While the coverage of the present conflict in Ukraine in the mainstream media in North America, Europe and the Middle East does seem to be quite thorough, there seems to be an issue which I think that many of the journalists who are writing for the mainstream media are missing.  

They are covering the movement of Ukrainian refugees throughout the world, and they are covering every aspect of how arms as well as medical supplies are being supplied to all of the parties who are involved in the conflict.  There is a lot of discussion from politicians and political analysts about proposed ideas for potential solutions to the conflict, and about numerous aspects of the long-term implications of this conflict.  I’m even seeing articles about how refugees’ pets are being cared for.

However, I’m not seeing any articles about the organized crime families who are going to be benefitting for many decades from this conflict more so than anyone else.

I believe that both Russian as well as Ukrainian organized crime families are not only celebrating right now, I think that they’ve likely never had more reason to feel festive about their current situation than they do today in 2022.

Here’s why.

The international sanctions against Russia are not going to reduce peoples’ desires for purchasing products that are manufactured by European, American and Canadian companies.  The sanctions are merely going to cut off the legal supply chain of products from popular brands.  People throughout Russia will still want to be purchasing computers, phones, cameras, televisions, and other electronic devices, wines, liquors, coffees, teas and other food items, and children’s items which are manufactured and distributed by European, American and Canadian companies which are now ceasing all of their sales to Russia.  

Organized crime has been very prevalent in both Russia and in Ukraine for ever since the former Soviet Union officially disbanded at the beginning of 1992.  And once the current conflict ends, it will be nearly impossible for law enforcement agencies to do anything to significantly reduce their activities for the next several years.

And so people are going to resume engaging in the same practices that people used to do during the former Soviet era; they are going to purchase their favorite items from the black market.  And if the genuine articles are not available, then they’ll (either knowingly or unknowingly) purchase counterfeit items.  

Aside from Ukraine, Russia has land borders with Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Mongolia, North Korea, Norway, The PRC and Poland, Russia shares maritime borders with Japan and the U.S., and Russia also shares land borders with the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.  Russia’s land and maritime borders with North Korea and their maritime borders that they share with the U.S. and Japan are too thoroughly patrolled for smugglers to be able to smuggle any goods across those borders, but criminals will be trying to smuggle absolutely everything that they possibly can into Russia from all of the other countries that I’ve mentioned.    

The Russian government is at war with the Ukrainian government.  The Russian military is at war with the Ukrainian military.  The Russian mafia IS NOT at war with the Ukrainian mafia. 

Those two international criminal organizations are very close allies, and they are heavily dependent upon each other.  When criminals find out that they are being investigated in their home countries, they immediately move to other countries so that they continue their illegal operations from other countries where law enforcement has not caught up with them yet.  

This practice has been enabling Russian organized crime families to forge very close ties with Ukrainian organized crime families since the 1990’s.  Russian organized crime families and Ukrainian organized crime families rarely fight against each other because they are trade partners, and they know that if they were to declare war against each other, a bloodbath would ensue, which would attract a lot of unwanted attention from law enforcement agencies in both countries.

 Organized crime gangs conduct their illegal businesses in every country that they can.  The only way that law enforcement agencies have ever been able to successfully track the operations of mafia families in different countries is by sharing their resources and their intelligence information with law enforcement agencies in other countries.  The governments of countries that are at war with each other are not going to allow their law enforcement agencies to engage in joint operations with law enforcement agencies in the countries that they’re presently at war with.  With fewer police agencies attempting to conduct surveillance on them, smuggling operations will become notably easier for criminal gangs.

The current conflict has created the most lucrative markets for both Ukrainian and Russian organized crime since the end of the Soviet era, and I can assure you that enterprising gangsters in both countries are not going to miss this opportunity to expand their businesses.

No one yet knows when or how the current conflict will end.  Once it does end, the governments of Russia and Ukraine will have to rebuild the economies, the militaries and the domestic infrastructures within their countries, and they will be doing so in an era in which the crime families which have been in existence since the end of the Soviet era in the 1990’s have now expanded beyond all previous expectations.  

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Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...

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