Zarina Zabrisky
33 min readJul 17, 2018



Image from Putinism As Is blog.

This is a translation of excerpts from a blog Putinism As Is by a Radio Svoboda analyst and blogger Artem Kruglov. In the light of Helsinki Summit 2018 and Trump/Putin relationship, it is important to know these facts of Putin’s background.

“The group around Putin today is the same as the one that brought him to power from St. Petersburg in the 1990s,” wrote celebrated author Karen Dawisha in her book Putin’s Kleptocracy. In today’s political climate it is critical for the EU and US analysts, journalists and general audience to understand the true origin and background of the Russian mafia state. “In the 90s, gangsters and the KGB fused into one structure,” said Olga Litvinenko, a politician who served in the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg from 2007 to 2011 and an estranged daughter of Putin’s ally and long-time friend. This structure is what we now call a mafia state. “Putin was never in business and he does not have ‘business associates,’” noted Nikita Kulachenkov, a forensic accountant and political activist fighting against corruption in the Russian government, has also served as a principal investigator at the Anti-Corruption Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Moscow and founded by Alexei Navalny. “Russian oligarchs do not own their fortunes. They can’t hide their money. They need the status quo and will fight for it, using the mafia methods” — even if it requires taking these mafia methods to the West.

Read the profiles of Putin’s allies. The incomplete list of their achievements includes cocaine and heroin trade, illegal arms trafficking, running prostitution rings, using child labor for diamond mining, smuggling, extortion, assassinations, dismemberment, blackmail, racketeering, theft, money-laundering and much more.

Translator’s Foreword: My own early life experience confirms Artem Kruglov’s research. The KGB infiltrated the USSR society in the 80s: an agent tried to hire me when I studied languages at university. I lost many friends to heroin epidemic that struck St.Petersburg in the 80s and 90s — courtesy of the mafia bosses described in the text below. In the “wild” 1990s, I did not just watch Putin make his first steps to power by stealing St.Petersburg food supplies — I stood in lines holding ratio cards in my hand. I briefly worked for Putin’s corrupt predecessor in the mayor’s office in St.Petersburg and quit after interpreting at negotiating a bribe to a high profile Western official. I translated for the US and UK investment bankers and oil industry executives who did business with the Russian officials, KGB and organized crime all over the former USSR and witnessed money laundering through offshore shell companies, bribing, blackmailing and recruiting of the Westerners by the Russian security service and mafia. I saw guns being shown at negotiations and dead rats tied to doorknobs as a threat. What reads like pulp fiction was our daily life in Moscow in the 90s. These days, the criminals who seized the power in my former country are attempting to take control of the West. Understanding their mentality and motivation is critical to developing a strategy to prevent them from taking over. To know the past is to be in charge of the future. To diagnose the disease is the first step to healing.

The original article “Bratva” (“Bros,” a slang term for “mob”) is abridged and re-structured for the Western readers not familiar with the intricate details of Russian politics and the history of organized crime. I have also inserted links to my research showing the longterm ties between the Russian organized crime bosses and Trump and his immediate environment. Where possible, I did my best to retain the humorous style of the original but had to sacrifice some excellent jokes and colloquialisms in the name of clarity. To make the text more palatable, I broke the original into two parts:

1. A brief analysis of the transition from the communist to mafia state (1985 — present)

2. Directory and profiles of the Russian organized crime bosses and groups with ties to Putin, followed by a more detailed account of a life story of a KGB informer/spy transitioning into a mafia boss/oligarch and Putin’s advisor. The biography of Shabtai Kalmanovich is an excellent illustration to the symbiosis of the mafia, security services and oligarchy.


Bratva — literally, “bros” or “brothers.” A singular is a “brat,” also used as a common man-to-man address in Russia. Plural slang version “bratva” is used for a “mob.”

Krysha — literally, roof. 1. Protection money paid to a criminal boss, group or a governmental body in order to operate business. 2. A criminal boss, group or a governmental body providing such protection. In the mafia state all businesses and corporations are managed by krysha. Krysha was explained by Russian multi-billionaire Roman Abramovich in London’s High Court as follows: physical protection necessary as anyone with a business capable of generating strong cash flow is vulnerable to criminal interference, including potential violence or, in other words, a relationship with someone who could use his political connections to solve certain problems and get compensated for his efforts. Read this again if needed because this concept is critical for understanding the following material and the present situation. “Putin and the FSB provide krysha for all Russian oligarchs,” said Nikita Kulachenkov, a forensic accountant and political activist fighting against corruption in the Russian government, at his presentation at PutinCon conference in New York in 2018. At this point, I daresay, Putin and the FSB provide krysha for Trump and his administration as well.

OCG — organized crime group.

Piter — a common way to refer to St.Petersburg, formerly Leningrad, recognized as a bandit capital of Russia and Putin’s birth town.

Piterskie — a term applied to the bandits and officials that followed Putin to Moscow from Leningrad/St.Petersburg.

SVRThe Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Russia’s external intelligence agency, succeeded the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in December 1991.

*Russian names are often difficult for non-Russian speakers so I am using the last name only for clarity (you can see the full first names and nicknames at the first mention of each person. I have not included patronymics for brevity. In some cases, especially in common names, patronymic as a middle initiate can be useful, ex. Sergey Mikhailov.)

**Transliteration can be tricky and can be responsible for many spelling options of the same name in the Google search engine. Western versions of the name are different from the Russian. (ex. Artem — Artyom, Andrey — Andrei, Eltsin — Yeltsin, Chernenko — Tchernenko, etc.)



In March 1985, the USSR government changed: the former ruler, ailing Konstantin U. Chernenko, died and was replaced by Mikhail Gorbachev.

There were no elections or referendums. Nobody asked the people. A bunch of the old men gathered somewhere in the Politburo and called “Misha” the tsar.

Chernenko to Gorbachev.

Life was going on as usual for a while. Soviet proletarians still marched praising their leaders and stood in endless queues for vodka.

However, with the arrival of Gorbachev, the USSR slowly began to turn towards a new, completely unexpected direction — towards freedom. There came the weakening of censorship (“glasnost,”) the lifting of the ban on private business (in 1987) and prohibitions to travel abroad, the amnesty of political prisoners. People began to go out into the streets and collectively express their opinions. These were things unthinkable in the USSR.

It all led to the first — and the last — fair presidential elections in the modern history of Russia in the summer of 1991. Boris Yeltsin, in strong opposition to Gorbachev, won.

Yeltsin, transferred to Moscow in April 1985.

Having come to power, Yeltsin did not risk fair elections again. Putin came to power de facto on August 9, 1999, when Yeltsin publicly declared him a successor and immediately appointed Prime Minister.

In July 1985, at 32, a major Vladimir Putin graduated a one-year training course from the Institute named after the head of the KGB Andropov, before being sent to Dresden. He was accepted into the intelligence forces. [ZZ: In 1991, he was back in St.Petersburg, working in the mayor’s office.]. Putin’s intelligence school pseudonym was “Platov.”

[ZZ: Yeltsin discovered Putin when the Prosecutor General Skuratov attempted to investigate corruption in Yeltsin’s government. A video with compromat “appeared” in the Yeltsin’s administration office and was aired nationwide on TV. Yeltsin ordered Putin to get rid of “immoral” General Prosecutor. Putin handled the dirty case, demonstrating his loyalty and eagerness to cover up the corruption. Yeltsin, then, nominated Putin, a provincial bureaucrat, a presidential candidate. Read more about Putin’s rise to power due to a sex scandal and “compromat” here:]

On December 31, 1999, Yeltsin resigned and Putin became an acting President.

[ZZ: In 1999, Putin won his first presidency as a result of a mass terrorist act committed against the people of Russia — residential apartment blocks bombings of 1999 — and a resulting Chechnya war.]


In November 2002, the French newspaper Le Monde published an interview with Jalol Haidarov, a former shareholder of Kachkanarsky GOK. In 2000, Khaidarov had to flee Russia after a conflict with his krysha [protection], Izmaylovo OCG, for which he worked all through the 90s.

Khaidarov spoke about his conversation with the leader of the Izmaylovo OCG, Anton Malevsky, in 2000, after Putin’s election.

Malevsky urged Khaidarov not to get in trouble and give back the shares as requested. “No one will help you,” said the leader of Izmailovo OCG. “Neither Patrushev [Director of the Russian Federal Security Service,] nor Rushailo [Minister of the Interior at that time]. You know, we have an alliance for eight years…

Le Monde is published in France but a small part of the circulation was traditionally sent to Russia. The entire issue containing this interview and published on November 28, 2002, was arrested immediately upon arrival in the Russian Federation and did not reach the Russian readers. After all, the “eight-year alliance” was an alliance with Putin and eight years stood for two presidential terms which, as the bandits planned, he would stay in the Kremlin.

And sure enough, no one helped businessman Khaidarov: his property was taken away during the first months of Putin’s rule. Later there were many more such businessmen; London was full of them.

Putin made an eight-year alliance with Izmailovo and Solntsevo OCG.

Later, the deal was extended…



“In my opinion, on the territory of the CIS [in the 1990s], there were four groups — Solntsevo, Izmailovo, Chechens and Podolskie … The rest were tied into one of these groups.” — From an interview with the criminal authority of Leonid Roitman (aka “Lenya Dlinny,”) a member of the Mogilevich OCG in the 1990s, for Davydzon Radio. New York, October 2014.



In 1985, Putin’s friend, a criminal boss Ilya Traber (aka “Antique Salesman,”) was still diluting beer in the Zhiguli bar in then Leningrad, later St. Petersburg.

It is unlikely that he could have imagined that someday he and “cadet Platov” [Putin] would be digging into ports, oil depots and shipyards, splitting the money with Tambov OCG “bros.” And the “bros” in question did not exist at this point.

Criminal boss Ilya Traber.

Traber earned the title of “night commandant” of the St. Petersburg port in the 1990s when the port became the main gate for smuggling goods: cocaine, heroin, fake vodka, etc. (read more below.)

“Ilya Traber is more important than Putin, since, as far as I know, Putin worked for him in the 90s when he worked in St. Petersburg’s mayor’s office” (Roberto Masorriaga, Traber’s lawyer at the trial of the Tambov criminal group in Spain, in response to a question from journalists: was it true that Traber attends Putin’s birthday parties on the regular basis. Madrid, April 2018).

Traber, “the Antiques Trader.”

The opinion that in the 90s Putin worked under Traber was also expressed by Sergei Kosyrev, a former Traber’s security guard. He happened to observe Putin’s visit to Traber at the latter’s headquarters (an antique store) in the early 90s. Putin came “for advice” and the “boss” was busy and did not accept anyone. Putin obediently waited in the back room of the store, along with guards and other servants until Traber received him.


In 1985, the native of the Tambov region and [later a founder of Tambov OCG,] Vladimir Kumarin (aka “Kum”), a Leningrad bar bouncer, was sent to jail for the first time.


In 1985, Putin’s troubleshooting man, Konstantin Goloschapov (aka “Kostya-Sanitar” or “Kostya Moshchevoz” [The Relics Trader/Man] (he is known for his religiousness,)) traded icons in Leningrad. Foreigners paid well for icons that were stolen or bought from old ladies for pennies.

At leisure, the patron of arts trained at Rotenberg’s judo club — to keep in shape.

When Vladimir Kumarin started to build up his team Goloschapov joined the Tambov OCG.

[[ZZ: Rotenberg worked as a coach in a club that provided training for delinquent teenagers and the members of the biggest organized crime group in Leningrad, Tabmov OCG.

The backbone of Tambov gang consisted of athletes. In 1992, Usvyatsov, Putin’s coach, organized athletes in a militarized security squad. In 1994, he was shot. Tambov OCG lived on.

According to the court materials of 2015, Litvinenko trial in London, in late 1990s Putin supported Tambov OCG. Litvinenko investigated the ties between Tambov OCG and St. Petersburg city administration and their involvement with Columbian cocaine trafficking and money laundering. (see below.)

In 2016, The Guardian reported that “the high-placed officials are thought to have helped one of Russia’s best-known mafia groups, the Tambov OCG, infiltrate state structures, police, port authorities and private banks and corporations. The Tambov and Malyshev gangs, which made their names smuggling heroin in St Petersburg when Putin was deputy mayor in the 1990s, allegedly laundered money through Spanish real estate.]]

And who would have thought that in twenty years, Goloschapov, a “bro” from Tambov OCG, would become Putin’s “gray cardinal of Human Resources” in the Kremlin, a place where the jobs were traded at the highest level and that even the ecumenical communion of the Russian Orthodox Church with the Vatican would not happen without him?

Russian Orthodox Church and Catholic Church meeting with Goloschapov present. 2017. Above: Goloschapov with Patriarch Kirill.

[ZZ: Read more about Rotenberg’s judo club, Putin’s mafia coach and all things mafia, including connections to Trump and Michael Cohen here:]



In 1985, a recent graduate of a vocational school from Podolsk, Boris Ivanyuchenkov (aka “Rotan,”) served in the army in a special sports division. Later, he became a future crime boss and one of the founders of Podolsk OCG and participated in bloody massacres, assassinations, dismemberment. After that, he became the first Minister of Sports under Putin, the first ever Russian minister/criminal boss.

Ivanyuschenkov, a criminal and a Minister.



In 1985, Oleg Deripaska graduated from high school.

His future patron, criminal boss Mikhail Cherny (aka “Misha Krysha” [“Roof” or “Protection Money,”] who in the 90s would accept Deripaska to the Izmaylovo OCG and “big business,” at the time was still doing odd jobs in Tashkent, manufacturing beach flip-flops.

Deripaska and Cherny only met in the 90s in Moscow, when Misha Cherny noticed the promising young boy. “He was like a son to me. You must understand. My son, my boy. “(Misha Cherny about Deripaska in the 90s, from Haaretz newspaper interview, November 24, 2011).

Left: Oleg Deripaska. Right: Misha Cherny.


In 1985, Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov (aka “Little Thai” or “Alik Tayvanchik”), another future leader of the Izmaylovo OCG, received a “modest” conviction for his “parasitism, or failure to be officially employed.” (At the time, the USSR Criminal Code had such a ridiculous article.) Tokhtakhunov was not a parasite. He was a hard-working conman and made money playing cards on trains and in mafia dens.

It took a while for Tokhtakhunov to advance from a railroad scammer to an intermediary between the organized crime bosses and Yeltsin’s entourage, to make it to the Interpol Wanted list (in 2003), become a member of the Writers’ Union of Russia and a respected person overall.

Moscow, the Kremlin, 2007. Christmas party for the children of FSB and MVD employees killed on duty. Sponsors: Izmailovo bosses “Pavlik” and “Little Thai.”

[Read more about Tokhtakhunov and his connections to Trump here:]



In 1985, Alisher Usmanov (aka “Uzbek”) also served his jail term, only for the more serious offense [a group rape — ZZ.] He could not possibly be dreaming of London mansions on a prison bunk bed. What mattered the most was to wake up in the morning “without a screwdriver in the eye socket,” he confessed later. (Usmanov was the son of the Tashkent General Prosecutor and the whole prison knew about it.)

Usmanov’s wife [Irina Viner] was the gymnastics team coach. Later, one of her gymnastics students allegedly becomes Putin’s mistress, adding to the list of connections.

One of Usmanov’s youth friends and a classmate at [prestigious] Moscow State Institute of International Relations was Yeltsin’s press secretary (and later Putin’s press-secretary) Sergei Yastrzhembsky. Through this press-secretary, Usmanov had access to the Kremlin and, when needed, could help fellow countrymen with the important issues.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky with Yeltsin.

The former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray wrote about Usmanov:

In addition, Murray said that Usmanov, through the now deceased president of Uzbekistan Karimov, paid the Uzbek court so that they retroactively canceled the verdict of 1980. Moreover, Usmanov arranged for the case to disappear from the archives, and no one could find out what the son of the Tashkent prosecutor did in 1980.

Putin and Usmanov, 2013. Moscow.

[ZZ: Read about Usmanov and his money behind Facebook, Twitter and Silicon Valley here:]


In 1985, Usmanov’s future Moscow friend, Andrey Skoch (aka “Scotch,”) served in the army in the Moscow region.

In 1990, Skoch would bring Usmanov to Solntsevo OCG, where the latter would receive a nickname “Uzbek” and become “a real man.”

Scotch in a group of other criminals, including Sergey Mikhailv (see below.) Andrey Skoch: “Good has a name.” Ad for United Russia, Putin’s political party.
Andrei Skoch’s profile on Forbes. Added by ZZ.


In the 1990s, the Russian Orthodox Church, in particular, the Department for External Church Relations (DECR), headed by Metropolitan Kirill, a future patriarch, received the rights to import cigarettes and “church wine” duty-free.

It was organized by the trade and financial group Nika, an affiliate of the Department for External Church Relations and was controlled by the Solntsevo OCG.

The privileges were pushed using the multiple KGB ties of the future Patriarch Kirill.

In particular, during these years Kirill’s adviser was Major-General Lebedev, a former deputy of the head of the national KGB. In 1997, the Russian press received the documents that became a laughing matter: Kirill, the head of Department for External Church Relations, demanded that a Moscow airport Sheremetyevo-2 provided Lebedev, a “professor of theology,” with an access to the VIP hall. In fact, the theological professor spent his entire life serving in the 5th KGB Department for Combating Dissidents: first in the 4th “religious” group, then in the 8th “Jewish” (pushing against the subversive Zionist organizations).

Kirill also served as the informer of the 4th “religious” department. His pseudonym was “agent Mikhailov.”

[ZZ: Read about patriarch Kirill, Solntsevo OCG and the KGB plus Trump’s Toronto ties here:]

In the 90s, all these informers, curators, activists, theologians and other KGB byproducts, joined forces with Solntsevo OCG to earn money on scams and criminal activity.

Many years later, in March 2018, the Vice Prime Minister of Bulgaria, Valery Simeonov, recalled Kirill’s old deeds in the heat of polemic over the Russian-Turkish war of the 19th century (the patriarch joined the discussion, for reasons unknown, while in Bulgaria on a visit):

“This man did not descend from heaven, did not come from Paradise and is not an envoy of Jesus Christ. He is known as the Russian “cigarette metropolitan.” Since 1996, he imported 14 billion dollars’ worth of non-exempt cigarettes and 4 billion dollars’ worth of “church wine.” He also owns a private jet. His watch costs 30 thousand dollars. Who is he? He is not an Eastern European priest. He is agent Mikhailov, the second-rate agent of the Soviet KGB.”(Valery Simeonov, Vice Prime Minister of Bulgaria, from the broadcast on Bulgarian TV on March 7, 2018).


In the 1980s, Gafur Rahimov (aka “Pirozhok”) was unknown. According to some sources he was the boxing coach in Tashkent, according to other sources, he was selling pies on the street, for which he received his first nickname “Pie” [“Pirozhok.”] During Gorbachev times, Rahimov assembled a team of athletes, and lived from racketeering.


“Northern Route.” A map of heroin trafficking from Afganistan. Pictured: Sergey Mikhailov, Gafur Rahimov and Dustum.

In 1989, the Soviets withdrew troops from Afghanistan. The north of the country, populated by ethnic Uzbeks, fell under the control of a field commander Dostum. In the Afghan war, he fought on the side of the USSR and was controlled by the KGB.

Rahimov befriended Dostum and Solntsevo OCG. This was the beginning of his business: caravans, poppies, syringes in the backyards. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime calls this operation a “Northern Route” of Afghan opiates: from Afghanistan to the north through Central Asia and Russia.

This photo was published by the publication “The Insider” in 2018. Source: the cellphone of the crime boss “Arnosha,” seized from him after he was arrested in Spain in 2017. The founding fathers of the Solntsevo OCG: Sergey Mikhailov, Mogilevich, to the right — Avera Vitya. On the far left is Gafur Rahimov, the leader of the Uzbek mafia.

Rahimov became the leader of the Uzbek mafia, the main supplier of Afghan heroin to the Russian Federation. Historically, since the 90s, Gafur has been working with Solntsevo OPG (in recent years also with Kadyrov).

Rahimov is under the US sanctions for drug trafficking. He is mentioned in the US President’s Decree №13581 of 25 July. 2011 on the fight against international organized crime. He is not allowed to enter Australia. In 2000, he tried to come to the Olympics in Sydney with a delegation from the Olympic Committee of Uzbekistan but the Australians did not let him in and made an official statement that it was due to the suspicion of drug dealing and relations with Solntsevo OCG.

Rahimov has no problems traveling to Putin’s Russia.


Alexander Litvinenko first wrote about Rahimov and Usmanov’s connections and common business in the book Lubyanka Criminal Grouping (2002).

In the 90s, Litvinenko served in the central office of the FSB, in the unit that dealt with organized crime. They also worked on Rahimov’s case since he was the largest supplier of drugs from Afghanistan already at that time.

As Litvinenko writes, Usmanov helped Rahimov to launder heroin money. Rahimov used the services of his fellow countryman not by chance but because he worked with the Solntsevo OCG.

Litvinenko’s book with a story about Usmanov and Rahimov came out in 2002. Later, in 2007, after the murder of Litvinenko, this information was confirmed by the former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Graig Murray (see above.) According to Ambassador Murray, Usmanov worked with Rahimov and the Uzbek President Karimov (now deceased) was also involved in the drug trade. The heroin mafia in Uzbekistan was being provided krysha at the highest level.


In 1985, a repeat offender and career criminal Semyon Mogilevich (aka “Seva of Kiev”) moved to Moscow from Kiev. Mogilevich was a well-known bandit who built up the initial capital stealing from the Kievan Jews emigrating from the USSR [ZZ: Mogilevich is Jewish himself and supposedly speaks Yiddish.]

Semion Mogilevich.

In Moscow, Mogilevich made new friends: karate master Timofeev (aka “Sylvester”) and a classic fight master Sergey Mikhailov (aka “Mikhas.”)

Mogilevich, Timofeev, and Mikhailov joined forces with Viktor Averin (aka “Avera Vitya”), Andrei Skoch (aka “Scotch”), Arnold Tamm (“Arnosha”), a known criminal boss Jamal Khachidze and others and created a group known as the Solntsevo-Orekhovo OCG.

A little later, this group was divided into two parts, Solntsevo and Orekhovo. Solntsevo then destroyed Orekhovo.

Since 1990, Mogilevich moved to Budapest and founded a foreign branch of the group there. Budapest was the hub for many kinds of criminal business in different countries.

In the neighboring Czech Republic, Mogilevich organized a base for illegal arms trade from the reserves of the former USSR and the countries of the Soviet bloc. Congo rebels, Iranians, the Talibans, who want to buy RPGs from Ukrainian warehouses, Bulgarian AK-47s or helicopters from Russia, now knew where to turn.

Trade in Russian arms — especially the illegal trade! — would be impossible without ties in the Ministry of Defense and the SVR [ZZ: The Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Russia’s external intelligence agency, succeeded the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in December 1991.]

Mogilevich had such connections. Below is the famous fragment from so-called Melnychenko’s tapes (wiretapping in the Cabinet of Ukrainian President Kuchma in 2000), in which the head of the Ukrainian military intelligence calls Mogilevich “the official representative of the PGU KGB.”

The same recording mentions that Putin and Mogilevich were personally acquainted at the time they had spent in Piter [bandit St. Petersburg.]

In 1990–99, Mogilevich lived in Budapest, but then the FBI made his staying in Europe more and more dangerous.

In 1999, Mogilevich returned to Russia, under the Putin’s wing. At first, Mogilevich did not hide much. In October 1999, he gave an interview to the BBC for the documentary about him.

Youtube video can be watched here. Added by ZZ.
Fragment from the documentary. A corpse of a witness who gave evidence against Mogilevich. The building was exploded along with the witness. Hungary, “wild” 90s.

According to Ditmar Claudot (aka “Bombist,”) a former Stasi and KGB agent who worked with Putin in the 80s, Mogilevich’s close friend and the head of Mogilevich’s explosion squad and lab in Budapest, Mogilevich “lives in Russia freely not without a reason: he pays Patrushev (i.e. Putin) 50% of his income. He used to pay less but in 2008 his stake was raised. At first, he refused to pay more but, to make a point, he was sentenced to a year in jail for tax evasion (the “Arbat Prestige” case.)”


In 1996, during a trial in the United States, the testimony of an FBI special agent, Lester McNulty, was made public. Later, it was then quoted by Russian and world media more than once. McNulty’s written report, a 55-page file, contained the FBI information on the criminal boss Vyacheslav Ivankov’s (aka “Little Japanese” or “Yaponchik.”)

[ZZ: Read more about Ivankov and his connections to the KGB and Trump here:]

The FBI file contains wiretapping, reports of informers under codenames, data of external supervision, etc. Among other things, on page 25 of McNulty’s testimony you can read that Ivankov and Solntsevo engaged in wholesale deliveries of cocaine to Russia in the 1990s and that cocaine was the personal business of the Solntsevo OCG members Sergey Mikhailov and Jemal Khachidze (aka “Jemal.”) Khachidze controlled the entire cocaine network in the city of Moscow.

This is the same Sergey Mikhailov (aka “Mikhas”) that Putin awarded with a personal special edition presidential watch. He now has a noble title (prince), more than twenty church orders and a commemorative medal “90 years of the VCHK-KGB-FSB.”

In this old photo they all laugh happily, but, according to McNulty’s testimony, Khachidze later ordered Karatay’s assassination in the US in January 1994, at the steps of the Arbat restaurant in New York. The reason: disagreement over the supply of cocaine between Solntsevo members.

Under Putin, Mikhailov and Khachidze continued their drug business. Khachidze remained the Moscow drug king and regularly replenished Solntsevo “bank” until his death in 2014.

“I believe that my mission is to carry the Orthodox faith light to the people. I mean, simple truths, church truths… For me the main code, the standard of good and evil is the Bible. And all the rules, so to say, that are confirmed there.” Sergey Mikhailov, Solntsevo OCG. From his interview to Gordon, 2012.

[ZZ — Read more about Mikhailov, Solntsevo OCG and his Western and American connections here:]


Cocaine was imported to Russia through the St. Petersburg port. It was the main transit channel. In early 1994, with the consent of Moscow, the “bros” got the right to lease the Lomonosov naval base near St. Petersburg.

Lomonosov seaport close to St. Petersburg.

In other words, they got their own separate checkpoint in the Big Port of St. Petersburg, the treasured “meter of the state border,” with berths and customs. The customs, in fact, did not work there. It was possible to ship anything: vodka, cocaine from Colombia. But the privileges existed only for the “brothers,” of course; strangers were not allowed into the port.

Two Piterskie [St. Petersburg] OCG were running the port:

  • Tambov OCG (Traber [ZZ: Putin’s “boss”, see above] in particular, stood out and earned the title of “night commandant” of the St. Petersburg port)
  • OCG run by “Misha from Kutaisi” (his company Russian Video formally leased the Lomonosov port).

Thus, Piterskie [ZZ: St. Petersburg] provided the port for the drugs bought by Mikhailov, Ivankov and Khachidze.

As it turned out many years later at the trial in the Litvinenko case, the transit of cocaine through the St. Petersburg port in the 1990s was covered by the KGB officer Viktor Ivanov, Putin’s closest ally.

Ivanov was the main “anti-smuggler” in the St. Petersburg FSB (then FSK) until 1994 and then moved to the mayor’s office as the curator of administration (including law enforcement.)

When Putin became a president, Ivanov headed the State Drug Control Service for eight years (2008–2016). If he was covering the cocaine trade in St. Petersburg in the 90s, one can only imagine the freedom he got in this position.

Putin with Victor Ivanov.

In 2016, after several big scandals (Ivanov was accused of Litvinenko’s murder, Interpol was searching for his deputy, General Aulov, in the case of the Russian mafia in Spain), Putin had to disperse the State Drug Control Service, handing it over to the Ministry of Internal Affairs. Ivanov fell into disgrace. His people and businessmen under his krysha [“protection”] lost their businesses and offices, passing them on to other security officers.



[ZZ: In which a KGB spy impersonates a dissident in Israel, works with Cosa Nostra, traffics heroin, installs a puppet regime in an African country, becomes an adviser to a Russian president and is assassinated under dark circumstances and St. Petersburg seaport comes up again as fake vodka is being shipped through it by the Kremlin and mafia]


In 1985, power was replaced not only in the USSR but also in Sierra Leone — a small Western African country rich in resources. The local dictator Siyak Stevens, in his old age, appointed himself a successor — General Joseph Momo.

In Sierra Leone, They had elections with no choice, anti-constitutional extensions of presidential terms, the establishment of a one-party system, and the assassination of opposition leaders. You got the idea, right? [ZZ — The author is listing the facts of Putin’s reign in Russia.]

No one asked the people of Sierra Leone. However, to make it look fair, a referendum was held. The successor won by 99.85%. People in Sierra Leone have long been accustomed to this kind of things. The referendum on the successor was just another show that dictator Stevens had been throwing regularly, all fourteen years of his reign. In 1985, Sierra Leone indicated the path for Russia. In 15 years, a similar “successor” was installed in the Kremlin by the mafia and the KGB.

This, however, is not the most interesting thing here. The transfer of power to the successor was financed by a local oligarch, a great friend of the new president Momo, Shabtai Genrikhovich Kalmanovich, an immigrant from the USSR, who left for Israel in 1971 and then made a fortune doing business in African countries. This oligarch exported Sierra Leone diamonds — the main local treasure.

The diamond mining in Sierra Leone is inhumanly hard manual labor, often performed by children: gathering rocks, washing. Somewhere above the mines, the mafia is getting rich

Kalmanovich smuggled the diamonds, sold them in Thailand and accepted payments in a form of heroin that he then sold in Europe together with his partner, Marat Balagula, making profits at every stage.

Right: Klamanovich in 1985 and 20 years after the Sierra Leone events, in Russia.

[ZZ: Read more about another diamond business in Africa owned by an immigrant from the USSR (Uzbekistan), Lev Leviev, and his connections with Putin and Trump’s family here:]


Marat Balagula, a criminal boss who started as a bartender on a cruise ship “Ivan Franko” in Odessa [ZZ: as a five year old, I once sailed on it with my mother…]

Kalmanovich’s partner Balagula, a criminal boss, started as a bartender on a cruise ship Ivan Franko in Odessa and transitioned to the position of the boss of the Russian mafia in New York, working under the Lucchese family (Cosa Nostra.)

[Read about Michael Cohen’s connections with the Russian and Italian mob, including Lucchese family, here:]

In 1986, facing problems with the FBI, Balagula fled from the USA to Sierra Leone, joined Kalmanovich and for some time operated his business from there. In 1989, Balagula was identified by a diligent border guard in the Frankfurt airport, was transferred to the US, and served a long prison term. Under Putin, he moved to Russia.

Balagula represents the criminal branch called “the Brighton Beach bros.”

In Russia, it is still perceived by many as a curiosity: the heirs of Benya Krik and Mishka Japonchik [legendary Odessa mobsters of 1900s made popular by Isaac Babel’s short stories] in modern America? However, already in the mid-1980s these emigrant gangs became a power to reckon with — the junior partners of the Italian mob — and entered the international arena.

A good book on the subject, published in the US in 2000, The Red Mafia by Robert Friedman tells the story of Brighton Beach “bros.” The author is a well-known US investigative journalist with extensive connections to the FBI. His opinions on Balagula and Kalmanovich are unequivocal:


However, this is not the whole story. After Kalmanovich and Balagula “privatized” Sierra Leone, Kalmanovich did not get to enjoy the triumph for a long time.

On January 10, 1988, the Israeli television delivered some astonishing news: a well-known millionaire, the patron of art, a friend of local politicians and generals, a former Zionist activist, Shabtai Kalmanovich, got arrested for espionage. He turned out to be a KGB agent. His work name was “Kris.” He was recruited during his youth in the USSR while serving in the army.

Kalmanovich chose not to play a hero and cooperated with the investigation from the start.

It turned out that he started as a simple informer in the Soviet Army, reporting on his colleagues to the security. After that he ratted at Lithuanians who expressed anti-Soviet moods in his hometown of Kaunas. And then he attracted the attention of the First Main Directorate of the KGB (external intelligence.)

Soon, Kalmanovich emigrated with a mission.

In the 1970s in Israel, Kalmanovich was a Zionist activist, advocating for the departure of Jews from the Soviet Union. He reported to the 8th “Jewish” department and handed over to the KGB the emissaries of the Zionist organizations sent to the USSR on a regular basis and got paid for that.

Living abroad, he acquired connections everywhere — even in America — and met Balagula. He became the first officially registered KGB agent on the top list of the world organized crime and drug trafficking.

Kalmanovich was eventually framed by a KGB defector whose name was never officially reported. Presumably, it was Alexander Lomov, a KGB officer who worked in Jerusalem under the guise of the manager of the Russian Orthodox Church representation. After leaking information for a while, Lomov fled to the West. Thus, agent “Kris” was uncovered. His verdict was nine years in prison. Kalmanovich served a term in prison from 1988. During the first year, he was kept in a solitary confinement, with strictly zero contacts with the outside world.

However, he served a lesser term: in 1993, Kalmanovich was unexpectedly pardoned. He went to Budapest, where at that time Mogilevich headed an “international branch” of Solntsevo OCG.


The man behind Kalmanovich’s release was Yevgeny Primakov (aka “Primus”), the head of the SVR [ZZ: The Foreign Intelligence Service of the Russian Federation, Russia’s external intelligence agency, succeeded the First Chief Directorate of the KGB in December 1991] under Yeltsin.

Primakov conducted behind-the-scenes negotiations to free Kalmanovich and supervised the arms trade conducted by Mogilevich in Europe.

In 1999–2000, Primakov became one of the key figures during the transfer of power from Yeltsin to Putin.

[ZZ — I have translated at negotiations between Primakov the European Bank in 1995.]


In summer 1993, after visiting Mogilevich, Kalmanovich appeared in Russia, where he soon became an accepted member of Solntsevo OCG.

In the FBI report Semyon Mogilevich’s Organization (August 1996), just three years later, Kalmanovich has already been called “an influential member of Solntsevo OCG,” working under Mogilevich. The same document states that Kalmanovich is a “millionaire with connections among high-ranking officials in Russia and Israel” and the main supplier of Israeli passports for the members of Solntsevo OCG.

He was definitely “a millionaire with connections.” Out of sheer air, Kalmanovich had money again and became a “VIP entrepreneur” and an oligarch. This time, not in Sierra Leone but in Russia.

August 1996. The FBI report,“Mogilevich’s Organization”, p. 35. Kalmanovich is already a Solntsevskiy criminal boss.


In an interview with the newspaper Kommersant on April 17, 1997, Kalmanovich said:

“I came to Russia in June 1993. I was invited by Joseph Kobzon [ZZ: a popular singer and an organized crime boss] for joint business. I gladly accepted this invitation; I wanted to start something new somewhere. It was hard for me in Israel. In other countries, no one needed me either. Not Kalmanovich the spy… It’s just that in 1993 it was much more difficult to start a business in Switzerland than in Russia.” He soon quarreled and parted with Kobzon, as he said, “for personal reasons” but that did not hinder his success.

The former spy, freshly out of the Israeli prison, and not wanted by anyone in Israel or any other country (according to his own words) suddenly became very popular in Russia. He found millions of dollars for a variety of projects with ease: supermarkets, hotels, show business, shopping and entertainment centers, the largest Russian drug import business, and his own pharmacy network. Later, he added another company: a real estate developer in Moscow, a bank, etc. Kalmanovich clearly did not experience any cash flow problems.

Where did Kalmanovich get money for his investments? To sum it up: from thieves’ “communal banks.” He worked with the money belonging to Solntsevo OCG and Vyacheslav Ivankov.

[Read about Vyacheslav Ivankov and his connections to the KGB and Trump here:


Kalmanovich laundered the money received from the operations of the National Sports Fund (NSF). NSF affair is one of the most vivid episodes of the “wild” 90s. In nature, it is similar to the Russian Orthodox Church scam (see above.)

In 1993, a group of bandits (Solntsevo, Izmaylovo, Kobzon-Kikalishvili OCG) joined into a “pool” and formed the National Sports Fund. This group paid the Kremlin for special privileges and Yeltsin gave NSF the right to import tobacco and alcohol duty-free.

In addition to the customs privileges, the fund was also receiving the money from the Russian state budget labeled for “support of the national sport.” This money was also successfully stolen.

How did the bandits manage to obtain customs privileges for the National Sports Fund?

The business was handled through Yeltsin’s personal tennis coach, Shamil Tarpishchev. One of the odious characters of that time, the coach was a a Kremlin decision-maker and had direct access to Yeltsin. He also served as the Sports Minister in 1994–96.

Tarpishchev worked with the criminal bosses Alimzhan Tokhtakhunov and Mikhail Chernoy from the Izmaylovo OCG. These three met in Tashkent, back in the Soviet times. “We used to share pilaf,” said Tarpishchev in an interview.

Left: Tarpischev, Tokhtakhunov. Right: Israel, December 1996. Video by the local intelligence services. At the table in a café: Anton Malevsky (the leader of Izmailovo OPG), Misha Cherny and Shamil Tarpishchev. The video went on air shown by the NTV channel in Russia in 1997 (it was the leakage of compromat during some disagreements in the Kremlin.)

Alcohol was bottled at the mafia factories in Europe (for example, vodka Kremlevskaya was bottled in Belgium.)

[ZZ: Read more about the Kremlin, its alcohol labels and business and Devin Nunes here:]

Often, it was also a sheer counterfeit: Mogilevich ran a whole factory of fake vodka Absolute in Hungary. At some point, Mogilevich’s plant completely “killed” the Russian market for the manufacturer of the original Absolute. The Swedes made an enormous effort to find out who did it, especially since Mogilevich’s vodka was made from cheap potato alcohol and subsequently a really low-quality beverage was sold under the Swedish brand.

The Swedish vodka “Absolute” is quite good (this is not advertising), but in the mid-1990s the support of “national sport” went so far that it was almost no longer supplied to Russia (not the original).

In The Red Mafia, Robert Friedman cites the report of Israeli intelligence, according to which Mogilevich with his Hungarian vodka factory was the largest smuggler of alcohol at the time.

In 1995, Mogilevich’s vodka factory located in the vicinity of Budapest got busted. The police seized 600 000 bottles of fake Absolute, ready to be shipped to the former USSR. Another 770 000 bottles were found empty at the warehouse, ready for bottling. However, Mogilevich did not face any consequences.


The National Sports Fund cargoes were shipped via the St. Petersburg port (see above.) The distribution of roles was simple but effective:

  • the Moscow OCG solved key issues (goods, delivery, sales.)
  • Piterskie [St. Petersburg] ran the port in St. Petersburg and ensured uninterrupted transit.
  • Laundering money from the profits was handled by Kalmanovich.

The bandit money made using the National Sports Fund benefits, smuggling, and theft from the budget was invested in various projects, including real estate.

For instance, a luxury shopping center Tishinka was built downtown Moscow using money laundered from the National Sports Fund profits.


Kalmanovich got well connected in Moscow, maintaining close ties with the Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov.

[ZZ: Read more about Luzhkov, mafia and connections with Trump here:


By 1994, Kalmanovich got business interests and a new partner in St. Petersburg. Together with Vladimir Kekhman, the future banana king, whose ships transported cocaine from Ecuador, Kalmanovich developed a trade network Liat-Dixi (known now as a popular supermarket network Okay) in which he owned a controlling stake.

Doing business in St. Petersburg, Kalmanovich met Putin and Sobchak [ZZ: the Mayor of St. Petersburg at the time] during his visit to mayor’s office. He then got very close to Sobchak and even became his family friend.

“I made acquaintance with Putin before he became a president. He was Sobchak’s deputy on international affairs, construction and foreign investments; and I arrived with a foreign company to build a shopping center in Leningrad and made friends with Sobchak’s family. Sobchak died in my arms in Kaliningrad. These days, I am looking after his family and try to be a role model for his daughter Ksenia [ZZ: Ksenia Sobchak ran as a presidential candidate in 2018 elections which many believed was a show.]

Putin signed a decree for the allocation of land for Kalmanovich’s project (Order №830-r, 10 August 1995). In addition, Kalmanovich was allowed to build a hotel in St. Petersburg on Krestovsky Island.

A decree signed by Putin.

In 2000, Kalmanovich was among Putin’s active supporters during the presidential election. He even toured around the country with Sobchak to campaign for their candidate.

Under Putin, Kalmanovich flourished no worse than in the 90s. He even became an advisor to the presidential administration. In one of his interviews in 2002, he said that he was Putin’s adviser on the Baltic region and that he worked with Prikhodko (the same very Prikhodko known as a part of the Deripaska — Nastya Rybka scandal.)

[ZZ: Read more about Prikhodko, Deripaska and connection to Trump’s elections here:]

He also said that he solved the conflicts between the Latvian and Russian authorities on the highest level. Kalmanovich was included in official Russian delegations visiting the Baltic countries.

He spent a lot of money on his hobby, women’s basketball, sponsored clubs, and the national team (the FBI believed that this was also money laundering).


In February 2000, during a trip to Kaliningrad, there was an accident: Sobchak suddenly died in a hotel under unclear circumstances. The last person seen in his room was Kalmanovich. Officially, the cause of death was a heart attack. The autopsy was performed twice and the widow accused the dark forces of murder. Later, Putin awarded her with the post of a member of the Federation Council and she calmed down.

Kalmanovich’s “ride” came to a brisk ending on the evening of November 2, 2009. His Mercedes was riddled with bullets downtown Moscow. The guns were fired from [a Russian made] Lada-Priora without a license plate. The wounded driver still ran the car for a while, trying to catch up with the killers, but then the forces left him. Kalmanovich died on the spot.

The murderers were never found. No tracks: neither hitmen nor mastermind, the traces were eliminated in a professional manner.

The motivation is believed to be connected to Vyacheslav Ivankov’s murder. The famous bandit and criminal boss died just three weeks before Kamlanovich as a result of another assassination.

Moscow, October 2009. Ivankov’s funeral. More than 500 bandits gathered at Ivankov’s funeral. They carried a Russian national flag and an air-conditioned coffin. His funeral was aired on the federal channels. “Coffin with air conditioning” was not, by the way, a joke. When the lid of this coffin is closed, it presses on special capsules releasing a chemical that prevents decomposition.

Kalmanovich kept Ivankov’s money and was his longterm close friends.

There were other versions:

  • Balagula killed Kalmanovich for debts;
  • it was a result of the fight between Mogilevich and Putin's security services: Patrushev raised the price of krysha “protection” for Mogilevich and that led to an argument and to the conflict about a luxury shopping and entertainment complex in downtown Moscow, Arbat Prestige, in which Kalmanovich had a share.
  • the redistribution of the medicines market, Kalmanovich major profit-making business.
  • infighting for the WADAN shipyard in Germany.

There was no shortage in versions but the case was never solved.


Today, in Putin’s Russia, GDP per capita is at the level of Romania and Turkey, two of the poorest countries in Europe. The average salary in Russia is lower than in China and Romania.

Many ask: why has the new Russian capitalism — by now, it’s been almost 30 years old since the collapse of the USSR — turned out that way? Omnipresent mafia, corruption, and, technically speaking, Russia is still a poverty-stricken colony getting by on the sales of raw materials.

There are many theories but at least one reason is obvious:

Yeltsin empowered mafia and corruption and never answered for it. His successor Putin continues the tradition. The power in the country did not change for twenty-seven years.


Read the full original article in Russian here:

Read more on Putin’s regime and ways to push against the Kremlin attack on the Western democracies from PutinCon conference in NY, April 2018 here.

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Zarina Zabrisky

Zarina Zabrisky is the author of IRON and CUTE TOMBSTONE, EXPLOSION, a poetry book GREEN LIONS, and a novel WE, MONSTERS. More at www.zarinazabrisky.com.