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Fuss over crime baron’s death triggers angry comments in world web. (from Itar Tass agency)


13. 10. 2009
By Itar-Tass World Service writer Lyudmila Alexandrova

MOSCOW, October 13 (Itar-Tass) - Russian crime baron Vyacheslav Ivankov has been buried at Moscow’s Vagankovo cemetery, one of the oldest within the city limits.

Many Russians have been placing angry comments in the Internet to express surprise or indignation over the fact that a ranking mobster will rest in peace next to the graves of those who deservedly constitute the pride and glory of the nation.

Bloggers have slammed as “Russia’s disgrace” the fuss over the death of Ivankov (also known by the nickname The Little Japanese), and his burial at a VIP cemetery in the center of Moscow.

The funeral took place amid tight security. No journalists were allowed to attend. According to some mass media, crime bosses from all over Russia, and also from other CIS countries, Europe and the United States gathered in Moscow to pay their last respects to Ivankov. As the Interior Ministry has said, no other mobster of such a high rank has been killed in Moscow or in Russia over the past fifteen years. Also present at the funeral ceremony, alongside relatives and friends, were members of the showbiz elite, with him the diseased mobster had been on friendly terms.

The assassination attempt on the life of 69-year-old Ivankov took place on July 28, 2009. He died in hospital on October 9. The investigators are proving into several versions of the crime. According to one, he lost his life to an attempt to meddle in an old-time conflict between two criminal clans. And by another version, the Little Japanese died as a result of his shadow activities in the construction materials manufacturing industry.

According to some mass media claims, the right-hand men of the Little Japanese have made their own inquiries already to have found the one responsible and even to pass a sentence.

In the world of organized crime and secret services Ivankov became a legend in his lifetime. He earned the reputation of one of the most authoritative leaders of the criminal world, with extensive contacts in artistic, political and big business circles back in the Soviet years to have retained it until just recently. He was well-known outside Russia, where the secret services of many countries, including the United States, regarded him as one of the top bosses of Russia’s organized crime. He spent more than 20 years in Russian and US jails.

According to police archives, Ivankov, born in 1940, has been a professional pickpocket since the age of 14. During his first detention in 1965 for a pocket theft Ivankov offered violent resistance to police, was examined by psychiatrists, diagnosed as schizophrenic and dispatched to a mental asylum for mandatory treatment only to have escaped from there.

The diagnosis has since allowed him to go unpunished for minor offences more than once. It was canceled in 1974. Ivankov’s successes in boxing helped him join the gang of racketeers under Gennady Korkov (the Mongol), who specialized in the robberies of and extortions from underground businessmen in the Soviet era. It was at about that time that the shape of his eyes earned him the nickname – the Little Japanese – which was a clear allusion to his predecessor – Mike the Little Jap – the notorious gangster in the port city of Odessa, Ukraine, during the years of the civil war at the beginning of last century.

In 1974 Ivankov recruited a gang of his own to focus on thefts and extortions. He boasted a fabulous gift of shirking punishment.

In 1981 Ivankov was eventually detained, convicted of armed robbery, illegal carrying of firearms and forgery of documents and sentenced to fourteen years behind bars. While he served the prison term, say media reports, Ivankov violated prison rules 58 times and was sent to the punishment cell on 35 occasions. In the late 1980s a campaign for his release began. Media say many celebrities, including actors, scientists and human rights activists volunteered to put in a word for him. In February 1991 the Supreme Court of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic eased Ivankov’s punishment and his release followed shortly afterwards.

In 1992 Ivankov left Russia to have settled in New York, where he began to arbiter disputes between mobsters and Russian businessmen. Local secret services suspected him of keeping an eye on many criminal businesses, including those in Russia, but not a single piece of evidence against him was available.

In 1995 the FBI detained Ivankov on the charges of extortion of 3.5 million dollars from two Russian businessmen – Alexander Volkov and Vladimir Voloshin – co-owners of Summit International. In January 1997 a US court found him guilty and sentenced him to nine years and seven months in prison for extortion and false marriage. In April 2000 the Little Japanese was charged in Russia in absentia with the 1992 murder of two Turkish businessmen in Moscow’s Fidan restaurant, and the United States was asked for his extradition. In July 2004 Ivankov left the US jail only to have been deported to Russia. In Moscow he was arrested as a suspect in the murder of two Turkish businessmen, but in July 2005 the jurors at the Moscow Regional Court declared him as not guilty and he was released again.

After the trial Vyacheslav Ivankov declared he had no intention of meddling in anything and promised he would dedicate himself entirely to the customary pastime of many Russian retirees – that of spending hours on a river bank with a fishing rod. For their part his lawyers said that while in jail Ivankov wrote a cycle of poems, fairy tales for children and an autobiographical piece entitled Against the Wind. Yet, police detectives suspect that he continued to act as an arbiter in conflicts between criminal groups from time to time.

The Russian segment of the world web is brimming with bloggers’ comments over the death and funeral of the Little Japanese.

Here are some of them.

“Why don’t they declare a day of national mourn? My idea is that of burying the Little Japanese in the Mausoleum (Vladimir Lenin’s tomb in Red Square). We shall be taking our kids there, so they have a chance to see in whose footsteps they should follow. (Oleg).

“What sort of country do we live in? It’s a nightmare!!! A mobster’s death makes the nation’s top news. That’s a shame for Russia. And what kind of respect from our neighbors can one expect after that? (Nikolai).

“He disgraced our country in the eyes of the civilized world, yet a place has been found for him at the Vagankovskoye Cemetery!!!” (Nora)

And one contributor addressed President Dmitry Medvedev in person in these words.

“How many scientists and intellectuals have died in the country over the past 10-20 years? And how many have gone elsewhere? Have the media paid at least as much attention to any of them? Personally, I have only one question to ask in this connection: “Good Lord! What is this ‘Russia, Forward!’ talk of yours all about? (A hint at the same-name policy article the president published in the web just recently) Are your serious? The Augean stables we have here are a nightmare strong enough to scare Heracles away!”