Carving-up the funeral market: clashes between migrants and ‘athletes’ had occurred on Moscow cemeteries before

Carving-up the funeral market: clashes between migrants and ‘athletes’ had occurred on Moscow cemeteries before
Yury Chabuev, ex-head of Ritual State Budget Institution

What will change in the funeral business after the ‘Khovanskoe massacre’?

The bloody clash that occurred on May 14, 2016 on the Khovanskoe cemetery is not an accident due to client’s dissatisfaction with the services provided, but result of a recent series of conflicts on other Moscow burial grounds.

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An employee of the Ritual State Budget Institution says that cruel squabbles between migrants and a group of ‘athletes’ occurred a few months ago on the Dolgoprudnenskoe and the Perepechinskoe cemeteries, which are also affiliates of the Ritual State Institution. Armed thugs attempted to racketeer ‘gastarbeiters’ (migrant workers) but were rebuffed. These events never came to public because the attackers had high-ranked patrons. Media would probably never hear of the ‘Khovanskoe massacrer’ if it were not so large-scale and tragic.

Thefuneral market, despite numerous statements of its reforming, is one of the most closed and corrupted in the country. It’s well-known that lots on historical cemeteries ‘closed for general public’ are being successfully sold at high prices. In addition to the Khovanskoe, the Ritual State Budget Institution manages such prestigious cemeteries as the Novodevichie, the Vagankovskoe, and the Troekurovskoe. Ritual employees describe the following sale procedure for these graveyards: the client comes to the head of Ritual, who sends a text message requesting a permission to sell a space to the Head of Moscow Department of Trade and Service, or his deputy in case the official is away, and if a positive answer comes, money for the grave space is paid in cash immediately – and not to the cashier. This being said, a lot on the ‘cheapest’ prestigious cemetery – the Troekurovskoe – costs at least 10 million rubles.

Needles to say of criminalization level in funeral services, including illegal workshops producing crosses, fences, headstones and monuments. This ‘gray’ market generates a turnover of 7-10 billion rubles per cemetery; therefore the above-mentioned high-ranked patrons send ‘gangs of athletes’ to squabble with migrants on the regular basis trying to racketeer this lucrative ‘piece of pie’.

With regards to the ‘Khovanskoe slaughter’, Yury Chabuev, ex-head of Ritual, told the investigators that it was him who called for a group of ‘athletes’.

Instead of summoning thugs, to bring order, he was supposed to call police and then act according to the law to push underground small workshops willing to work officially to be legalized in the funeral business.

Will the investigation of the mass brawl on the Khovanskoe cemetery become the turning point in reforming the funeral business, or just accelerate redistribution of spheres of influence between criminal groups?

As police say, the conflict that occurred on May 14, 2016 involved some 200 people; as a result, 3 people are dead, some 40 injured, 15 got administrative arrests, and 14 persons are suspects in the criminal case. The investigation of this large-scale crime still continues.

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