The "Russian" Mafia in America

In October 1996, during testimony before a congressional committee, FBI Director Louis Freeh spent a good part of his time discussing international organized crime. Freeh, pointing to the FBI's arrest of one Vyacheslav Ivankov—the reputed "godfather" of the Russian mafia who is now serving a ten-year sentence in a federal pen in New York—emphasized the threat that organized crime from the Former Soviet Union (FSU) posed to American security. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, probably the most widely read newspaper among Russian elites, reported that "this theme"—the global threat represented by the Russian mafia—was "gleefully developed" by Western media, which publishes and broadcasts "more and more menacing details about crimes committed by Russian mafiosi." The paper's Aleksandr Sharev further claimed, probably correctly, that the firestorm over the Russian mafia had been ignited by a study published in the United States in 1996 by the Center for Strategic Studies (CSS), which "blew the Russian mafia threat up to almost worldwide dimensions."

The Russians, ever sensitive to the West's alleged Russophobia, reacted sharply. Former Minister of Internal Affairs (the MVD, responsible for police and internal troops) Anatoli Kulikov blasted Freeh and the CSS study, claiming that the exaggerated accounts of Russian Al Capones were being spread in order to "isolate...

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