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Podcast: The State, The Mob, And The Asssassins

Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Barsukov (aka Kumarin), and a memorial for Galina Starovoitova
Vladimir Putin, Vladimir Barsukov (aka Kumarin), and a memorial for Galina Starovoitova

Russia solved a contract killing this week.

It was an assassination that gripped the nation, shook the elite, and led to a massive outpouring of grief. The victim was a leading democrat with close ties to former President Boris Yeltsin. The mastermind was a politically powerful man with a violent streak.

No, it's not the Boris Nemtsov assassination. The case Russian investigators are wrapping up is 16 years and four months old: the November 20, 1998, killing of State Duma Deputy and human rights campaigner Galina Starovoitova in St. Petersburg.

And the man the authorities appear ready to finger for the hit is the exact person who many suspected from the very start: Vladimir Barsukov, aka, Vladimir Kumarin.

That name may not mean a lot now. But in the 1990s, Barsukov was one of the most feared gangsters in the country and one of the most powerful men in Russia's second city.

And how he went from being untouchable to expendable tells us a lot about how Russia works.

On this week's Power Vertical Podcast, we take a look at the changing relationship between organized crime and the state in Russia.

Joining me are co-host Mark Galeotti, a professor at NYU, an expert on Russian organized crime and its security services, and author of the blog In Moscow's Shadows; and Karen Dawisha, director of the Havighurst Center for Russian and Post-Soviet Studies at the University of Miami, Ohio, and author of the recently published book Putin's Kleptocracy: Who Owns Russia?

Also on the podcast, Mark, Karen, and I discuss the crime-riddled shooting gallery that was St. Petersburg in the 1990s -- the political environment where Vladimir Putin cut his teeth.


Power Vertical Podcast: The State, The Mob, And The Asssassins
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About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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