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This is the second in a series of guest publications and translations which The Henry Jackson Society is producing by arrangement with Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty. This publication was written by Mark Galeotti, Professor of Global Affairs at the Center for Global Affairs at New York University.
“Mikhail Volkov is a cop in Moscow (up to a point) and Viktor Skvortsov is a criminal (of sorts), but even back in May they were both using the same words to describe Crimea: a business opportunity.
Viktor no longer really runs with the Muscovite underworld, but he still trades on his old associations with the now-global Solntsevo network from the freebooter 1990s, which are good enough to get him invited to the occasional mobster-“biznisman” birthday party or funeral. From time to time, his old contacts either need a favour or ask one of him, and his ill-defined “import/export business” appears to find itself the conduit for dubious commodities which may or may not be what is on the customs manifest.
Mikhail—and for obvious reasons neither of these are their real names—is not so much on the other side of the fence so much as another on-and-off entrepreneur of legality. He’s a police detective whose case load often involves organized crime and who has managed to find ways of balancing securing enough convictions to rise slowly but steadily up the chain of command, while at the same time turning a blind eye with sufficient frequency to acquire the kind of money that buys a top-of-the-range BMW, a luxurious dacha outside Moscow, and—until they were banned for police officers—regular trips abroad. Either way, he navigates the underworld with at least as much aplomb at Viktor and with seemingly as many friends there, too…”