interests in the peninsula, but he faces claims that he is also the front man for regional organized crime.

Read the rest here.

Another vor down: Dato Melkadze shot dead

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 13.34.10As organised crime kingpin murders go, there is perhaps little kudos in being shot in the parking lot of a suburban big box store, but this was nonetheless the fate of Georgian-born Dato Melkadze, ‘Dato Poti.’ On the evening of 11 January, he went with his wife and children on a shopping trip to the Lerua Merlen (the French Leroy Merlin chain) store in Moscow’s Krasnogorsk neighbourhood . In the carpark he was apparently accosted by two people who claimed he owed them money; a conversation became a row; a row became an exchange of fire. Melkadze was wounded in the shoulder and abdomen by a ‘traumatic pistol’ converted to fire live ammunition and died in hospital.

(more…)

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