Reputed organized crime boss shot dead in Russian capital

Wed Jan 16, 2013 1:57pm EST
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By Alexei Anishchuk and Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW (Reuters) - One of Russia's most prominent reputed crime bosses, a 75-year-old nicknamed "Grandpa Hassan" who survived time in Soviet jails and assassination attempts, was shot dead on a Moscow street on Wednesday in what may have been a turf war, authorities said.

After the criminal chaos that characterized the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union, President Vladimir Putin has claimed credit for bringing order to Russia since he rose to power in 2000. But Kremlin critics say corruption has worsened and contract killings on city streets continue, if less frequently.

An unidentified gunman hit Georgian-born Aslan Usoyan with a single bullet and he died shortly afterward in hospital, the federal Investigative Committee said. It said a woman at the scene suffered two gunshot wounds.

A Committee statement said six 9mm bullet casings were found on a stairwell between the fifth and sixth floors of a building across the street from where Usoyan was hit, suggesting the gunman fired from there.

Authorities, it said, were conducting ballistics tests and considering potential motives "connected to the criminal activity of the victim and possible conflicts with other representatives of the same milieu."

Usoyan was shot in the head outside a restaurant, Interfax news agency reported, citing a police official it did not name.

The midafternoon killing on a snowy street about 1 km (half a mile) from the Kremlin ended a life of alleged crime that began with a conviction in then-Soviet Georgia, for resisting police, when Usoyan was 19 years old.

He later served terms for crimes including theft and "speculation" - essentially selling at a profit, which was often illegal and under close scrutiny in the communist Soviet Union.   Continued...