Police have raided a restaurant near Moscow and arrested four suspected crime bosses and 19 others as they met to plan strategy after the killing of a criminal godfather known as Grandpa Hassan, according to the interior ministry.
Officers swooped on the Family Elite-Club restaurant in the town of Nikolina Gora after learning that suspects from Russia and Belarus would meet there to discuss issues of a criminal nature, the ministry said.
“During the secret meeting, held under the cover of a celebration of the birthday of a suspected senior criminal authority, the plan was to discuss next steps after the recent assassination of the head of the Aslan Usoyan clan,” it added.
Usoyan was the real name of Grandpa Hassan, 75,one of the most influential kingpins of organised crime in the former Soviet Union. He was shot dead on a Moscow street on 16 January in what authorities believe was a contract killing.
During the chaos which accompanied the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union, killings across Russia were commonplace as criminal gangs battled to gain control of lucrative businesses and carve up territory.
According to reports, Usoyan established a network involved in illegal gambling, drugs and weapons sales, and natural resources extraction, with stakes in former Soviet republics and beyond.
President Vladimir Putin has claimed credit for bringing order since he rose to power in 2000, but Kremlin critics say corruption has worsened and accuse government authorities of ties to organised crime.
The Russian news agency Interfax identified the four main suspects arrested in the restaurant as Alexander Bor, Konstantin Borisov, Alexander Medvedev and Pavel Alexiyevich.