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Ukrainian Mafia Moves into the International Crime Arena

NCJ Number
Jane's Intelligence Review Volume: 14 Issue: 2 Dated: February 2002 Pages: 26-29
Tamara Makarenko
Date Published
February 2002
4 pages
This article describes Ukraine’s dire economic situation that is leading to an increase in organized crime.
Ukrainian organized crime has become a threat to the international community due to the ties it has developed with other criminal and terrorist groups. Ukraine is of great geopolitical significance because of its location between Eastern and Western Europe, and its size and economic potential. The Soviet legacy of endemic corruption played a significant role in undermining the bureaucracy of Ukraine. Criminal organizations operating in Ukraine can be grouped into three tiers. The majority of organized crime falls into the category of Gruppirovki (groups), which are mostly small gangs that are predominantly involved in extortion, theft, and narcotics dealing. The second group is called Prestupnaia organizatsiia (criminal organizations), which are relatively large formations that have known connections to state authorities at a regional level. Soobshckestvo (network/association), the third group, is considered the highest level of organized crime in Ukraine. The influence of this group extends throughout many regions within the country and often includes international ties and the means to launder large volumes of money. The membership base of the soobshchestvo consists of a combination of former communist party elites, members of law enforcement and other security apparati, and organized criminals. Many local legislators and members of the national parliament have known ties to criminal organizations in this grouping. Few organized crimes groups can be labeled soobshchestvo. But these groups constantly perform illegal activities at a highly professional level. They continuously work towards professionalizing all aspects of their group activities and needs. They often develop a focus, specialization, or monopoly on a specific illegal activity, and are characterized by their efforts to maintain strict internal discipline among group members. Most criminal groups appear to center their operations on four locations: the Transdniestr region; the Carpathian mountains; Eastern Ukraine; and Crimea. Organized crime is involved in the smuggling of cigarettes, oil, and illicit narcotics, vehicle theft, counterfeiting, and the sex industry. The Ukrainian government has failed to eliminate the root causes responsible for the growth of transnational crime--economic performance and weak government institutions.