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Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Tuesday, 13 October 2009 19:01 UK

Russian crime boss laid to rest

By Stephen Eke
BBC Russian affairs analyst

Mourners arrive at Vagankovo cemetery for the funeral of Vyacheslav Ivankov
Mourners carried flowers to Ivankov's graveside

One of Russia's most infamous gangsters has been buried at a prestigious Moscow cemetery amid unprecedented security.

Hundreds of representatives of various underworld groups are reported to have attended the funeral of Vyacheslav "Yaponchik" Ivankov.

The ceremony was closed to the media at the request of his family. Police were present but no arrests were made.

Ivankov was shot in July outside a Moscow restaurant and died last week from complications from his wounds.

He was acknowledged to be a leading figure in the Russian criminal underworld, and once served a long prison sentence in the US.

In his homeland, he was well-connected to the worlds of culture, business and politics.

Celebrities stay away

Ivankov - whose nickname Yaponchik means "the little Japanese" - was buried at Moscow's Vagankovo cemetery, the final resting place of numerous Russian artists and sportsmen.

Reporters were kept well away from the funeral, which, according to the Russian police, was attended by at least 500 mourners.

They included well-known figures from the criminal underworld of Russia and the former Soviet republics.

There was no attempt to detain any of them.

Vyacheslav "Yaponchik" Ivankov
"Yaponchik" served long jail sentences in Russia and in the US

Contrary to expectations, there were also no sightings of top Russian businessmen or celebrities, with whom Ivankov maintained close personal relations.

Ivankov's criminal career dated back to the late 1960s.

He was known to have achieved the status of "vor v zakonye" - the Russian for "a thief within the law", the term given to Russian mafia chiefs.

At Tuesday's funeral there were numerous wreaths with messages of sympathy from various so-called Brotherhoods, mostly from Russia, but also Ukraine and the Central Asian republics.

Organised, mafia-style groups have a strong presence in the gambling and construction industries in Russia.

Investigators say they suspect Ivankov crossed another mafia chief in his attempts to divide up illegal gambling dens.

An open letter signed by more than 30 Russian gangsters, some of them currently behind bars, has now appeared, apparently calling for the execution of another mafia chief they consider the mastermind behind Ivankov's killing.



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