Financial crisis puts new pressure on Russian police, but means boom time for security forces

Although Putin made a great play of his commitment to law and order, the emphasis always seemed to be on order more than law. Resources were devoted more to defence and public order, but nonetheless the bonanza of oil and gas revenues did mean that spending on the police picked up, making good some of the deficits created in the 1990s, when successive budget crises left them in a disastrous state. At the same time, a trickle-down of prosperity did help control (if not really reverse) the rise in street crime, while organized crime matured, with real power in the underworld moving from ‘street mafiya’ to ‘suit mafiya’, the age of the overt gangsters known as ‘bandits’ giving way to the behind-the-scenes ‘authorities’ who blended crime, business and politics. This did not mean that organized crime disappeared, but at least it did mean an end to the more violent, indiscriminate days of the 1990s turf wars.

However, the global financial crisis is making its mark in Russia, too. (more…)

‘Contract killing is a continuation of business by other means’

It goes against the grain, but sometimes – rarely – I feel Putin and the Russian security apparatus deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt. On 6 October, the interesting but often-sensationalist Russian newspaper Novaya gazeta ran an article ‘Registered Speciality – the Killer’ which claimed that the Russian spetsluzhby, the security agencies, now routinely murder enemies of the Kremlin. The author, Novaya gazeta’s military affairs editor Vyacheslav Izmailov, pulls together a varied collection of killings and kidnappings and asserts that the same sinister hand is behind them all.


Blood Brotherhood: Chechen organised crime

I have just had published in Jane’s Intelligence Review a piece on Chechen organised crime (, 28 August 2008), and while it wouldn’t be appropriate for me to reproduce the whole article here, I thought it might be useful if I summarised some of the main findings.

Chechen organised crime is not a specific gang so much as a distinctive criminal subculture. Often known as the bratva, ‘brotherhood’ – although sometimes it is described as the ‘Chechenskaya obshchina’ or ‘Chechen commune’ – it is a characteristic mix of modern efficiency and a bandit tradition.


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