Similarly with criminals from other former Soviet states, thieves-in-law living in Ukraine underwent certain transformations – old ‘rules’ were replaced by new ones, while the money and power became their main priority instead of the respect in the criminal world. The primary goal of modern crowned thieves is personal enrichment.
At least 15 thieves-in-law currently reside in Ukraine; according to Vyacheslav Abroskin Deputy Head of the National Police of Ukraine and Chief of the Criminal Police, 12 of them have fortunes starting from $1 million.
Abroskin notes that, during the Soviet period, crowned thieves had spent dozens of years behind bars – and this was considered normal. By contrast, living at liberty was deemed to be wrong.
“A thief had neither a family nor home. Therefore, at liberty, he had to live nomadically, knock about the country, and be a tramp. If a thief had lived in one place for a long time, others could suspect him of collaboration with the police,” – the Chief of the Criminal Police, wrote on Facebook.
But the rules have changed nowadays; modern thieves-in-law are wealthy people having deluxe homes, accounts in foreign banks, and ties with the authorities and business. “They became a sort of thievish top managers,” – Abroskin added.
The photo presented by Abroskin shows 15 crowned thieves currently residing in Ukraine. The most influential among them is 64-year-old Sergei Lysenko (Lera Sumskoy) having at least six criminal records. In various periods of his thievish life, he had pretended to become the supreme thief-in-law. Lera Sumskoy was crowned back in 1993; he adheres to old thieves’ traditions, enjoys support of some Moscow thieves, supervises Ukrainian penal colonies having overseers in many of them, and participates in the settlement of disputes and conflicts in the criminal world. Lysenko leads an active life and does not intend to retire. In early 2018, his SUV was pulled over in the Khmelnitsky region of Ukraine under the pretext of a search for weapons. In addition to the crowned thief, there was also a local criminal ‘authority’ in the car. They were heading to a nearby penal colony to settle some conflict there.
According to some sources, Lera Sumskoy may be the keeper of the All-Ukraine thieves’ pooled cash fund used inter alia to support thieves serving prison terms. Concurrently, financial flows are going from penal colonies to the thieves’ pooled cash fund as revenues from gambling and sales of restricted items. Reportedly, he can organize riots in colonies under his control – as it was in Kharkiv and Lviv. Lysenko was repeatedly arrested for participation in thieves’ congregations.
In 2011, after the death of influential thief-in-law Sergei Mamedov (Mamed) from cancer, Lysenko won the right to administer the thieves’ pooled cash fund in the struggle with representatives of the ‘Caucasus wing’ – crowned thieves Sergo Glonti (Guga), Ramaz Tsikoridze (Ramaz Kutaissky), and Bakhysh Aliev (Vakha) supported by the oldest Odessa thief-in-law Valery Sheremet (Sharik). On the other hand Anatoly Yakunin (Sen’ka Samarsky), Yuri Pichugin (Pichuga (Little Bird)), and Vasily Khristoforov (Vasya Voskres (Vasya Resurrected)) close to the ‘Slavic wing’ of the clan led by Ded Khasan had supported Lera Sumskoy.
According to the law enforcement authorities, Lysenko controls the shady alcohol market, drug and weapons trade, and illegal migration through the Russian–Ukrainian border. He spends most of the time in his native region.
Tomb of Sergei Mamedov (Mamed)
In 2013, people’s deputy Gennady Moskal’ said that “the Sumy region is controlled not by the Governor – but by criminal ‘authority’ Lera Sumskoy. Lera controls, via his henchmen, the entire region: the Governor, Mayor, and chairmen of district state administrations. The police chief, prosecutor, Security Service of Ukraine, and heads of administrations cannot resolve issues handled by crowned thieves”.
In addition to Lera Sumskoy, another ‘old-school’ thief-in-law – 80-year-old Vladimir Dribny (Poltava), who had spent many years behind bars, too – is held in respect in Ukraine. He is not directly involved in criminal affairs anymore – but still resolves disputes between inmates, appoints overseers in penal colonies and pretrial detention facilities, and controls the situation there.
Vladimir Dribny (Poltava)
Poltava has proven his millionaire status in September 2017 – police officers seized from his home a portion of the thieves’ pooled cash fund : more than $1 million and €100 thousand. The amount was ridiculous for the thieves’ pooled cash fund of Odessa – and some sources noted that it was just a small part of it.
Unlike them, 45-year-old native of Lviv (according to other sources – Stary Sambor) Andrei Nedzel’sky (Nedelya (Week)) is a thief of a new breed. He had never served prison terms – but still was crowned in Greece in 2012. Above-mentioned Mamed, who was in control of Kyiv and central parts of Ukraine, had lobbied his crowning. Nedelya has, in fact, superceded Mamed – although with a lesser degree of power. Still, he reportedly controls central and western Ukraine whose criminal revenues traditionally originate from smuggling with adjacent European countries. Since 2014, illegal amber procurement has been ongoing in the Rovno region; experts estimate its volume at 120–300 tons of amber per year; the annual turnover of the shady amber market reaches $200–300 million.
However, in summer 2017, a conflict escalated between Nedzel’sky and some other thieves-in-law, including his ‘godfather’ David Sebiskveradze (Dato Kutaissky), very powerful crowned thief Gaioz Zviadadze (Giya Kutaissky), and other members of the Rustavi clan. As a result, the influence of Nedelya has significantly decreased (according to some sources, his thieves’ status was suspended). Zviadadze had implied that Nedelya behaves not as a thief and collaborates with the Security Service of Ukraine. Still, Nedzel’sky managed to repair the relations and confirm his status in exchange for a certain amount of money. On April 8, 2018 Giya Kutaissky was shot dead in Turkey, and Nedzel’sky was among the suspects in this assassination.
Andrei Nedzel’sky (Nedelya)
In 2017, Nedelya reportedly was detained in France pursuant to an order issued by the Hungarian authorities accusing him of document forgery. He was extradited to Hungary – but the Budapest Court acquitted the thief-in-law. In early 2018, he held a reception for interested persons in Parus (Sail) Business Center in Kyiv. According to the police, not only criminals had meetings with him there – but businessmen and politicians as well.
45-year-old Sergei Oleinik (Umka) operates in the southeastern industrial part of Ukraine – in the Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkiv, and Zaporizhzhia regions. He was crowned in 2014 in Russia and used to be the ‘right hand’ of Aleksander Petrovsky (Nalekreshvili) (Narik) – a prominent ‘authoritative’ businessman, philanthropist having state awards, and co-author of Tomos on Autocephaly of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. Some sources believe that Narik has simply purchased the thieves’ status for his associate Umka who had never served prison terms by making arrangements with Rustavi and Yezid thieves controlling eastern Ukraine. It is necessary to note that Poltava, Lera Sumskoy, and Nedelya hadn’t opposed this crowning in a hope that another thief not from the Caucasus strengthens the Slavic influence in the criminal world of Ukraine. Russian ‘godfathers’ of Umka are St. Petersburg thieves-in-law Andrei Mirych and Albert Ryzhy (Albert the Red).
Sergei Oleinik (Umka)
In 2017, there was a conflict between Umka and Nedelya who had demanded dues to his thieves’ pooled cash fund. In exchange, Umka requested a share in the illegal alcohol and amber businesses. Ultimately, no one got nothing, while the conflict was either settled or put on hold. In addition, Lera Sumskoy had supported Umka – while Nedelya was in conflict with him.
According to Abroskin, both these crowned thieves owe a lot to oligarchs and represent their interests in the criminal world – even though this is contrary to the thieves’ code and traditions.
Thief-in-law Valery Sheremet (Sharik) had represented a famous criminal area of Ukraine – Odessa and its region – for a long time. The 68-year-old native of Odessa had specialized in pickpocketing and has seven criminal records. He had controlled local gangs of pickpockets up until recently.
Valery Sheremet (Sharik)
In 2008, after the arrest of Sheremet in Germany for home burglaries, his son Valery has assumed father’s ‘duties’. But in December 2015, Valery junior died from poisoning with an unknown substance. Currently, Sharik has largely withdrawn from the ‘business’ for health reasons – but he still retains the thieves’ title, enjoys enormous respect in the criminal world, and sometimes acts as an arbitrator.
Aside from striving for power thief-in-law Nadir Salifov (Guli), crowned thieves Antimoz Kukhilava (Antik/Antimoz) and Mindia Goradze (Lavasogly Batumsky) still wield significant power in Odessa. Interestingly, all the above-listed persons live in Turkey, except for Guli residing in the United Arab Emirates, and operate in Ukraine via emissaries.
62-year-old Antimoz Kukhilava is a native of Abkhazia. He was crowned back in 1970s; served the first prison term in his native land in the 1980. After the release, Antik relocated to Ukraine – to a small town of Irpen, Kyiv region. During the collapse of the USSR, numerous criminal groups specializing in racketeering had emerged amid the political and economic chaos. Antimoz became the leader of a local gang. After several successful ‘operations’, it was busted by the law enforcement authorities. Then Kukhilava moved to Odessa; in the mid-1990s, it was a lucrative place for criminals from the Caucasus: Chechens, Georgians, Ossetians, Abkhazians, etc. Antik created a new gang consisting mostly of Chechens and specializing in car thefts, petty thievery, and home burglaries.
In 2009, the Supreme Court of Ukraine has ruled to deport the thief-in-law to Georgia. But Antik was saved by the bureaucracy: by that time, his native land – Abkhazia – was not a part of Georgia anymore. In fact, Kukhilava never was a Georgian citizen – he had only Soviet and Ukrainian passports. Taking that he had never committed crimes in Georgia, the local authorities have issued to Antimoz a new Georgian passport – and he immediately departed to Turkey. Currently, Antik lives in his private mansion in the resort city of Antalya and rules bandits in Odessa via his son Nurik. Nurik is known to the public for his relationship with Ukrainian songstress Anastasia Prikhodko; she became his common-law partner, and they have a child – grandson of Antimoz. Over time, they broke up. In 2017, the Ukrainian authorities had attempted to drive Nurik out of Ukraine by stripping him of the citizenship – but later, the court refused to deport him.
Antimoz Kukhilava (on the right) with his son
Antik wields significant power in the criminal world of southern Ukraine. People familiar with him note his calmness, judgment, and bloodless resolution of conflicts. Criminals often bring their dispute to him, and Kukhilava senior acts as the arbitrator.
Similarly with Russia, the share of thieves – natives of the Caucasus is very high in Ukraine, and it is continuously growing due to the arrival of new thieves-in-law, mostly from Georgia. Their migration is caused by several factors. Some of them were hiding in Ukraine during the war between the Tbilisi thieves’ clan led by late Ded Khasan and Kutaisi clan led by now living Tariel Oniani. Others fled Georgia in the mid-2000s – after the beginning of a large-scale clampdown on them initiated by Mikheil Saakashvil. The final ‘wave of immigration’ comes from Russia where the law enforcement authorities have been actively putting pressure on crowned thieves since recently.
Nodari Asoyan (Nodar Rustavsky), a relative of Shakro Molodoy who had controlled the Rostov region and Krasnodar krai in Russia for a long time, has arrived at Dnipro (former Dnepropetrovsk) relatively recently. He was crowned in 1998 in Georgia by thief-in-law Georgy Khmelidze (Khmelo). Nodar Rustavsky had tried to settle in Greece – but was extradited to Russia in 2011 after being arrested together with a criminal group. In 2014, he was detained in Boryspil International Airport in Kyiv and deported on the next day.
Nodari Asoyan (Nodar Rustavsky)
Still, later Asoyan managed to stay in Ukraine – in early 2019, he was arrested in a restaurant in the central part of Kyiv together with criminal ‘authority’ Andrei Imanali (Poluzver’ (Half-Beast)), one of the leaders of Sel’mashevskie organized criminal group from Rostov-on-Don. Reportedly, their deportation from Ukraine is under consideration. A year earlier, the Rostov-on-Don had reported that “two criminal ‘authorities’ were eliminated by operative measures” and left the region. Apparently, it was about Nodar Rustavsky and Poluzver’.
The ‘godfather’ of Asoyan – thief-in-law Georgy Khmelidze (Khmelo), a native of Rustavi, Georgia, and close relative of authoritative crowned thief Lasha Shushanashvili (Lasha Rustavsky), – has settled in Donetsk in the 1990s. Khmelidze had successfully collaborated there with Lyuks organized criminal group and then started creation his own clan. By 2010, more than ten crowned natives of sunny Rustavi were living in Donbass and Odessa.
Georgy Khmelidze (Khmelo)
In 2010, Khmelo was put on the wanted list for extortion and arrested in the Czech Republic. He suffered a massive stroke there and had to temporarily withdraw from the ‘business’. Last time, Khmelidze was mentioned in 2016 in relation to his arrest, together with thieves-in-law Andrei Nedzel’sky and Georgy Lobzhanidze (Kutsu), in the Kyiv region.
The Kirovograd region of Ukraine is represented by Armen Khachatryan (Armen Khokhol) crowned by Aslan Usoyan in 2011. However, after the death of Ded Khasan, Shakro Molodoy returned to Moscow and threw into question all coronations performed in 2011–2014 as elements of the struggle between criminal clans. A thieves’ congregation held in Moscow in March 2015 has stripped 12 persons, including Armen Khokhol, of their thieves’ titles. Still, he continues active operations in Ukraine. A year ago, his name popped-up in relation to the arrest of 30 criminal ‘authorities’ in the Kirovograd region – they had arrived at a congregation initiated by Armen Khokhol to appoint a new overseer of Svetlovodsk.
Armen Khachatryan (Armen Khokhol)
Paata Chkhartishvili (Prints (Prince)) rules Zaporizhzhia. He is also a native of Georgia. Chkhartishvili was arrested in Moscow in the 1990s and in Tbilisi – in the 2000. Later, he has relocated to Ukraine and was repeatedly arrested there for possession of drugs. The last such incident occurred in 2017 in Dnipro.
Paata Chkhartishvili (Prints
The rest of the thieves–millionaires reside in the Ukrainian capital – Kyiv. For instance, thief Revaz Katamadze (Megalo), a native of Poti, lives there. In 2000, he was crowned by a Georgian thief-in-law. In 2006, Megalo was detained in Boryspil, a suburb of Kyiv, for robbery: his gang attacked a family and extracted from the people information about the location of their money and gold using tortures.
Revaz Katamadze (Megalo)
Dzhachvliani Lasha (Lasha Sukhumsky/Lasha Svan) was born in Akhaldaba, Georgia, and crowned in 1995 in Moscow. He was arrested at a large-scale thieves’ congregation held in 2001 in Otdykh (Rest) Cafe in Fryazino, Moscow region, and at the famous congregation held by opponents of Ded Khasan on July 7, 2008 on Moskva-70 motor ship in the Kyaz’minsky Reservoir. After that, he started frequently visiting Ukraine and was arrested together with thief-in-law Ramaz Tsikoridze (Ramaz Bagdatsky/Ramaz Kutaissky) in 2009in Kyiv. In 2010, Lasha Sukhumsky was captured in Shemyakino village, Moscow region, with heroin and sentenced to two years behind bars. After serving the prison term, he relocated to the neighboring country.
Dzhachvliani Lasha (Lasha Svan)
45-year-old Kutaisi native Ramaz Bagdatsky was crowned in Georgia in 1984. For some time, he had lived in various parts of Russia and arrived in Ukraine in 2011. Since then, he was repeatedly arrested and deported by the law enforcement authorities – but returned every time with new documents. According to Andrei Krishchenko, Head of the General Administration for the City of Kiev of the National Police of Ukraine, Tsikoridze maintained ties with other thieves-in-law; and they discussed the redistribution of spheres of influences at congregations. Ramaz Bagdatsky controls inter alia such spheres as raidership and home burglaries.
Ramaz Tsikoridze (Ramaz Bagdatsky)
Georgy Lobzhanidze (Kutsu), a native of Rustavi, was convicted for the first time in 1994 and sentenced to six years behind bars. Upon serving the term, he relocated to Ukraine. Kutsu was crowned in 2004 in a Georgian jail. In 2012, was arrested in Donetsk and deported to Russia. In 2014, was detained in Kyiv for violation of the immigration legislation and placed into a deportation center in Chernihiv. However, in May 2016, he was arrested again in Kyiv by the police. In 2018, he was detained and placed into the temporary staying facility for foreigners in Chernihiv. In April 2018, the Kyiv Administrative Court of Appeal released Lobzhanidze.
Georgy Lobzhanidze (Kutsu)
Polikarp Dzhanelidze (Polik) was born in Kutaisi and crowned in 2002 in Kyiv by Georgian thieves-in-law. In May 2005, he was arrested and deported to Georgia. Shortly after that, the Georgian court sentenced him to 12 years behind bars for leadership in illegal military groups and illegal production, storage, and trafficking of narcotic substances. In 2013, was amnestied and returned to Ukraine. That same year, was detained in Kyiv, deported to Georgia, and prohibited from entering the country for three years. However, in early 2014, Dzhanelidze was arrested in Kyiv and later – in Khmelnitsky. After that, he was placed into a deportation center. In 2016, Polik was detained in Kyiv and charged under part 2 of Article 263 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (possession, production, repairs, or sales of daggers, Finnish knives, knuckles, and other cold weapons).
Polikarp Dzhanelidze (Polik)
It is also necessary to note a thief-in-law who had never lived in Ukraine – but still wields major influence on its criminal world – Guli. Abros’kin considers Guli one of the cruelest criminals of the former Soviet Union and a major challenge for the country. Guli is the mastermind behind the increasingly frequent abductions of Azerbaijani, Armenian, and other vendors trading on vegetable markets.
In early 2018, members of the Azerbaijani diaspora in Ukraine have held a rally protesting against increasingly frequent crimes committed against Azerbaijani businessmen. According to the protest's organizer – the United Congress of the Azerbaijani in Ukraine – representatives of the diaspora have been suffering from pressure, extortion, and kidnappings.
Gangsters acting on behalf of Guli demand huge ransoms for the release of hostages – $1 million and up. The atrocities of this crowned thief were discussed with other Ukrainian criminals – but no one dares to oppose him openly.
Nadir Salifov (Guli)
Salifov reportedly has powerful allies in Ukraine, including big businessman Vagif Aliev and former criminal authority Oleg Krapivin (Oleg Bakinsky) who may assist him in the criminal redistribution of the country. A native of the town of Shamaka in Azerbaijan, Krapivin is currently the Chairman of the Kiev Organization of the Azerbaijani in Ukraine.
With regards to Russia, last year, the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation has identified 432 active crowned thieves in the country: 318 of them were at liberty at that time, 114 – in detention, while others were either under investigation or on the wanted list.
The majority of the thieves are Georgians – 242 persons. Aside from them, there are 51 Russians, 30 Armenians, 26 Yezids (Kurds), 16 Azerbaijanians, 16 Abkhazians, 10 Chechens, and 7 Jews.
According to the Azerbaijani media, thieves-in-law Guli, Yusuf Shamkhorsky, Vagif Diplomat, Albert Ryzhy, and Rashad Gyandzhinsky (he was recently sentenced to 10 years behind bars in Minsk) are dollar billionaires.
Slavic thieves Sergei Aksenov (Aksen Izmailovsky) and Vladimir Tyurin (Tyurik) are believed to be billionaires, too. The wealth of thieves’ generals Shakro Molodoy and Tariel Oniani (Taro) was estimated at several billion dollars back in the 1990s.
Vyacheslav Abroskin Deputy Head of the National Police of Ukraine believes that Ukraine should follow the examples of Georgia and Russia and adopt ‘anti-thievish’ legislation. In 2005, after the election of Mikheil Saakashvili the Georgian President, the Law On Organized Crime was enacted. It stipulates the deprivation of liberty for a term of three to eight years for the “thievish status” and “membership in a thieves’ community”, while crowned thieves faces prison terms of five to ten years. As a result, many thieves have relocated from Georgia to Russia, Ukraine, and European countries. According to the Georgian MIA, more that 300 Georgian thieves currently reside abroad.
In 2018, the Georgian legislation was toughened up: such terms as “participation in a thieves’ congregation” and “support for a thieves’ community” have been introduced into the Criminal and Criminal–Procedural Codes. Prison terms have been increased to 9–15 years for thieves-in-law and to 7–10 years for members of thieves’ communities.
On March 14, 2019, the State Duma of the Russian Federation has passed in the third, final reading a bill initiated by President Vladimir Putin and toughening up the criminal liability for leaders of organized criminal communities. On April 1, 2019, the President endorsed the bill and it came into effect. Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal community (criminal organization) and participation therein) has been amended by introducing the term “supreme position in the criminal hierarchy”. The possession of the thievish status is punishable by 8–15 years behind bars and fine of 5 million rubles ($79.2 thousand). The creation of or leadership in a criminal community is punishable by deprivation of liberty for a term of 12–20 years. Oleg Shishkanov (Shishkan), the supreme thief-in-law of Russia (elected to this post for the duration of the prison term of Shakro Molodoy), was recently detained under the new law.
In February 2016, a bill similar to the Georgian one was introduced before the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. It added the term “thief-in-law” to the Criminal Code and stipulated criminal responsibility for possessing this status. However, only 178 people’s choices (our of the 226 required to pass the bill) have voted for it. Hopefully, the new parliament elected on July 21, 2019 enacts this legislation. Currently, the Ukrainian law enforcement authorities may only deport thieves – citizens of foreign states – and prohibit them from entering the country. Too bad, the criminals easily get around such prohibitions by obtaining new IDs.