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Sniper assassinates Russian mob kingpin in Moscow

David Demirbilek
Contributor

They made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.

The Washington Post reports that on Wednesday a sniper in central Moscow shot and killed Aslan Usoyan, a kingpin in the Russian criminal underworld.

The 75-year-old Usoyan, known by the moniker “Grandpa Khasan,” was leaving a favorite restaurant surrounded by bodyguards when he was shot in the head by an assassin armed with a silenced sniper rifle. Usoyan died in a hospital shortly thereafter.

According to NYU professor Mark Galeotti, Usoyan controlled prostitution, construction, and protection rackets throughout Russia and the former Soviet Union. “He was a classic gangster, like Corleone,” said Galeotti.

Usoyan devoted his entire adult life to crime, chalking up his first recorded arrest at age 19 for the assault of a police officer. The crime boss later made a fortune during the Gorbachev years, providing protection to black market operators in the crumbling Soviet Union.

Recently Usoyan’s control of the city of Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics, bred envy among the Russian underworld. The city lies close to the border of Georgia, where the ethnically Kurdish Usoyan was born and maintained his influence.

Prior to the murder, rumors swirled of a brewing turf war among rival factions of the Russian mob. Taking the helm of Usoyan’s criminal empire, and potentially leading the syndicate into future gang warfare, will be his nephew.

While Galeotti saw in the change in leadership a potential of new violence based on revenge for Usoyan’s death, some Russian officials see the killing of such a notorious figure as marking the end of inter-syndicate strife in the underworld.

Although Usoyan limited his criminal activities to the former Soviet sphere, a number of his associates have been listed as threats to the United States by the Treasury Department. Under executive order, American officials have been cleared to seize the assets of five of Usoyna’s accomplices for their participation in transnational criminal organizations deemed a threat to the U.S.

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