Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Hit Out At Instability

A senior police officer dealing with organized crime said Wednesday his department would only be able to crack down on the problem effectively when the country achieved economic and political stability.

Vladimir Ponomarenko, deputy head of Moscow's anti-organized crime department said the current conditions allowed big mafia groups the chance to use legal commercial operations as cover for their illegal activities, making it almost impossible to pin them down.

"Economic and political stability are the main factors in liquidating big mafia gangs," Ponomarenko told a press conference. "Therefore, it is nonsense to ask us, the law-and-order organs, when it will happen."

He said big organized crime gangs operating in Moscow, like the influential Solntsevskaya, were involved in banditism, extortion, racketeering and legal commercial activity.

"They have a lot of legal enterprises which have nothing in common with their crime activity," Ponomarenko said.

He declined to name the enterprises but admitted "such gangs, like Solntsevskaya, are not only criminal phenomena in the life of the city and the country but also form part of the economic and social structures."

Ponomarenko said the problem had been exacerbated by the authorities ignoring organized crime throughout the 1980s, as a result of which the gangs had been able to grow and develop their activities. "Official policy was that banditism just did not exist in the country."

He said until recently the investigative bodies had been reluctant to deal with organized crime, while the police had been hampered by penetration of their ranks by the gangs. But he declined to give statistics of such cases.

"There is a skeleton in every closet and police have lots of skeletons," he said.