Russia
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    Profile

    Russia

    Capital

    Moscow

    Gross domestic product (GDP)

    USD 1,699,876.58 million

    Income group

    Upper middle income

    Population

    144,406,261

    Area

    17,098,250 km²

    Geography type

    Coastal

    6.24

    Criminality score

    32nd of 193 countries

    1st of 44 countries in Europe

    1st of 17 countries in Central & Eastern Europe

    Criminal market

    6.10

    Human trafficking

    6.50

    Human smuggling

    6.00

    Arms trafficking

    4.50

    Flora crimes

    7.50

    Fauna crimes

    7.50

    Non-renewable resource crimes

    5.00

    Heroin trade

    7.00

    Cocaine trade

    4.50

    Cannabis trade

    5.00

    Synthetic drug trade

    7.50

    Criminal actors

    6.38

    Mafia-style groups

    4.50

    Criminal networks

    7.50

    State-embedded actors

    8.50

    Foreign actors

    5.00

    4.04

    Resilience score

    129th of 193 countries

    40th of 44 countries in Europe

    13th of 17 countries in Central & Eastern Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    4.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    3.00

    International cooperation

    4.50

    National policies and laws

    5.50

    Judicial system and detention

    4.00

    Law enforcement

    4.50

    Territorial integrity

    5.50

    Anti-money laundering

    4.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    4.00

    Victim and witness support

    2.50

    Prevention

    3.50

    Non-state actors

    3.50

    4.04 6.38 6.10 4.04 6.38 6.10

    4.04

    Resilience score

    129th of 193 countries

    40th of 44 countries in Europe

    13th of 17 countries in Central & Eastern Europe

    Political leadership and governance

    4.00

    Government transparency and accountability

    3.00

    International cooperation

    4.50

    National policies and laws

    5.50

    Judicial system and detention

    4.00

    Law enforcement

    4.50

    Territorial integrity

    5.50

    Anti-money laundering

    4.00

    Economic regulatory capacity

    4.00

    Victim and witness support

    2.50

    Prevention

    3.50

    Non-state actors

    3.50

    Analysis

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    People

    Russia is a source, destination and transit country for human trafficking. In particular, the country is a major international transit and destination hub for victims of forced labour from countries in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Africa. Meanwhile, human trafficking out of Russia mainly consists of women and children for the purposes of sexual exploitation and includes destination countries across Europe, Asia and North America. Additionally, there is an extensive system of exploitation that targets vulnerable people, including homeless people, those with substance dependency and irregular migrants, for the purposes of human trafficking.

    Russia is also a source, transit and destination country for human smuggling. Non-regional human smuggling concerns several ethnic communities. Irregular migrants from Iran are smuggled though Azerbaijan and Georgia into Russia. Smuggling is also popular along Russia’s eastern borders, for South Asians looking to enter Europe. Irregular migrants in Russia are also smuggled to the Baltic countries, Belarus, and Ukraine. Global demand for cheap labour is a key driver of migrant smuggling in Russia. The intensity of crimes associated with the smuggling market varies, but smuggled people are routinely subject to abuse, intimidation, coercion, and physical violence. Smugglers consist of both domestic and foreign actors who at times collude and at other times compete. Russians tend to be the leading regional facilitators of human smuggling into Europe, followed by Belarussians and Ukrainians. Along the Finnish border, smugglers tend to be non-Russians from Afghanistan, India, Cameroon, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Furthermore, human smuggling in Russia frequently involves irregularities and unlawful transactions between business owners and immigration authorities in an effort to evade penalty charges or imprisonment.

    Trade

    After the United States, Russia is home to the world’s second largest licit arms trade market, with the illicit market running in parallel. Organized crime groups are involved in the trafficking of arms, as it is relatively easy for these groups to acquire guns, but increasingly difficult for others to acquire anything beyond ‘traumatic’ weapons, in other words, non-lethal weapons. Illicit arms are also widely sold online via the dark web. A significant number of illicit weapon seizures have occurred at the Ukraine–Russia border, but Chinese-smuggled firearms and parts mostly enter Russia via Azerbaijan. Additionally, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia serve as key transit hubs for arms smuggled from Western Europe into Russia and other members of the Commonwealth of Independent States, in addition to Georgia. Since the illegal arms market within Russia is saturated, profit margins are relatively low and the cost levied by government enforcement is rising.

    Environment

    Russia has the largest area of forests and plantations in the world. However, much of the country's woodlands are under threat from mismanagement, illegal deforestation and corruption. Timber extraction is widespread in the north-west and far-east regions of the Russian Federation and is recognized as a growing trade. Approximately a fifth of the wood produced in Russia is exported to China, where it is sold to South-eastern Asia countries. Organized crime groups are heavily involved and activities are highly profitable. These groups are further enabled by alliances with corrupt officials. Motorcycle groups armed with axes and chainsaws are also complicit actors within the wider supply chain. Russia is a source, destination and transit country for the illicit wildlife trade. Whereas tigers, bears, wolves and other wildlife parts and products are trafficked from Russia to China, other exotic species are trafficked into Russia to supply a growing domestic demand. Poaching, as well as illegal fishing activity, is rampant across the Kamchatka Peninsula, the Far East and the Dagestan, Volgograd and Astrakhan regions of Russia. This includes unauthorized sturgeon fishing for caviar. Organized criminal groups have established extensive networks and distribution channels for the illegal wildlife market and forged ties with corrupt elements within environmental and law enforcement agencies. Reports indicate that rural residents, who are often amateur hunters, are also involved in illicit poaching crimes.

    As a country rich in natural resources, Russia is vulnerable to many non-renewable resource crimes. The exploitation of non-renewable resources, such as gold, diamonds, coal and non-ferrous metals, is largely in the hands of front companies owned by corrupt officials and organized crime groups, often working in partnership. In the Russian Far East, Chinese organized crime groups are also active in the Maritime Territory and Khabarovsk region, from where they smuggle black earth. At the same time, state-affiliated corporations now largely control oil and gas, with little scope for organized crime involvement. Most illicit activities surrounding non-renewable resources in Russia involve corrupt state contracts. Top actors in this criminal market also feature a complex entanglement of family and friendship connections that can be traced to the highest levels of government.

    Drugs

    Russia is a key transit and destination country for heroin. A third of the global turnover of heroin passes through Russia. It is largely sourced from Afghanistan, and enters the country through Central Asia or the South Caucasus. The role of the South Caucasus trafficking corridor is growing. Major seizures in 2019 also indicate that the drug is sometimes transported through Russia via Belarus and Poland to Western Europe. Wholesale bulk lots of heroin are smuggled into the country by international criminal groups, namely large drug syndicates with rigid hierarchies. Notably, criminal networks, with the participation of Turkish nationals, are involved in the heroin trade from Afghanistan to Western Europe via Russia. Synthetic drugs as well as the ingredients are sourced from South-eastern Asia and China, with drugs then manufactured in local laboratories in Russia. Methamphetamine is smuggled from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltic States, China, Iran, Belarus and Ukraine. Demand for synthetic drugs in Russia has increased steadily, in particular Ecstasy, sourced primarily from the Netherlands and Poland, which is a popular party drug in Russia.

    Russia’s synthetic drugs market is second only to cannabis and its supply chain accommodates both local and foreign criminal actors, although street-level distribution is essentially still in the hands of domestic gangs. Market actors largely prey on teenagers and young people, who are also the majority of users. Russia is also a destination and source country for cannabis. Some is grown domestically but most of it comes from the Middle East and North Africa, often by sea. Criminal networks are involved in its distribution. The distributors are usually teenagers or young people looking to make a quick profit. There is also considerable demand for cannabis among Central Asian migrants. The illicit cannabis trade has moved online to protect the anonymity of suppliers and clients. Cocaine consumption in Russia is on the rise, especially among young people. Demand for the drug is largely concentrated in Moscow, Sochi, Kazan and Saint Petersburg. Cocaine is largely smuggled from South America with intermediate stops in Europe or Africa. Russian organized crime groups smuggle it by air or land. These groups are also engaged in swapping Afghan heroin for Latin American cocaine, largely for re-trafficking to Europe, and to a much lesser extent, Asia. Previously, cocaine trafficking was largely through the dark web. However, analysis of recent transactions reveals a decline in virtual sales, most likely replaced by conventional dealers.

    Criminal Actors

    Russia has a complex and varied ecosystem of criminal actors. There are eight to 12 major nationwide networks, and each small group within the network controls a specific segment of the illicit supply chain, for example, drug transportation or distribution. Most networks emerged from mafia-style gangs that expanded by incorporating other groups and, as they extended across regional and national borders, had to adapt to a more decentralized and flexible form of organization. These mafia-style groups are confined to particular cities or regions. Many groups engage in protection racketeering. And although extortion still takes place, it occurs at a much lower rate than in the past. Instead, kickbacks and the seizure of assets through fake documentation and spurious legal claims are on the rise. Mafia-style groups also tend to be involved in a wide range of other illegal markets, from drug trafficking and distribution, to counterfeiting and modern slavery. There have been isolated instances where Russian-based organized crime groups in Europe have been used as covert instruments of the Kremlin. Overall, levels of overt violence have fallen dramatically since the 1990s and traditional criminal actors have lost much of their prior status.

    Several organized criminal groups in the country were formed on an ethnic basis. Some are very loose networks, defined by common interest or culture. Others are anchored to individuals or a specific territorial area. By and large, foreign actors exert substantial financial power across all criminal markets, and are concentrated particularly in Russia’s Far East, but also on the borders with Moldova and the Baltic states. Some elected Russian officials have been found guilty of associating with organized crime groups or those with criminal records. In some cases, they form organized and persistent criminal enterprises, which engage in a range of criminal activities and are largely dependent on their specific positions in government. As a result, gangs within the security agencies are particularly powerful. Virtually every major illicit market is controlled by mid to high-level members of the security forces, under the tacit supervision and control of higher-level political elites, both at the local and federal level. Additionally, the state deals with large and violent criminal groups by allowing some crime bosses to operate, both on the black market and in legitimate businesses, on the condition of not drawing public attention through violence. Many past criminal leaders went into legitimate business or politics in the period following the fall of the Soviet Union, and those who still try to operate independently are typically outgunned by the law enforcement protection racket.

    Leadership and governance

    Although the government frequently asserts that combating organized crime is a national priority, it is rarely reflected in its actions. Ties to criminal entities are also present in the multiple foreign conflicts that Russia is currently engaged in. Furthermore, corruption is both rampant and systemic. Although corruption has declined at the lower levels of the state apparatus, it remains widespread at the higher levels. Nevertheless, anti-corruption has been identified as a top state priority, which, in recent years, has brought more attention to the work of prosecutors. This has also led to a new emphasis on cooperation between various government agencies. Although the federal budget is published annually and there are mechanisms in place to access government information, there are often no consequences for public officials if transgressions are identified. Meanwhile, accountability has been used as a political weapon by the Kremlin against its critics and by senior figures against their rivals.

    The Russian Federation is a signatory to nearly every relevant international organized crime treaty. Cooperation in fighting transnational crime covers the life and health of person, terrorism and terror financing, drug trafficking, arms trafficking, fraud and theft, money laundering, human trafficking and human smuggling. Nevertheless, the Russian government can also be obstructive in international cooperation, particularly when it comes to corruption cases involving high-ranking state officials and their assets abroad. On a national level, Russia’s laws concerning the administration of criminal justice have been reformed several times following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Additionally, Russia’s legal framework has been updated periodically, sometimes to address specific criminological concerns, revise confusions and contradictions, and also for political reasons.

    Criminal justice and security

    The Russian judiciary is a centralized structure, which is constitutionally independent. However, in practice, the judiciary is susceptible to high levels of executive interference and corruption in politically sensitive cases. The judiciary is regularly wielded as an instrument of the political elite. The prosecution of criminal offences in Russia falls under the remit of two separate legal bodies, including one that serves as the leading anti-corruption agency responsible for public and private corruption investigations and prosecutions. There have been numerous prosecutions of corrupt officials and organized crime figures, but senior figures still appear relatively untouchable unless a political decision has been made to pursue them. The prison system is under-resourced, overcrowded and subject to high levels of corruption, as well as sporadic violence. Organized crime leaders have sometimes found themselves isolated within high-security facilities but, more often, crime leaders enjoy minimal controls and have been able to continue running their criminal enterprises from behind bars.

    In terms of law enforcement, Russia has a sizeable apparatus with considerable resources. There has been notable positive change in reducing corruption in the police, particularly traffic police. Nevertheless, law enforcement is also wielded as an instrument of the state for political purposes. Another major impediment for effective work across all law enforcement agencies is excessive paperwork. In regards to its territorial integrity, many Russian border regions are sparsely populated, making physical control of them difficult. At the same time, Russia is an active trading country with extensive road, rail, air and sea connections across the world. The country is also located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. All of this, combined with a serious problem of corruption among border and customs officials, makes Russia an attractive hub for global criminal networks. Nevertheless, the state’s ability to control land, air and sea borders is fairly robust, and there are few issues with regard to territorial control on the part of the state.

    Economic and financial environment

    Russia is assessed to have a high risk of money laundering and terrorist financing. Criminal elements are known to use Russia’s financial system for laundering money through various means, including virtual currencies, precious metals and real estate, among others. Although Russia has developed a relatively robust anti-money laundering/countering financing of terrorism legal framework, weaknesses in the laws, banking supervision, and enforcement means that the country is both a consumer and supplier of money laundering services to organized crime groups. Anti-money laundering reforms of Russia’s banking sector have reduced opportunities for domestic laundering, but the tools and regulations available on paper do not have much of a track record for being used in practice. Overall, Russia has an ongoing desire to create an economic regulatory environment that is conducive to doing business. However, as the regulatory capacity develops, it has become more vulnerable to exploitation because it provides new avenues for rent seeking. Furthermore, corruption and state support for its own companies, or those owned by senior allies, undermines and exploits this environment.

    Civil society and social protection

    Russia has laws that provide protection for victims, witnesses and other participants in criminal proceedings. Despite this, witness protection is undermined by corruption within the agencies responsible for its provision, and support for victims is often plagued by a lack of facilities, as well as the perception that protection is not a state responsibility. Charities and other non-governmental organizations, which attempt to supplement these shortcomings, are inadequate, and increasingly hobbled by laws controlling donations from abroad. Additionally, the government does not attempt to raise public awareness or change negative attitudes towards people who use drugs, or who are victims of human trafficking. Meanwhile, areas such as community outreach, social intervention and whistle-blowing continue to be neglected.

    The operating environment for non-state actors has been on a downward trend over the past several years. The state is strongly opposed to any non-governmental organizations, especially those that have links abroad. However, it is willing to support civil society, so long as it confines itself to specific issues and local politics. Civil society organizations have played a significant role in fighting organized crime, especially in designing their own initiatives among local communities. Government funding is the primary source of funding for these organizations, but existing legislation allows the state to also apply pressure on them. Russia’s media freedom is extremely limited. Oppressive measures have been taken against the media, and more journalists are being imprisoned now than at any time since the fall of the Soviet Union. Physical attacks, including murder, against journalists are carried out with impunity.

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    The criminal markets score is represented by the pyramid base size and the criminal actors score is represented by the pyramid height, on a scale ranging from 1 to 10. The resilience score is represented by the panel height, which can be identified by the side of the panel.

    This report was funded in part by a grant from the United States Department of State.

    ENACT is funded by the European Union and implemented by the Institute for Security Studies and INTERPOL, in affiliation with the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime.

    The opinions, findings and conclusions stated herein are those of the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime and do not necessarily reflect those of the United States Department of State.