Russia crime boss shot at

2010-09-17 15:24

Moscow - One of Russia's most powerful crime bosses was wounded by a gunman on Moscow's main shopping street late on Thursday as part of what local media said was a battle for control of the criminal underworld.

Aslan Usoyan, a 73-year old mafia boss known in the underworld as "Grandpa Hassan", was shot in the stomach as he got out of his car just a kilometre from the Kremlin, prosecutors said.

Usoyan was in a grave condition on Friday in intensive care.

Sources in law enforcement agencies quoted by local media said the attack was part of a war between Russia's most powerful criminal groups who failed to agree on carving up territory.

During the chaos which accompanied the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, there were killings almost daily as criminal groups took control of Russia's economy though there have been no major crime wars in Moscow for years.

'Thieves in the law'

"The investigation is looking at different leads but the main one is attempted murder linked to the possible criminal activities of A Usoyan," a spokesperson for the Prosecutor-General's main investigative unit said.

Sources in law enforcement agencies said Usoyan, one of the Russia's criminal godfathers, or so-called “thieves in the law” had quarrelled with another prominent crime boss.

Russian godfather Vyacheslav Ivankov, known as Yaponchick, tried to mediate in the conflict before he was shot in the stomach by a sniper in July 2009. He died several months later.

The “thieves in the law” were the elite of the criminal underworld in the former Soviet Union.

They adhere to a criminal code - thus the "law" - which emerged in the 1930s when Josef Stalin sent legions of criminals - and political prisoners - to concentration camps.