. . . as they look to prosecute their “political war” against the West, the Russians are emerging as the most enthusiastic users of gangsters’ services. Given that their intelligence services are now up to Cold War levels, it seems ironic that they would even need such amateur auxiliaries. However, so ambitious and numerous are their operations that even they sometimes need some extra capacity or deniability.
Mobilizing Moscow’s Mob
Some of the instances when Russia has used criminals as proxies are well known. Russia’s seizure of Crimea, for example, and the subsequent undeclared war in Ukraine’s Donbass region were carried out not just by Russian special forces, but by local gangsters serving as so-called self-defense volunteers. Similarly, many Russian cyberattacks, especially large-scale ones, involve mobilizing criminal hackers. (Indeed, the cyberespionage division of the Federal Security Service has actually recruited hackers by giving them the choice of prison or service.)
Read the whole enchilada: The Kremlin’s Newest Hybrid Warfare Asset: Gangsters | Foreign Policy