Does top mobster's murder signal a return to Russian mob wars?

Jan 17, 2013 - 0 Comments

Jan. 17, 2013 Christian Science Monitor

Moscow -- One of Russia's top organized crime bosses was gunned down in a classic contract hit on a Moscow street Wednesday, raising fears that Russia's notorious mafia gangs – which seemed to fade from view during the Vladimir Putin era – may be about to erupt onto the streets again.

Aslan Usoyan, whose nickname was "Grandpa (Dyed) Khasan," was shot in broad daylight as he exited his favorite downtown Moscow restaurant. He was killed by a chillingly professional assassin who had rented an apartment across the street months earlier, left behind an untraceable military-style sniper rifle and six spent cartridges, and who managed to dodge multiple security cameras when he made his escape.

Mr. Usoyan had been one of the last of the fabled Soviet-era underworld breed known as vori v zakone, or "thieves-in-law," whose gangs virtually ruled Russia's fledgling banking and business communities during the wild 1990s, and whose bloody turf wars spread mayhem around Russia and, to some extent, throughout the world.

Russia's hardened crime reporters and other experts were hardly shocked by the killing, which was the third attempt on Usoyan's life. But as they mulled over the event Thursday they appeared to disagree over what it means and what might come next.

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