Russia and its intelligence agencies are using mafia bosses to carry out criminal operations such as arms trafficking, according to allegations contained in the US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks.
The Kremlin's spy agencies have such a close relationship with top organised criminals that Russia has become a "virtual 'mafia state'," the cables say. The gangsters enjoy secret support and protection and in effect work "as a complement to state structures".
A senior Spanish investigator alleged to the US that Moscow's strategy was to use "organised crime groups to do whatever the government of Russia cannot acceptably do as a government". Recent operations included gun-running to the Kurds "in an attempt to destabilise Turkey" and "arms trafficking" in the mysterious Arctic Sea cargo ship hijacking in 2009.