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Russia - Crime

Criminal groups continue to target individuals carrying large sums of cash or high-value luxury items. According to open source reports, thieves regularly target individuals who have withdrawn hundreds of thousands of rubles from local banks in the center of Moscow. This type of crime is sometimes violent and can involve the use of firearms. On a recurring basis throughout 2015, the police reported instances of criminals breaking the windows of private vehicles parked or stopped in heavy traffic and robbing the occupants of significant sums of money. In December, thieves smashed a window of a parked vehicle and stole dozens of fur coats valued at 720,000 rubles (10,000 USD).

Frequenting bars or clubs late at night or early in the morning in Moscow involves additional risk to personal safety. U.S. citizens may be targeted for robbery, assault, or another type of crime, especially if senses are diminished due to alcohol use. Violent crime, including incidents backed by organized crime, is not uncommon. In December 2015, two people were killed and 12 injured during a shooting at a caf-bar near the Russian White House. Witnesses, including an Irish expatriate, claimed at least 20 rounds were discharged on a public street between two highly trafficked metro stations. Also in December 2015, an improvised explosive device injured five people at a bus stop in central Moscow. The police arrested a suspect who reportedly was attempting to kill a local businessman over a construction dispute.

Moscow has an established public transportation system that may consist of subway (Metro), bus, trolley lines, and streetcar lines. Taxis also operate in Moscow. The U.S. Embassy discourages the use of unmarked taxis (sometimes called gypsy cabs), as passengers have been victims of robbery, kidnapping, extortion, and theft. Criminals using these taxis to rob passengers often wait outside bars or restaurants to find passengers who have been drinking and are, therefore, more susceptible to robbery. Robberies may also occur in taxis shared with strangers.

Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is widespread; harassment, threats, and acts of violence targeting the LGBT community are also prevalent. Small demonstrations in support of LGBT rights often are dispersed, sometimes violently, by nationalists claiming to be defending traditional Russian values.

Since homosexuality finds little acceptance in Russian society, many gays keep their sexual orientation hidden from their families, friends and co-workers. This makes them easy extortion targets for criminals. Russian criminals have been emboldened by a 2013 law that made it a crime to expose children to gay "propaganda,'' part of a Kremlin-backed effort to defend traditional family values and counter the influence of what it considers a decadent West.

The crime gangs who carry out such attacks are not necessarily anti-gay, but have identified a profitable niche where they feel they can operate with impunity. They commit these crimes not because they are homophobes - they are simply taking advantage of the situation, knowing that few people would go to the police after such an experience, he said. They are just common criminals who chose this kind of method.

Drug-related crimes continue to increase. Russia is both a transit and consumer country for Afghan opiates (heroin, opium), which are transported from Afghanistan through Central Asia to Russia. In addition to opiates, Russia has experienced an increase in the amount of cocaine being imported and seized in recent years. Cocaine shipments are brought into Russia from South America through various means, including seaports, and delivered to organized crime/drug trafficking groups throughout Russia. Investigators have reported that some of the drug trafficking groups are using the proceeds of the transactions to finance terrorism. Additionally, abuse of various types of smoking blends or spice have been reported throughout many regions of Russia; financial transactions for the worldwide sale of these illegal substances has been identified and linked via cyberspace to criminal organizations based in Russia.




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