Moscow, Russia – A Russian mafia boss killed in Moscow on Wednesday was shot by a sniper in what appears to be a contract killing.
Seventy-five-year-old Aslan Usoyan, one of Russia’s major mafia bosses, was shot dead as he exited his favorite Moscow restaurant, located around 1.5 kilometers from the Kremlin. In a sign of his influence, one parliament deputy expressed concern that his murder could trigger a deadly turf war and further violence.
Usoyan was shot once before dying on the way to hospital, according to a statement from investigators. Authorities have opened a murder investigation, with the mafia boss’s “criminal activities” listed as one possible explanation for his murder.
The hospital morgue containing Usoyan’s body was surrounded by police, with officials fearing “provocations.” The Russian tabloid Life News has published a gory picture of Usoyan’s bloodied face (warning: not for the faint of heart) on a stretcher.
A female bystander was wounded by the sniper but is expected to recover in hospital, police added.
Usoyan was nicknamed “Grandpa Hassan” and, at his peak, operated several casinos in Moscow and controlled the crime scene of south Russia.
Born in Soviet Georgia in the 1930s, Usoyan was first convicted when he was 19. Many of his earlier convictions were for weapons and drug possession, but, in 1984, he was jailed for 15 years after selling counterfeit gold coins. He was released in 1991 as the Soviet perestroika reform took place.
By the mid-1990s, Usoyan’s clan had become one of the most influential in the region, operating a long list of Moscow casinos. He was suspected of masterminding various organized criminal groups that dealt in illegal gambling, arms, and drug trafficking.
A previous attempt to have the Russian mafia boss killed took place in September 2010. Usoyan was shot in the abdomen in central Moscow but survived, temporarily handing the reins of his business to his two nephews. The would-be assassin — a sniper concealed on the third floor of a nearby apartment building — was never arrested.
Theories over Aslan Usoyan’s fatal assassination are already plentiful. Many observers speculate that a rival crime boss, Tariel Oniani, may have ordered the Russian mafia boss killed in a dispute over land, real estate, and leadership roles in the criminal world.
Scroll down for a report from Russia Today: