DailyMail: ‘Russia’s mafia state is biggest gang in town’: Vladimir Putin’s links to murky world of Russian crime bosses under spotlight as one-armed mobster – and former associate – goes on trial

Vladimir Putin‘s inextricable links to the murky world of the Russian mafia are under the spotlight due to his dealings with an one-armed mobster currently on trial in Moscow, MailOnline can reveal.

Vladimir Barsukov – nicknamed Russia‘s Al Capone – is accused of founding the murderous Tambov crime gang and seizing national assets worth $100m.

The mafia godfather and Putin overlapped in St Petersburg in the 80s and 90s and were said to be so close that while Putin was deputy mayor, Barsukov was the city’s ‘night governor’.

Putin is said to have turned a blind eye as Barsukov – real name Kumarin – bribed officials and removed enemies with almost daily contract killings – and even granted his oil company lucrative petrol concessions.

The extent of the dealings between the two men has been unveiled in an explosive book by British professor Mark Galeotti as he tracks the links between the old Soviet criminal fraternity and the country’s modern-day rulers.

The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia details the origins of Russia’s notorious vor-v-zakone – or thief-in-laws and explores their rise during the collapse of the USSR and how they have influenced modern-day Russia.

Vladimir Putin (left), pictured during his time as Deputy Mayor of Saint Petersburg when is is claimed to turned a blind eye to contract killing and bribes during his time at City Hall

Vladimir Barsukov – a one-armed mobster nicknamed Russia’s Al Capone – pictured with his wife Marina is on trial in Moscow accused of founding the Tambovskaya Gruppirovka crime gang that carried out contract killings in St Petersburg while Putin was Deputy Mayor there

The trial of Barsukov – real name Kumarin – threatens to lay bare the true extent of Putin’s links to the murky world of the Russian mafia. He is said to have bribed officials and removed enemies with almost daily contract killings with Putin’s knowledge and authorisation

Putin was once so close to Barsukov (pictured) that the mobster was nicknamed St Petersburg’s ‘night governor’ because he ruled the city after dark. Putin is even said to have granted his oil company lucrative petrol concessions while he was in charge.

It looks at how Putin has kept them in check and touches on what ties, if any, President Trump might have to this vast underworld.

The book has led commentators to question what relationship the state continues to have with the Russian mafia figures like Barsukov, whose right arm was amputated in 1994 after he was sprayed with machine gun fire in a failed attempt on his life.

‘Putin and Barsukov are tied to each other by blood and cocaine money, which were laundered via oil trade and other city projects,’ said businessman Maksim Freidzon as the book was released.

‘Barsukov was a sort of walking skeleton’ added Freidzon, who has been exiled in Israel since claiming he himself was forced to pay $10,000 bribes to Putin in the early 1990s in order to run his business.

In the book, Galeotti details how when Putin left St Petersburg City Hall, one of his first jobs inside the Kremlin was to bring down Barsukov.

Putin’s growing and supreme authority was challenged as Barsukov continued to push for total control of the oil industry around St Petersburg.

Barsukov had become a thorn in Putin’s side, ‘the unmanageable criminal’ who refused to be cowed by his former ‘man in City Hall’. He refused to go quietly, sell up, flee into exile and vanish.

As the trial into the godfather (pictured with wife Marina) continues, more lurid details about Putin’s unsavoury dealings are revealed in a revelatory book by British professor Mark Galeotti charting links between the old Soviet criminal fraternity and the country’s modern-day rulers

The book The Vory: Russia’s Super Mafia details the origins of Russia’s notorious vor-v-zakone – or thief-in-laws  and explores their rise during the collapse of the USSR and how they influence modern-day Russia. It has led commentators to question what relationship the state continues to have with Russian mafia figures like Barsukov, pictured on holiday with his family

When Putin left St Petersburg for the Kremlin, one of his first jobs was to order Barsukov’s demise. The mobster, pictured playing Louis XIV of France in a Russian movie, had become a thorn in Putin’s side, ‘the unmanageable criminal’ who refused to be cowed by his ‘ex-man in City Hall’. He refused to go quietly, sell up, flee into exile and vanish

‘Putin and Barsukov are tied to each other by blood and cocaine money, which were laundered via oil trade and other city projects,’ said businessman Maksim Freidzon – who is now in exile in Israel – as the book was released

And so in 2007 Putin ordered his demise. He airlifted in police commandos from Moscow in a ‘full military operation’ to grab Barsukov – then flew him straight back to Moscow where he was jailed for 23 years for ordering killings, extortion, money laundering and fraud.

Commentators said Putin was showing ‘it doesn’t matter how big you are, the state is back and we can reach out and take down anyone’.

Unlike other criminals Barsukov has never been sent to a Siberian penal colony. Instead he has languished in high-security detention jails in Moscow, under Putin’s watchful eye. He knows he will never be freed while the president remains in power.

Putin’s uncomfortable link to Barsukov is just one of the examples of the Kremlin’s dealings with Russia’s underworld cited by Galeotti in 30 years of research for his book.

He charts how the mob graduated after the USSR’s demise from control over the sudden explosion in nightclubs, strip clubs, prostitution and street kiosks to big time business, and ultimately controlling a string of ports, more than 100 companies.

Stalin had used powerful criminals – the ‘vory’ – in Siberian jails as collaborators to control the millions of political detainees he condemned to incarceration.

In return for almost running his evil gulags, these collaborators secured privileges.

Yet not all hardened criminals leaders would collaborate: the most powerful were called ‘vory v zakone’, who owed their allegiance to their own codes.

Putin, pictured during his time as Deputy Mayor airlifted in police commandos from Moscow in a ‘full military operation’ to grab Barsukov – then flew him straight back to Moscow where he was jailed for 23 years for ordering killings, extortion, money laundering and fraud

Putin’s uncomfortable links to Barsukov is just one of the examples of the Kremlin’s dealings with Russia’s underworld cited by Galeotti in 30 years of research for his book

But just as Putin crushed Barsukov (pictured second from left) so he has tamed the mafia, and deployed them in the interests of the state, as defined by his regime, according to Galeotti. ‘The Russian mob,’ he wrote, ‘is being mobilised as a tool of foreign policy in arguably the world’s first criminal political war.’

Endless shortages under Leonid Brezhnev’s stagnation era led to a spiralling of organised crime – in many case led by these long before the Red Flag came down.

When Mikhail Gorbachev defied Russian gravity by imposing curbs, these released jail godfathers took the lead in supplying banned alcohol, then laundered the profits.

When the planned communist economy collapsed, the rising mafia gangs born out of these jail and gulag experiences supplied everything from consumer goods to security instead of the incapable state run by a sozzled Boris Yeltsin.

A bargain was struck which destroyed the moral authority of the state: mafia rings were allowed to flourish in return for enriching apparatchiks with often stupendous bribes, but also accepting the overall control of senior state officials.

‘This was in many ways the model for Putin’s national policy,’ writes Galeotti.

‘The criminals soon realised that so long as they were discreet, so long as they cut officials into part of the action, then the state would not treat them as a threat.’

Today this seems normal in Russia: national and regional officials live in luxurious mansions, drive expensive limousines, and enjoy exotic foreign holidays, which bear no relationship to their modest salaries. Few even bother to ask how this happens.

But just as Putin crushed Barsukov, so he has tamed the mafia, and deployed them in the interests of the state, as defined by his regime, according to Galeotti.

Barsukov was flown back to Moscow after being seized by Putin’s men where he was jailed for 23 years for ordering killings, extortion, money laundering and fraud. Despite the one-armed gangster’s incarceration, his Tambov gang have continued to murder in St Petersburg as they were behind this shooting of a Russian businessman in 2006

Unlike other criminals Barsukov (pictured in court in 2016) has never been sent to a Siberian penal colony. Instead he has languished in high-security detention jails in Moscow, under Putin’s watchful eye. He knows he will never be freed while the president remains in power

But just as Putin crushed Barsukov – whose gang was behind this murder of a Russian businessman two years ago, so he has tamed the mafia, and deployed them in the interests of the state, as defined by his regime, according to Galeotti

‘The Russian mob,’ Galeotti wrote, ‘is being mobilised as a tool of foreign policy in arguably the world’s first criminal political war.’ Under Putin, the professor concludes, the state is ‘the biggest gang in town’. Pictured: Businessman Sergey Vasilyev murdered by the Tambov gang

‘The Russian mob,’ he wrote, ‘is being mobilised as a tool of foreign policy in arguably the world’s first criminal political war.’

Just as Putin has dragged the media and business to perform functions for the state so major league criminals – as well as for example hackers – have been dragooned into service.

In his ‘mobilisation state’, there is also a ‘spook crook’ alliance which – assuming Theresa May is right that the Skripals were dosed in nerve agent by the Russians – may make it hard to prove exactly who was responsible: state agents or subverted brigands?

And whether they were acting on specific orders or their own assessments that such murderous actions would be welcomed?

Under Putin, the professor concludes, the state is ‘the biggest gang in town’.

And others have branded modern Russia a ‘mafia state’.

Galeotti said: ‘Let’s be honest: Russia is run by people who are stealing left, right, and centre – it’s a kleptocracy.

‘They’re not doing it in usual mob ways, like shaking people down on the street corner.

‘They’re doing it through government contracts and corrupt sweetheart deals. There’s a considerable overlap between how the gangsters operate and how the elite operate.

‘The boundaries between the two are pretty permeable.’

As for Barsukov, he can only now expect a new jail term that will extend his incarceration possibly beyond Putin’s lifetime.

Resigned to a lifetime behind bars in his Moscow detention cell – said: ‘I would have loved to go to a jail, to a penal colony, where I would be allowed to walk and breath fresh air.

‘But I will never be allowed out of this strictest and most guarded detention centre in all Russia.

‘They even refused to take me to hearings in St Petersburg, bringing court officials to Moscow instead.’

Source – Daily Mail