Police Say Ethnic Crime Groups in Moscow Do Not Support Terrorists


Rossiyskaya Gazeta, Moscow
12 Mar 04

Moscow police officials have rejected suggestions that the capital’s
ethnic criminal groups finance terrorists as this is not in their
interest. A newspaper article provides overview of main ethnic
criminal gangs in Moscow. The following is the text of report by Petr
Verigskiy and Ilya Zubko, headlined “Moscow’s criminal ethnic
communities” by Russian government newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta on 12
March. Subheadings have been inserted editorially:

Moscow is controlled by ethnic criminal groupings, most of which were
set up by former residents of the North Caucasus and
Transcaucasus. Ethnic gang members committed more than 4,300 crimes in
the capital city last year. Yesterday (11 March), staffers of the
Moscow GUVD (Main Directorate of Internal Affairs) UBOP (Directorate
for Combating Organized Crime) spoke about police efforts to
counteract ethnic criminal groupings.

“We cannot say that a particular ethnic criminal grouping in Moscow
occupies the leading position or is the most powerful,” Andrey
Bolshakov, chief of the First Operational Investigative Unit of the
Moscow GUVD UBOP, stated: “In addition, a considerable number of
crimes committed by members of these groupings have a latent character
and are directed against their fellow countrymen. Members of various
diasporas are, so to speak, stewing in their own juice and prefer to
sort out their internal problems without anybody’s
help. Specialization of gangs from Caucasus

Naturally, it is pointless to speak about the specific number of
members of particular criminal groupings: Gangs do not issue
membership cards to their members. However, one can state that each
gang set up based on the ethnic principle has its own

According to police data, the Azeri gang is the largest criminal
grouping operating in Moscow. Its members, in particular, control drug
trafficking in the capital. More than 30 Azeri organized criminal
groupings currently operate in Moscow, mostly on the local
markets. The groupings are also involved in currency exchange frauds,
car thefts, and trading in stolen cars.

One of the oldest groupings – the Armenian one – “tackles” contract
murders and controls hotels and the gambling business. Some groupings
do not shun armed robberies and thefts.

The Georgian-Abkhazian grouping has the largest number of so-called
“kingpins.” The Georgian-Abkhazian conflict had absolutely no impact
on the ethnic unity of these two groupings. Its members specialize in
robberies, thefts, extortions, and financial frauds.

Chechen criminal grouping “goes beyond rules”

The Chechen criminal grouping is considered the most odious in
Moscow’s criminal world. The point is that this grouping does not
recognize the peculiar code of the criminal world set by “kingpins”
and always “goes beyond rules.” The Chechens’ activities are very
diverse and include extortion, kidnapping, arms trade, drug
trafficking, and control of banks, hotels, casinos, entertainment
centres, and markets. This organized criminal grouping is more unified
than any other gang.

Asian gangs

The groupings comprising guests from Asia – Chinese and Vietnamese –
are among the most “closed” ones. The Chinese associate exclusively
with members of their narrow circle and promptly transfer profits to
their homeland.

The Chinese grouping is divided into several smaller groups based on
the territorial principle: “Beijing,” “Harbin,” and “Shanghai” (the
“Beijing group” is considered the cruellest one). Members of the
Vietnamese organized criminal grouping, just as the Chinese, mostly
control the activities of their fellow countrymen legally residing in
Russia. Both the Chinese and the Vietnamese also trade in precious
metals and often get involved in the sale of “slaves” to the European
countries through Russia. The peculiar features of the Asian gangs are
very strict discipline, implicit obedience to leaders, and mutual
protection. Apprehended members of the “brigades” are sometimes so
scared of their leaders that they categorically refuse to testify.

Criminals transcend ethnic barriers

“Criminal groupings divided Moscow’s territory a long time ago,”
Yevgeniy Guzar, a section chief in the Moscow GUVD UBOP stated. “The
criminal war that was waged in the 1990 is over. Nevertheless, the
division of the spheres of influence continues all the time. New
people come and demand their spot under the sun. Curiously, ethnic
animosity is no longer as important as in the past. We happened to
detain Slavs and persons from the Caucasus, Armenians and Azerbaijanis
who jointly committed crimes. They place the lust for gain and profit
above all.”

Police reject links between Chechen terrorist and criminals in Moscow

Many people say that Chechen gunmen, for instance, are provided with
money by their fellow countrymen living in Moscow. In particular, some
people believe there is a link between the ethnic criminal groups and
the terrorist attack in the Moscow subway. Investigation officers
categorically reject these claims.

“It is disadvantageous for the groupings operating in Moscow,
including the ones from the North Caucasus, to support terrorists,”
Yevgeniy Guzar stated with confidence. “They have their families and
businesses here, and there is no guarantee that they will not be
damaged during terrorist attacks. Naturally, members of the diaspora
support their relatives in the hostilities zone. However, what
happens to the money after that is a different story. In any case we
do not have any information that they are intentionally ‘feeding’