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Russian mobster 'Grandpa Khasan' shot dead in Moscow


One of Russia's top crime bosses has been murdered in Moscow in a war between two mobs over lucrative construction projects, including ones for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.

A sniper fired seven shots at Aslan Usoyan near a restaurant, the third attack on him since the late 1990s.

Usoyan, also known as Grandpa Khasan, was a 75-year-old ethnic Kurd born in the former Soviet republic of Georgia. Police say for the past two decades he headed one of the region's most powerful criminal groups, which trafficked in drugs and weapons and controlled underground casinos as well as many legal businesses, including those in the construction industry.

The gunman, who used a state-of-the-art automatic rifle issued to Russian special forces, also injured a passer-by.

Usoyan came from a caste of professional criminals who sport elaborate tattoos, follow unwritten prison laws codified in Stalinist-era Gulags and have been romanticised in countless popular songs.

He was first convicted in 1956 in Georgia and soon became a professional criminal. Like other members of his caste, he was strictly forbidden from befriending men in uniform, avoided luxurious lifestyles, never got married and considered prison his only true home.

Having survived the totalitarian system that spawned them, Russian criminals enjoyed a heyday in the decade after the 1991 fall of the Soviet Union. Usoyan opened a chain of casinos in Moscow and became the keeper of an emergency fund for jailed Russian criminals - a position that gave him immense authority in the criminal underworld of the vast former Soviet Union.

By the early 2000s, he had consolidated control over criminal groups in southern Russia that united natives of Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan as well as ethnic Russians. He feuded with mobsters who became more like Italian mafia and often disregarded Soviet-era prison norms.

Since 2006, Usoyan had been at war with a criminal group headed by another Georgian, Tariel Oniani, according to organised crime experts.

Russian media said the battle between the two clans had intensified in recent years as they vied for control over construction projects in southern Russia, including the huge sports facilities being built for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi.