One of Russia’s most notorious criminal masterminds, Mafia godfather Aslan Usoyan, also known as ‘Grandpa Hassan,’ was shot dead by a sniper rifle in central Moscow on Wednesday, police said.
A sniper fired at Usoyan as the 75-year-old was walking out of a restaurant in Povarskaya Street in Central Moscow.
His bodyguards failed to cover him in time, and the crime boss died from his injuries soon after he was taken to hospital.
“Usoyan was taken to Botkin Hospital in deep coma, unconscious, but was still breathing, and his heart was beating,” a hospital source told Interfax. Ten minutes later, he failed to regain consciousness and died in the hospital’s emergency surgery room, the source added.
Evidence uncovered by investigators indicated that Usoyan was killed by a highly motivated and dedicated professional.
The assassin used a silenced ‘Val’ 9mm assault rifle designed for Soviet special operations forces, RIA Novosti news agency reported. When disassembled, the rifle can fit into a briefcase. This weapon is fitted with a silencer and muzzle flash reducer, making it near-impossible to detect the location of a shooter.
One of Usoyan’s bodyguards reportedly returned fire with several blind shots, but the fact that it took some time for police to find shooter’s position showed that the bodyguard had failed completely at locating the sniper.Val rifles can also easily shoot through body armor, and are capable of piercing a 6-millimeter-thick sheet of steel. The killer reportedly used armor-piercing bullets in the assassination.
After the sniper shot Usoyan in the head, a woman walking near the mob boss stepped into the assassin’s firing line. According to LifeNews daily’s timeline, the hitman attempted to move her by shooting her in the thigh. When she remained upright, she was shot again in the chest and fell, allowing the sniper to hit Usoyan once more as his bodyguards grouped around their wounded boss.
The young woman, a waitress at the restaurant who was walking Usoyan to the exit, was rushed to a hospital for surgery and remains in critical condition due to heavy blood loss, medics told Interfax.
On Thursday, Russia’s Investigative Committee released another report on the incident, which said that Usoyan was only wounded once as he stood in the doorway of the restaurant, not in the yard. The committee maintained that his bodyguards dragged their boss inside the restaurant, and that the waitress was wounded two times because of five blind shots the sniper made after the restaurant door was slammed shut.
The sniper’s perch was discovered to be a stairway between the fifth and sixth floor of a building facing the restaurant’s yard. There, detectives found a folding chair, six used Val cartridges, three cigarette butts, sporting trousers and a piece of cloth. A print of the hitman’s hand was reportedly taken from an open windowpane.
However, investigators believe these items may have been brought to the scene and left there on purpose to imitate a sniper’s activities, a source close to the investigation told LifeNews tabloid. Police dogs traced the killer’s escape route to a nearby house 100 meters away from the restaurant, where a getaway car likely awaited.
Witnesses said that a few days before the assassination, two men were observed taking photos of the street on the same stairway from which the killing shots were made. The central Moscow building is monitored by CCTV cameras, making it difficult to infiltrate unnoticed.
Two tenants of the house whose flats overlook the restaurant received phone calls prior to the assassination demanding they sell their apartments.
Over the years ‘Grandpa Hassan’ had managed to survive at least two previous assassination attempts: A would-be killer missed him in Sochi in 1998, and another one seriously injured Usoyan and his bodyguard in a 2010 Moscow shooting.
The ‘godfather’ had lately become a target in a war between criminal clans, the police said. The 2010 and 2013 sniper shootings “are connected and have apparently been prepared by the same people,” a police source told Interfax.
A criminal case over murder and illicit possession of arms has been opened, Russia’s investigation committee said in a statement. Various versions, including ones connected with Usoyan's criminal activity, are being considered, the statement added.
Usoyan, an ethnic Kurdish Yezidi mobster, started his criminal career in Georgia, where he earned his first jail term for fighting police at the age of 19.
While in jail on speculation charges from 1966 to 1968, he acquired the status of ‘thief in law’ – marking his standing among the elite of the Soviet and post-Soviet criminal underworld.
In recent years, ‘Grandpa Hassan’ was widely suspected of controlling various organized criminal groups that dealt in illegal gambling, arms and drug trafficking, and the theft of natural resources.