General Vyacheslav Abroskin: Almost all Ukrainian “thieves in law” are crowned in Russia

Former first deputy head of the National Police of Ukraine – head of the criminal police, rector of the Odessa State University of Internal Affairs Vyacheslav Abroskin told UNIAN about the influence of thieves in law and “authorities” in Ukraine, their connection with the FSB of the Russian Federation, about the cleansing of Mariupol from militants in 2014 and the importance of police-military cooperation.

“Criminal authorities” are much more terrible than “thieves in law”.  They have neither concepts nor principles / photo from UNIAN.  Andrey Novitsky

Vyacheslav Vasilyevich, you have worked in law enforcement for over 25 years, most of which are related to the criminal investigation department. Why did you become a rector?

Surrendering to work, I did not notice how my eldest daughter grew up. She is already 24, she graduated from medical school, got married, and I did not have time to take part in her upbringing. I also did not pay attention to the youngest, who is 14 years old … I have never been to them either in kindergarten or in school. I did not attend any meetings of my parents, because I was almost never there. Understood: you need to stop and rest.

Just at this time, the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov offered the post of rector of the Odessa University. Initially, I did not feel much desire, and then I thought: “Why not?” …

You started your professional career in Sevastopol, and later, again in Crimea, detained members of the bloody Crimean gangs “Bashmaki” and “Salem” …

When they were engaged in these powerful gangster groups, from 2007 to 2010, I visited Odessa almost every week. The office of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine was created here. The bandits were detained in Crimea and brought here. Investigative actions, preventive measures, sentences – everything took place in Odessa. After all, due to total corruption, it was impossible to judge them in Crimea.

At that time, about 20 people from the “Bashmaks” were detained, led by their leader Viktor Karasev – “Karasem”, who since 2000 led this gang. He received a life sentence, then his term was changed to 25 years, and then, according to the “Savchenko law”, “Karas” was released … The current head of the occupied Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, a member of “Salem” nicknamed “Goblin “… 

Do you think that “Savchenko’s law” works against Ukraine?

I think that nobody needs it, except for the Russian Federation. Its goal is to undermine stability on the territory of Ukraine with the help of crime. This law still reverberates to us – murderers, robbers, rapists are released. An example is the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where we restored order practically from scratch. They detained a huge number of criminals, brought them to justice … And the answer is that overnight a huge number of malefactors were released under the Savchenko law. And again – a surge in crime … These are all elements of a hybrid war.

Seven years ago, you took part in the liberation of Mariupol from militants. What do you remember in those events? 

Then he entered the city together with the Azov volunteer battalion. We were seconded from the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine to document crimes committed by terrorist groups. The militants who resisted were detained, taken to the airport, where they were interrogated and sent to the Zaporozhye region. They did this because the entire local militia – about half a thousand people – was demoralized and refused to help us.

Imagine, the city is full of terrorists, and law enforcement officers under various pretexts do not go to the service – just not to take part in the sweep. Therefore, it was carried out together with the SBU, the Military Counterintelligence and volunteer units.

Literally two days after the liberation of the city, we learned that the leader of the “DPR” in Mariupol, Natalya Gruzdenko, nicknamed “Baba Natasha”, was leaving the city with her guards. With my colleague Sergei Matveychuk, we went to the detention … The militant “Malysh” (Alexander Shakhaev) who was accompanying Gruzdenko resisted – he shot back, threw grenades. At the same time, he hid behind the young granddaughter of “Baba Natasha” – shouted that he would shoot the child. Bleeding, Shakhayev fell … We approached, and he threw a grenade at our feet, which miraculously did not explode. We called an ambulance, which saved his life …Abroskin noted that the Mariupol police were demoralized and refused to help cleanse the city of militants in 2014 / REUTERSAbroskin noted that the Mariupol police were demoralized and refused to help cleanse the city of militants in 2014 / REUTERS

What exactly was on the account of “Kid”?

Himself, Gruzdenko and a terrorist named “Chechen” (Andrey Borisov) have been organizing riots in Mariupol since the beginning of 2014 – anti-Ukrainian rallies, robberies on banks, car dealerships, attacks on government bodies. 

The “baby” was then exchanged for our servicemen who were captured by terrorists. According to my information, he ended up in Sevastopol – in the hospital of the Russian Navy. I restored my health there and returned to occupied Donetsk. As far as I know, Shakhaev is still hatching the idea of ​​getting even with me …

Later, when I headed the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Donetsk region, we created groups of employees of the criminal investigation department and investigative units who arrived from all regions of Ukraine. They were distributed among the liberated cities – Slavyansk, Konstantinovka, Druzhkovka, Kramatorsk, Bakhmut (at that time – Artemovsk). They detained members of criminal gangs and took them to the city of Izium, where our main investigative base was located.

The terrorists’ atrocities shocked … I remember when we liberated Sloviansk, received information about the missing sons of a local pastor – they were kidnapped by representatives of the “DPR”. Just a few days later, about a dozen brutally tortured people were dug up in the city center. Among them, in plastic bags – the priest’s children – very young guys … I myself took them out of the pit …

What is the fate of the detained terrorists and militants?

Almost all (and these are hundreds) were later exchanged for our servicemen … By the way, we also detained some “comrades” from the Russian Federation – the military, who could not explain how they ended up in our country. They were allowed to call their parents. And the mother of one of these soldiers asked: “Son, what are you doing in Ukraine?” He cried and could not explain, and during the interrogation he told me, they say, there was an order to go to the exercises in the Rostov region. They left, but mysteriously ended up near Kramatorsk.

Once you said that when organizing the first checkpoints in the Donetsk region, mistakes were made. Can we now talk about what miscalculations are we talking about?

We had no idea what such structures were, who should serve on them, how to equip them, and so on. Sometimes they used checkpoints left by the militants … The lack of road signs and lighting led to the death of ordinary citizens who crashed into concrete blocks and crashed. The policemen also suffered. It was required to clearly calculate the number of people at a specific checkpoint, when they need to be changed … It happened that they fell asleep, and there were attacks on law enforcement officers, volunteer fighters … The result was injuries, deaths …

In addition, we did not have knowledge of topography. Therefore, when interacting with the military, they did not really understand the tasks. After all, specialized universities do not teach this: the police have a different mission – to ensure public order. And Ukraine found itself in conditions where this knowledge is needed. And I drew conclusions – I entered the National University of Defense of Ukraine. Chernyakhovsky, which I am finishing this year.

Recently, the NSDC introduced sanctions against crime bosses and thieves in law. In your opinion, how relevant is this?

There were various criminal groups in Ukraine before, which we liquidated. But the “thieves in law” remained, as it were, outside the area of ​​our attention, and until 2014 their role was underestimated.

Seven years ago, against the backdrop of the war, in the same Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the number of crimes committed increased tenfold. Assaults, murders, kidnappings, burglaries, robberies … It just doesn’t happen like that – it is regulated by someone, it happens on someone’s command. And there were some “thieves in law” here. They were present in all spheres of Ukraine – energy, metallurgy, gas industry. Influenced the political alignment.

One of them – “Pezo” – arrived in Ukraine in 2017. Curiously, in 2015 in Russia he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for an armed attack, during which a policeman was killed in Moscow. And suddenly the convict gets out of the plane in “Borispol”! How did Pezo get free ?! It is clear that he arrived for a reason …

In the same 2017, being the head of the criminal police, I received information about a thief in law named Nedelya. As a great boss, he hosted a reception of people’s deputies in one of the hotels in the center of Kiev. I had notes at my disposal, which were recorded: very famous people signed up to him to discuss various issues. That is, deputies, heads of enterprises, representatives of party directions addressed to him, and he led as a “steering train”. That is, he resolved problems like an arbitrator and earned huge money on this. I would like to note that Nedelya is related to a serious business – the supply of electricity in the Donetsk region, to specific power plants.

A separate issue is the influence of thieves on criminals. In particular, all colonies and prisons were subordinated to them, part of the profits from which they transferred to the “common fund” (thieves’ fund, – UNIAN).Abroskin pointed out that thieves in law remained out of the spotlight, and until 2014 their role was underestimated.  / Photo Office of the PresidentAbroskin pointed out that thieves in law remained out of the spotlight, and until 2014 their role was underestimated. / Photo Office of the President

What profit can there be from prison?

The smallest prison in Sumy can bring in UAH 300-500 thousand per month. Where does the money come from? From the same call centers located in the “zones”: “Your son had an accident, money is urgently needed …”. Sound familiar? It’s them! In addition, the income from the prison is the money that is made from playing cards. This is money from apartments that convicts sell under pressure from other convicts …

Two years ago in the Odessa colony there was a riot of prisoners, and you said that it was organized by “thieves in law” who are at large.

Riots happen for a variety of reasons. For example, the administration of the prison does not suit …

Today, only in the Kharkiv region there are so-called red zones. Everything else is black. “Red zone”, in the understanding of criminals, is the total control of law enforcement officers. That is, there is a leader from the penitentiary service who completely controls everything that happens in the prison. “Black” means that even if there is such an official, the “zone” is under the control of the “overseer”. And his activities are controlled by some “thief in law”.

In other words, the actions of the “thieves” are aimed at re-subordinating a particular colony or pre-trial detention center to themselves – at the removal of one or another leader in order to ensure the supply of drugs, to get some kind of privileges, meetings for the “authorities” and so on. I can assume that something similar happened in Odessa.

You mentioned the common fund. In Odessa, in 2017, a $ 1 million cash desk was seized from a thief in law nicknamed Poltava, which was then returned. Why?

At that time (before the NSDC sanctions) it was very difficult to attract a thief in law. Moreover, to withdraw money from him within the framework of a specific criminal proceeding. Then we felt a serious opposition from the entire underworld, which fought for their money. At all stages: from the first court instance, the district prosecutor to the Prosecutor General’s Office.

Although “Poltava” never worked anywhere, did not have any legal business, we must admit we were unable to prove that this was a “common fund”. Knowing that the money was obtained by criminal means, we could not prove it.

How many thieves in law are there in Ukraine?

Until 2015, it was up to 30, 15-20 people were constantly present. But the most serious one has been detained at the moment – Sergey “Umka” from Dnipro. One of the oldest “thieves” is Lera Sumskaya. For a long time, the Russian “thief in law” Nodar Rustavsky was in Ukraine. These are the main ones that have a serious impact.

Is it true that the “thieves” cooperate with the FSB of Russia?

Almost all Ukrainian thieves in law have been crowned in the Russian Federation. As far as I know, the police work closely with them there. “Thieves” who refuse to cooperate are pursued and they leave the country. It turns out that there is a certain agreement involving some kind of cooperation. Thus, the Russian “thief” who was involved in the coronation of the Ukrainian can influence him. Set specific tasks that he must perform in Ukraine …

Yes, I think that most of the thieves in law cooperate with the FSB. By the way, the son of the same Lera, who lives most of the time in Sumy or Kiev, is serving time in prison in Russia.

What regions are most interesting for them? What is the specificity of crimes?

Dnieper, Kiev, Kiev and Kharkov regions. Of course, the Odessa region – smuggling, illegal migration, drugs, ports.

But “thieves in law”, as a rule, do not commit crimes themselves. They receive some part of their income, mainly from robberies, burglaries, and thefts. Thus, Umka controlled the extraction of amber in the Rivne and Zhytomyr regions. Odessa has its own “thief in law” – Antimos, who comes here from time to time. Now he is in Turkey, but he has a serious influence on the territory of the region.

Almost a year ago, Lotto Guli, a well-known “thief in law” who controlled the markets in Ukraine, was shot dead in Turkey. How did his murder affect the situation, in particular, in Odessa?

After being released from an Azerbaijani prison (in 2017 – UNIAN) Lotto Guli moved to Turkey, from where he began to restore what was lost. Being “in the zone”, he actively led the criminal communities of Azerbaijanis on the territory of the entire post-Soviet space. He controlled food and vegetable markets in Russia – Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Ukraine. And, of course, the criminals sent some of the money they got to his common fund. In almost every Ukrainian region, he created groups … There were abductions of Azerbaijani businessmen, many of whom did not contact the police. The ransom was paid and they were released. After the murder of Guli, it stopped.

Today in Ukraine there is a stable, controlled situation. As for the number of crimes, it depends, among other things, on the size of the population. Territorially, the largest is the Odessa region. Accordingly, more wealthy people live here than, for example, in the Sumy region, where high-profile crimes occur, well, maybe once a year. I remember when I worked in Kiev, the day started from Odessa, Donetsk or Dnipro. Ivano-Frankivsk region, Transcarpathia, as a rule, did not hear … There is a different mentality: on Saturday-Sunday people go to church, and at this time there are almost no crimes ( laughs ).

Do you know someone personally from the “thieves in law”? What are they?

Most are familiar with their professional activities. These are balanced people who, indeed, can lead, in particular, criminal communities. They are listened to, they are kind of serious psychologists. We communicated on equal terms. I have a very long experience of work in operational units, they have a long term to serve their sentences ( smiles ). But I’m talking about real “thieves in law” …

It is difficult to communicate with “oranges” – “thieves” without the appropriate experience, who bought the title for themselves. One of them – the same “Week”, which almost did not sit. This is the same Sergey “Umka” from Dnipro. The local criminal clan bought him a “title” – “Umka” was crowned for money in St. Petersburg. Oranges are difficult to talk to. They have no concepts, in the first place – money-money-money.

Do you know the “authority” “Panya”, who was shot in June in the south of the Odessa region?

I know a lot about him. What happened to him, one might say, is an intraspecific struggle. One of the possible customers for the murder is in Romania. I would not like to comment on these events, I can harm the investigation.

What is the difference between “authorities” and “thieves in law”?

A “thief in law” is the highest status in the criminal hierarchy; all criminals are subordinate to him. A “crime boss” is someone who has earned a reputation by directly committing crimes.

Now in the Odessa region there are people who lead criminal communities and play into the hands of the Russian Federation. It is in Odessa that there are heads of such Chechen communities – people with double faces. Someone here is known as a businessman, philanthropist, represents some sports federations, and I know him as a person who travels to Chechnya every month – to Grozny, where he meets with Ramzan Kadyrov (the head of the Chechen Republic, close to Russian President Vladimir Putin – UNIAN). And reports on the “work done” on the territory of the Odessa region.

We blocked such people from leaving through Belarus, Turkey, and the countries of the European Union. But they are still present in the Odessa region, they enter the offices of various officials … They have not gone anywhere. And sometimes it seems to me that they are much more terrible than thieves in law. They have no concepts or principles.

Are there many of them in the Odessa region?

Serious – up to ten.

Do you teach at the institute?

I give lectures on operational-search activities. I often communicate with the cadets … I tell, among other things, how innocent people suffered through the fault of the investigators. A vivid example is the case of the Pologovsky maniac (Sergei Tkach killed and raped, according to various sources, from 47 to 100 girls – UNIAN). At various times, more than a dozen people were detained, who were convicted instead of him – for crimes that they did not commit. Many years later, a real criminal, Tkach, was detained, but the lives of innocent people were already broken, some committed suicide …Sergey Tkach killed and raped, according to various sources, from 47 to 100 girls / photo from UNIANSergey Tkach killed and raped, according to various sources, from 47 to 100 girls / photo from UNIAN

Whom do you give the cadets as an example?

In particular, Senior Lieutenant Sergei Prigarin, who died in 2018 in the line of duty, took an active part in the arrest of an armed criminal. (Attacker Vladimir Doroshenko staged machine-gun fire in the center of Odessa. He wounded four people: an employee of the “Municipal Guard” and three policemen, including Prigarin, who was posthumously awarded the Order “For Courage” – UNIAN). At that time, I was the head of the criminal police in Ukraine, and I came to the funeral of a young officer. He left a wife and a one-year-old daughter … When he arrived in Odessa already as a rector, he found the widow and was shocked. It turned out that Ksenia Prigarina is unemployed, cannot get her daughter in a kindergarten, and no one helps them …

To date, one of our faculties has been named after a deceased officer – the decision was made jointly with the cadets. 

He also applied to the mayor’s office with a request to confer the title of “Honorary Citizen of Odessa” on Prigarin, but was refused. They say, according to the position, it is given only to the living. It turns out that the officer who gave the most precious thing – his life – did not deserve it …

Maybe the problem is in the specifics of the situation?

There would be a desire. In Mariupol, the same was true. However, when the terrorists shot Vitaly Mandrik (in 2015, officer Mandrik, together with his colleagues, stopped a car with explosives for a check – UNIAN), we turned to the mayor’s office with a request to amend the situation. And they listened to us – Mandrik was posthumously awarded the title of “Honorary Citizen of Mariupol”.

… You see, this is not necessary for me, but, first of all, for the children of the victims. They should know that their fathers have not been forgotten. Cadets need to know who they need to look up to. Not to some leader of the organized crime group, but to a policeman who gave his life for them. In Odessa, no one cares. For some reason, there is still no monument to those killed in the east of the country. They can’t deliver for seven years! But in Odessa – the main naval base of the country, the marines are fighting for the independence of Ukraine …

One involuntarily asks for comparison with the liberated cities of Donbass, whose residents know what war is. In the same Mariupol in 2014, hundreds of people, succumbing to the provocations of the militants, went to storm the city council. But then they changed their views … They survived enemy attacks, saw corpses on the roads, destroyed houses … One of the most terrible shelling took place in the already liberated Mariupol, in 2015. Then a whole residential area was shot from the Grad installations. There were many wounded and killed. I remember how we removed the bodies of adults and children … The Russian army was shooting at that time, and this blow was corrected by an ex-Donetsk police officer.

The situation was no better in Debaltsevo – round-the-clock cannonade. I saw it with my own eyes: we evacuated the children from there, delivered bread. People fought for every loaf. And there, after the enemy shelling, we had a chance to remove the corpses. I remember putting them in a truck. He stood under the regional department for a week – he could not leave because of the continuous shooting …

In the war, 18 of my subordinates died, many died from wounds or serious illnesses … We found ourselves in such conditions when the police were forced to perform functions unusual for them, and to interact with the military. Therefore, our cadets often meet with the cadets of the Military Academy. Now, recently we lived with them in dugouts for three days … And, you know, after such communication, they begin to understand each other. A police officer who graduated from our university will never act badly towards an officer of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

You are a candidate of legal sciences. What is the topic of your dissertation?

“Activities of the National Police of Ukraine to ensure public security in the context of an anti-terrorist operation.” It touches upon, among other things, the problem associated with video surveillance. In 2015-2016, I began to create a video surveillance system in Mariupol, which was later extended to the entire Donetsk region. The experience of Abu Dhabi was taken as a basis. We created a modern police squad management center, which made it possible to respond very quickly to any incidents. The price of each camera installed in Mariupol is about 1.3 thousand euros. Each can work autonomously – this was necessary because the power was cut off due to constant shelling. At the same time, for two days, the cameras transmitted a signal, if there was no Internet, the information was accumulated. They were installed along the perimeter of the city, on the central streets. And the car thefts stopped immediately in the city. To find a missing car, you only need its brand and color. For example, a red Toyota. As soon as such a car enters the video surveillance zone, the signal goes to the police.

It is very important – the police are responsible for the accumulated information, for the server. But today in other cities all video surveillance is in the management of local authorities (in Odessa such a municipal program is called “Safe City” – UNIAN). At the same time, no one is responsible for leakage, dissemination of information. And now imagine, in Odessa someone will turn to a certain Petya (Vasya), who is sitting at the console: “You have $ 50 on you and give me information on Abroskin.” As you can imagine, such precedents are dangerous.

Let me give you an example. In 2019, in Kiev, they wanted to blow up a military intelligence officer (the current head of the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Ministry of Defense, Kirill Budanov, – UNIAN). Then some people, having access to the security system, analyzed his movement and transferred the data to Russian saboteurs. The terrorists planted explosives on the car; miraculously, the assassination attempt failed. 

I insist that the use of information from CCTV cameras must be enshrined in law. In a war environment, this is especially important. Colonel SBabroskin said that terrorists blew up Kharaberyusha instead /

Were there any attempts on your life?

On March 31, 2017, in Mariupol, a car with the deputy head of the counterintelligence department of the Donetsk SBU department, Aleksandr Kharaberyush, was blown up. That day I was not in the city … When I returned, I was immediately interrogated by an investigator from the Prosecutor General’s Office. Then I found out that initially the terrorists wanted to blow me up. But they abandoned this idea, since at that time I lived on the territory of the Azov regiment – in the village of Urzuf. Plus, my car was never left on the street without a driver. And Kharaberyush left his car near the house. The terrorists took advantage of these circumstances. Alexander died …

As it turned out, full information about our movement with him in the Russian Federation was received from the equipment that provides mobile communication. At the same time, the technical office of this telephone company is located abroad. After some time, Yulia Prasolova, a terrorist who planted explosives under Alexander’s car, was detained in Odessa. It turned out that the information about my movement was corrected by one of the officers of the criminal investigation department of the Donetsk region – a man who was in the same building as me …

Prasolova was then exchanged for our prisoners of war, the information received was not finalized, and the said law enforcement officer is still working in the police.

What, in your opinion, should a modern sleuth be?

The main thing is to be devoted to your work. There are very few of them. In 1994, 25 of us, young lieutenants, entered the service. Ten years later, I was left alone – people simply could not bear the load.

Of course, you need a reliable rear – a strong family. I was lucky – my wife endured ( laughs ).

Larisa Kozovaya

(c)UNIAN 2021

One comment

  1. Almost all (and these are hundreds) were later exchanged for our servicemen … By the way, we also detained some “comrades” from the Russian Federation – the military, who could not explain how they ended up in our country. They were allowed to call their parents. And the mother of one of these soldiers asked: “Son, what are you doing in Ukraine?” He cried and could not explain, and during the interrogation he told me, they say, there was an order to go to the exercises in the Rostov region. They left, but mysteriously ended up near Kramatorsk.


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