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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sniper Wounds Reputed Mob Boss

APVyacheslav Ivankov seen walking outside a Moscow court on July 20, 2005.
An unknown gunman has shot and seriously wounded one of the country’s most notorious reputed crime bosses in a mysteriously botched sniper attack.

Vyacheslav Ivankov, better known as Yaponchik and dubbed the godfather of the Russian mafia, was gunned down late Tuesday when he was leaving the Thai Elephant restaurant in the city’s northwest, investigators said Wednesday.

“He was injured by one bullet in the stomach and is being treated in a hospital,” said Viktoria Tsyplenkova, a spokeswoman for the city’s Investigative Committee.

Investigators are treating the case as an attempted murder, she said.

Tsyplenkova would not comment on the victim’s health, but national media reported that Ivankov was in critical condition after an emergency operation. His recovery is complicated by the fact that he is 69 years old, the portal reported, citing sources at the clinic.

It was unclear, however, why the gunman did not manage to kill Ivankov.

Media reports suggested that while the crime was professionally prepared, it was executed with a high degree of blundering.

The purported killer hid in a GAZelle minivan parked on a roadside about 70 meters from the restaurant, the Investigative Committee said in a statement. Photos published on showed the truck with a blue canvas cover, which had a small rectangular hole cut out at the top left corner.

While the killer managed to flee, the minivan was abandoned, leaving investigators not just the gun — a scoped Degtyarev sniper rifle — but also fingerprints, camouflage trousers and a jacket, news agency Rosbalt reported, citing a law enforcement source.

Detectives are also examining bullet fragments and footage from a video camera installed at the restaurant’s entrance, the Investigative Committee said.

“Investigators are convinced that this was the work of a professional who could not complete his task because Ivankov stooped down when the shot was fired,” the statement said.

Tsyplenkova refused to elaborate on why a shot aimed to kill could hit a stooping victim well below the head and chest.

She said the gunman shot at least once and that investigators had yet to determine whether other shots were fired.

The motive for the attack was also unclear, although one police source pointed to a gangland conflict and warned that it could escalate.

“The most likely reason is a conflict between the clans of Aslan Usoyan and Tariel Oniani,” Interfax quoted an unidentified investigator as saying.

Ivankov had supported Usoyan, also known as Grandpa Khasan, in the conflict, and this might have led to the attempt on his life, the source said.

The conflict came to the fore in July 2008, when police detained dozens of reputed crime bosses after a dramatic helicopter raid on a yacht at a reservoir outside Moscow.

Media reports at the time said the mobsters had gathered to defuse the conflict and that Oniani was among those detained. Yet most of the suspected gang leaders were subsequently released because of a lack of evidence.

Oniani, an ethnic Georgian with a reputation as one of the most powerful crime bosses in the former Soviet Union, was again detained in June at the Gorky-2 luxury village outside Moscow, Interfax reported.

He is accused of kidnapping a Georgian businessman, but more charges might follow, the agency reported.

Ivankov — whose nickname Yaponchik, or “Japanese,” comes from his slightly Asian appearance — spent 10 years in Soviet prisons before being released in 1991. 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 by a Moscow court.

He has been described as one of the most influential “thieves-in-law,” the masters of the Russian criminal underworld.