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RIA Novosti

MOSCOW, March 23 (RIA Novosti) - At present, there are 116 criminal associations in Russia, numbering over 4,000 active members, Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev told the Federation Council during the so-called "government hour" on Wednesday.

"They control at least 500 major economic subjects," Nurgaliyev stressed. "Foreign organized crime has been proactive in penetrating the Russian market, too."

He also underlined that organized criminals "show keen interest in spreading corruption and penetrating the governmental bodies."

According to the minister, criminal associations still view the Russian fuel and energy industry as a lucrative area to operate in. Organized crime has infiltrated most of the vital industries.

"First and foremost, this is characteristic of metallurgy and forestry, biological resources production, intellectual property, alcohol and cigarette production and automotive business," said Nurgaliyev.

According to the minister, the scale of the criminal infiltration of the fuel and energy industry is indicated by "the numerous instances" of illegal oil recovery, tax avoidance and embezzlement on a large scale.

Nurgaliyev also highlighted the spike in crime relating to carjacking. Thus, 2004 saw about 42,500 cars stolen in Russia, a 20% increase on 2003.

Rashid Nurgaliyev emphasized that carjacking is not only Russia's problem, rather, it is relevant to Europe too. In this context, the Russian Interior Ministry is to host a special operation in cooperation with CIS and Baltic states this spring.

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