Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 240

General Vladimir Vasiliev, the head of the Interior Ministry’s organized crime unit, has repeatedly said that 30-40 percent of the Russian economy is under the control of organized crime. Kommersant-daily journalist Igor Svinarenko went to the Urals city of Zlatoust to investigate the extent to which criminal groups exercise control over that city’s economy. (Kommersant-daily, 23 December)

Zlatoust first made national headlines in May of this year with the arrest of Aleksandr Morozov, allegedly a local crime boss whose associates had gained control of the local "Ural Cossack" vodka factory, and who were using the plant as the centerpiece of sundry nefarious financial operations. The director of the plant, who reportedly tried to block these activities, was assassinated, and in the spring of this year the city prosecutor shot himself dead in suspicious circumstances. Morozov was arrested on weapons possession charges, and is in jail awaiting trial. He is a 28-year-old former boxer who spent several years in Spain, during which he made his seed capital "in the tourism business." He returned to Zlatoust and set up the "Terek" fund to aid army veterans returning from Chechnya. Morozov made a well-publicized gift of 100 million rubles ($20,000) to the local special OMON police unit, but their commander ordered it returned. He won election to the Chelyabinsk Oblast Duma, and unsuccessfully ran against Zlatoust mayor Vasily Maltsev. Maltsev’s 18-year-old son was killed by skinheads in a street brawl last fall.

Interviewing local residents, Svinarenko found both supporters and opponents of the Morozov group. The prevailing reaction, however, was indifference. The "clean up" of the Zlatoust vodka plant had not led to any improvement in the company’s financial situation or in the lives of its workers. On the other hand, the arrest of Morozov suggests that even in distant Zlatoust, to quote Lloyd George, the resources of civilization are not yet exhausted.

Polish Citizens Kidnapped in Chechnya.