Wednesday, July 12, 2023

Criminality of ‘Wild 1990s’ Returning, Expanding and Taking New Forms, ‘Sovershenno-Sekretno’ Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 10 – One of Vladimir Putin’s most frequent and most widely believed claims is that he overcame “the wild 1990s” when open criminality dominated Russia and spread into the political system. He did make some progress earlier, but now the actions that characterized that decade are returning, expanding and taking new forms.

            That is the devastating judgment of Anna Pereverzeva, a journalist for Sovershenno-Sekretno, on the basis of statistics and discussions with experts on the criminal world in the Russian Federation in recent years (

            In the 1990s, she writes, extortion, raiding, murder and the recruitment of officials to carry out their schemes became commonplace among Russia’s criminals. The same patterns hold although they have become more regularized and taken somewhat different forms because of the existing criminality in the system and the new electronic universe.

            Then and now, criminals have looked for “accomplices among law enforcement, transforming the latter into ‘werewolves in uniform,’ and introducing their own people into state structures. At the same time, officials taking advantage of their positions increasingly have worked with criminals in a seamless system.

            Inga Baranova, head of a department for especially important cases at the Investigative Committee, says in the 1990s, the economy escaped from government control and criminals had to use murders more frequently. Now it is largely back under state control and so criminals use other methods to steal from the state and enrich themselves.

            The decline in the kind of crimes characteristic of the 1990s took place between 2005 and 2010, in part because the economy and the economy’s relations to the state changed and in part because the rise of the digital world has made tracing some kinds of criminal activity far easier and convictions in principle easier to get.

            But the criminal world has adapted as well and is focusing on techniques that are less traceable and permit criminal families to extract enormous sums from the economy. One of the largest areas is in the shadow economy where the power of the state is still far from established, the Sovereshenno-Sekretno journalist says.

            In fact, today, “the greatest damage to the country is inflicted in the shadow economy which involves the illegal distribution of goods and services” ranging from normal goods to organs for transplant, drugs, and even “weapons and ammunition.” Putin has called this the greatest threat to the country, and that is a sign that “the 1990s haven’t gone anywhere.”


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