St. Petersburg SWAT clamps down on ethnic diasporas
In the early hours of May 20, 2019, a mass armed brawl between natives of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan occurred on Salova street in St. Petersburg. On May 29, SWAT troopers in body armor have laid siege to the market on Salova street. This was a consequence of the above-mentioned skirmish – Dmitry Baranov, the new Deputy Head of the General Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation, has promised to give ethnic diasporas ‘some hard time’.
According to veterans of the MIA General Administration, the mass brawl that had escalated into a knife fight was just an excuse to clamp down on the ethnic communities. Of course, any crime must be investigated – but such local incidents had never resulted in large-scale police operations in the past.
On the other hand, raids of big vegetable warehouses by SWAT troopers are pretty ordinary in St. Petersburg. Migrants continue arriving at the city, and the large agrarian conglomerates become places of their mass gathering. These warehouses are like ‘mini-states’ with their own ‘shady bankers’ and ‘laws’. As The CrimeRussia wrote earlier, all St. Petersburg Governors had tried to establish law and order at Sofiiskaya Vegetable Warehouse – a ‘criminal hellhole’ of the city – but in vain. General Plugin, the new Deputy Head of the MIA General Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, decided to deal with the problem without delay and took advantage of the situation.
According to the official information, the MIA General Administration had tried to settle the problem with the ethnic diasporas unofficially by asking them to turn in the criminals. The diasporas had traditionally stated that they had no idea of the incident. According to the media, the refusal of the ethnic communities to collaborate has triggered the police operation. SWAT troopers have secured the perimeter of the market on Salova street. Dozens of migrants were put in buses. By evening, holding cells in the majority of police stations in the city were full of citizens of former southern Soviet republics. This raid was not an isolated event – similar ‘prophylactic measures’ were taken at other vegetable warehouses of St. Petersburg as well.
No two raids are alike
This was the most large-scale raid against migrants in St. Petersburg in 10 years. Aside from the SWAT, 150 police officers participated in the operation. According to our sources, this demonstration of force was supposed to make the diasporas more flexible and ultimately force them to turn in participants of the brawl that has left four persons severely injured.
Smolny Palace decided to take advantage of the overwhelming superiority of the law enforcement forces and implement its own plans. Municipal inspectors were dispatched to seize an illegally occupied land lot 8 thousand square meters in size. The entrepreneur, who had unlawfully installed several hangars there, had behaved aggressively and tried to defend his profitable business.
He blocked the way by an SUV and threatened municipal inspectors with a handgun. However, armed SWAT troopers instructed to deal shortly with troublemakers were behind their backs. By May 30, over 200 administrative cases against people detained in the course of the operation were submitted to courts.
According to the Consolidated Press Service of St. Petersburg Courts, the majority of the administrative protocols were produced for violations of migration regulations. In total, 220 cases were submitted to courts. On May 30, the courts have examined 207 cases against detained migrants. The majority of the protocols had defects and were returned to the police. Only 42 persons were fined.
Many people in the city do not believe that the new MIA command is really determined to establish law and order in St. Petersburg and eliminate its ‘hellholes’. The business community thinks that the raids of vegetable warehouses were just a routine demonstration of power. “This is a common situation – the MIA supreme command replacement was ongoing, and, in the meantime, the diasporas decided not to pay ‘dues’ to their ‘patrons’. Now the new commanders show them who is in charge there”.
In turn, representatives of the diasporas expect an increase in ‘fees’ charged by the MIA – up to the Moscow level – which would inevitably affect the market prices. “Fruits and vegetables will become more expensive,” – they say.
This version is supported by the fact that the majority of the diasporas are led by people well-known in the criminal world. The law enforcement authorities are fully aware of offenses committed by ethnic gangs. If Dmitry Baranov and his team were really willing to eradicate the ethnic crime in St. Petersburg, they had to arrest all these criminal ‘authorities’ instead of holding negotiations with them. Some sources sarcastically note that such open confrontations had never occurred in previous years because all the committed crimes were ‘prepaid’.
Others believe that nothing unusual is happening. “This is a trivial redistribution of spheres of influence, – they say. – Plugin just needed an excuse to replace the overseers supervising various branches of the shady business”. Rumors about ‘protection racketeering’ services rendered by him in Moscow have already reached St. Petersburg.
A couple of years ago, a report of Boris Titov, Presidential Commissioner for Entrepreneurs’ Rights, had aroused much interest in the Kremlin. According to that report, the Department for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the MIA Administration for the Southern Administrative District of Moscow under the command of Roman Plugin had put the maximum pressure on Moscow businessmen. The name of Dmitry Baranov, then-Deputy Head of the MIA Administration for the Southern Administrative District of Moscow, was frequently mentioned in the complaints as well. Now colonel Baranov is a deputy of general Plugin in St. Petersburg. Based on the report produced by Boris Titov, representatives of the MIA used to make ‘business offers’ to entrepreneurs pretty openly – allegedly, as per instructions from the command – and fearlessly left their phone numbers for communication. According to the complaints, the standard fee for termination of proceedings instituted on the basis of an audit was $100 thousand.
Roman Plugin, the new Head of the MIA General Administration for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region
The redistribution of financial flows is a good tradition in the Plugin family. Kommersant newspaper wrote in 2001 that Yuri Plugin, father of Roman Plugin, had at some point disbanded the police department for protection of the fishery seaport and a similar department of the MIA Administration for the City of Murmansk. One of the oldest police departments in the polar region (established in 1953) was the main stronghold of law and order in the fishery industry. The department was a self-sustained institution funded by local seaport enterprises. But, according to the media, Plugin decided to disband it “to gain control over all financial flows involving the police”.
Some sources believe that Plugin junior is currently doing the same thing in St. Petersburg. However, it is necessary to take into account that his father was ultimately forced to resign as a result of the above-mentioned stuff cuts in the Murmansk police. Plugin senior failed to reach an understanding with his subordinates – who did not appreciate his innovations and intrigues. Apparently, in strict adherence to the family tradition, Roman Plugin uses the same tactics.