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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Leather and Gold at Ivankov’s Burial

MTA mourner carrying an icon with Ivankov’s portrait at his funeral Tuesday.

About 1,000 people wearing black leather jackets, sunglasses and gold chains descended on Moscow’s prestigious Vagankovskoye Cemetery on Tuesday to pay their last respects to reputed mobster Vyacheslav Ivankov.

Ivankov, a legendary thief-in-law, or “vor v zakone,” known as Yaponchik for his slightly Asian appearance, died Friday at the age of 69 in a Moscow hospital where he had been treated for injuries sustained in a shooting as he left a Moscow restaurant on July 28.

The scene at the cemetery on Tuesday afternoon was reminiscent of a mafia movie. Only a few women were visible among the hundreds of men decked-out in black leather and gold chains and accompanied by bodyguards.

There were few tears and no speeches. The serious-looking men mostly talked on their cell phones, making appointments for the rest of the day, and occasionally stopped to hug acquaintances walking by. Television cameramen and photographers were barred from entering the cemetery.

The funeral, which followed Russian Orthodox tradition, was supposed to have been held on the third day after Ivankov’s death but was postponed until Tuesday. Media reports linked the delay to the desire of people from across Russia and several other countries to attend. Notes attached to the dozens of giant wreaths laid on Ivankov’s grave Tuesday seemed to support the reports. The golden-lettered words on the notes read, “From Dagestani Bros,” “From Kazakh Bros,” “From Leo” and “To brother from Grandpa Khasan.”  

Grandpa Khasan is the nickname for reputed mob boss Aslan Usoyan, whom media reports said was embroiled in a dispute with reputed mob boss Tariel Oniani at the time of the attack on Ivankov. Ivankov reportedly supported Usoyan in the conflict. Oniani, who is currently locked up in Moscow’s Matrosskaya Tishina detention center, “has been sentenced to death” by prisoners belonging to the rival clan, according to the Prime Crime news portal, known for its crime reporting.

Police on Tuesday found two automatic rifles in the trunk of a car parked next to the restaurant where Ivankov was shot and just a kilometer from Vagankovskoye Cemetery, a law enforcement source told Interfax. “The weapons were found accidentally. A local resident who was walking his dog called the police about a suspicious looking vehicle with a broken window,” the source said, adding that it was possible that an ambush had been planned for “criminal leaders” attending Ivankov’s funeral.

Ivankov was widely considered to be one of the last keepers of Russia’s traditional criminal culture, which rejects the state and its laws. He spent 10 years in Soviet prisons before being released in 1991. In jail, he was “crowned” by other authoritative mobsters for his stern following and enforcement of the informal laws guiding the lives of criminals.

He managed to enter the United States only to find himself in jail again after being tried for extortion in 1995. He was extradited to Russia in 2004 to face murder charges but was acquitted.

The Vagankovskoye Cemetery is known as the final resting spot for Russia’s intellectual and artistic elite, including singer Vladimir Vysotsky and actor Alexander Abdulov. Ivankov was buried next to his mother in plot No. 50.