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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Parachute Accident Marks End of an Era

Last Saturday in the Moscow suburb of Chekhov, an entire era of Russian business was laid to rest. It was the funeral of Anton Malevsky, a man who, according to the Moscow Anti-Organized Crime Department, was the leader of the Izmailovsky criminal group and, according to a suit filed by the Zhivilo brothers in a New York court, the co-owner of Oleg Deripaska's aluminum business.

The 34-year-old Malevsky died during a parachute jump in South Africa. A fan of the sport for a year and a half, he had about 300 jumps under his belt. The papers reported that he hit an air pocket, however this isn't the case. Malevsky was responsible for his own death. He wasn't satisfied with performing stunts at a height of several thousand meters. Just a hundred meters from the ground he attempted one of the most difficult maneuvers in the sport, which caused his parachute to fold. A few months before, two veterans of the sport had died attempting similar feats.

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The name Malevsky first came to the public's attention in 1996 when NTV aired a series of programs accusing TransWorld Group of working with the Izmailovsky gang and of having committed a series of high-profile murders: in particular, those of Felix Lvov, Oleg Kantor and Vadim Yafyasov.

The assassination of TWG rival, Felix Lvov, was carried out in a truly evil fashion. Armed men in masks, complete with special services IDs, picked up Lvov as he was sitting in a plane at Sheremetyevo Airport. His body was later found in a nearby wood.

At the time, today's flourishing TWG oligarch-graduates insisted that Lvov's habit of never paying anyone for aluminum had been his undoing.

One has to be fairly wary of excuses such as these, but equally those who make the accusations should be treated with a fair dose of skepticism as well. After all, the aluminum soap opera was among the first attempts at carving up property in Russia. After Alexander Korzhakov and Oleg Soskovets were fired, Boris Berezovsky and Vladimir Gusinsky decided to take a shot at TWG. It is said that it was Malevsky who came up with a witty response.

Ad time was purchased on NTV and immediately after the above-mentioned exposes on Itogi, an advert for aluminum ran, showing a roast goose wrapped in aluminum foil.

Anton Malevsky was no angel. Angels don't become the heads of criminal gangs. But it is inaccurate to portray bandits in Russia in 1991 as banal parasites. It was a time when ships loaded with steel simply went missing from ports, aluminum was paid for by fake letters of advice and consignments could only make it from one end of the country to the other under armed escort.

A civil war for property raged, and wars for private property don't happen without private armies. Bandits were the pillars not of a market but a feudal system, satisfying businessmen's demand for hit men and the needs of the very same businessmen for security.

The times when boats disappeared from ports may be long gone, but the Russian metals sector continues to live according to its own code. It needed a person capable of guaranteeing -- by any means -- the honoring of agreements, which, while they may have been illegal were in keeping with the business customs of the sector. Malevsky was such a man. Only thanks to the fear he inspired did the majority of oligarchs, who got their start under the wing of TWG and who now operate independently, manage to avoid getting locked into a civil war with one another.

The sun is setting on this era. As before, Russia lives by informal codes, however increasingly the Kremlin takes on the role of enforcer.

Malevsky's friends would often scold him for his love of parachuting.

"If I fall then I'll die like a man. Not in bed and not from an enemy's bullet," he would reply.

Perhaps he died at the right time.

Yulia Latynina is a journalist with ORT.