Who were his enemies?

The Guardian reports that he was believed to be at war with a Georgian crime boss known as Tariel Oniani, known as Taro.

What was the beef?

The Guardian says:

The war has been bloody. Many of those killed were Usoyan lieutenants working in Sochi, home to lucrative construction projects as the resort prepares to host the Winter Olympics in 2014. The most high-profile victim was Vyacheslav Ivankov, nicknamed Yaponchik (Little Japanese), killed by a sniper in 2009. A source in Russia’s security services said that Usoyan is likely to have fallen victim to a clan war.

“The assassination carried out on Wednesday was probably the result of Aslan Usoyan’s conflict with ‘thieves in law’ clans headed by immigrants from Georgia,” the source told the state-run Interfax news agency.

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What are “thieves-in-law?”

“The so-called thieves-in-law, a Soviet-era fraternity of convicts that maintains strict codes and rites and disdains any institution other than its own,” the Moscow Times reports. Usoyan, Oniani and Ivankov (the “Little Japanese” mentioned above) are thought to be some of the “last senior representatives” of that generation of mob leaders. Usoyan was one of the few thieves-in-law who had managed to adapt to the post-Soviet era, according to Jane’s Intelligence Review.

Does this signal a return of the bad old days of the early 1990s, the peak of Russian gangsterism?

Hard to say. Again the Washington Post:

Alexander Mikhailov, a former official in the police, security and anti-drug forces, told the Interfax news agency that he saw Usoyan’s killing as the end of a war. “He was quite a significant figure in the underworld,” Mikhailov said. “I believe that his murder means the redivision of that market is over.”

Galeotti wasn’t so sure, suggesting that a settling of scores could ensue. “His nephew will have to assert himself fairly quickly and aggressively,” he said. “There could very well be a new round of turf wars.”

For a lot more check out Galeotti’s great blog, In Moscow’s Shadows.

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