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

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yekaterinburg Police Chief Fired for Mafia Links

Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin has fired the chief of the Yekaterinburg region's police force for what officials say are his links to organized crime in one of Russia's most mafia-ridden areas.

An Interior Ministry official said Friday in a telephone interview that Valery Krayev lost his post Thursday because of his suspected contacts with the Ural Mountain region's most powerful organized crime grouping, known as Uralmashevskaya.

The official, who asked not be identified, said the fired police chief may soon face criminal charges, but wouldn't elaborate.

Uralmashevskaya gang is widely believed to be the Sverdlovsk region's most powerful and violent organized crime group, controlling cafes, open-air markets and industrial enterprises, and to have killed a number of businessmen and police officers.

Interior Ministry officials interviewed Friday denied any knowledge of a videotape that news media reports say shows several mob figures attending Krayev's 50th birthday party in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in August.

However, Yekaterinburg region Governor Eduard Rossel has confirmed the existence of the tape. Rossel's car was blown up by unidentified gangsters a year ago.

In addition, Yekaterinburg region police official Leonid Fesko, who heads the surveillance division, blew the whistle on Krayev late last year, telling a meeting of police brass that Krayevwas "acting in interests of the Uralmashevskaya criminal community."

The officer alleged that his commander had helped the gang seize control of a local chemical plant.

The sensational accusations prompted Stepashin to dispatch senior officials to the city, including the deputy head of the ministry's internal security branch, Sergei Shcherbakov.

Vladimir Putin, head of the Federal Security Service, also visited the region in January in what news media described as an attempt to look into Krayev's activities.