How “Azov” Neo-Nazis Take “Tributes” From the Underground Casinos of Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard


The Ukrainian publication “Strana” reported about the current scope of the illegal gambling industry, which is the protected by security officials and nationalists.

“In Odessa there are about three hundred halls with slot machines. In other million+ cities — about the same: on average, from 200 to 300. In Kiev there are about 1000 gambling halls in operation. In total across Ukraine, according to the estimates of investigators, there are about 15,000 halls with slot machines,” quotes “Strana” from a source, the lieutenant-colonel the of police Yury V.

The profits of each such gambling halls, where under the guise of online lotto or lottery a fully-fledged casino operates (only instead of classic slot machines, there are computers, and instead of coins or chips, there are electronic “credits”) is 300,000 to 400,000 UAH (from $12,000 to 16,000 at current official exchange rate) per month. And this is already minus any deductions for protection, which involves employees of the Interior Ministry and nationalists (however, often these terms are the same).

“The cost of the so-called patriots appeared in the middle of 2015: “messengers” from local radical organizations came to all gambling halls, offering to {negotiate},” said Vladimir to “Strana”, who earlier worked as an administrator of the gambling halls in Odessa. “Cooperation with the “patriots” means that they do not touch us. And we pay them with money — 30,000 to 50,000 hryvnias a month from the hall. If payment is not given, the gambling hall will be burned with a Molotov cocktail the following week. Now all settlements of Ukraine are secretly split between the paramilitary “patriotic” organizations.


It is worth noting that most of these organizations, as Life already reported, starting from August 2015, are already under the subjugation of the Civil corps of the “Azov” regiment. In Kharkov a branch of the Civil corps was established on the basis of a unit of special purpose police patrol of the Interior Ministry and the far-right organization “Eastern Corps” of the same name, in Uzhgorod — the nationalist “Zaporozhia Sich” (which completed in 2014-2015 the same name unit on the “eastern front”), and in Cherkasy — associations of right-wing ultras of the local football club “Dnepr”, headed by the current Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada Oleg Petrenko, who all took part in the fighting on Maidan, and then in Donbass in the ranks of “Azov”, etc.

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And here’s an interesting detail. On January 15th, 2016, the popular Ukrainian magazine “Novoye Vremya” published a large study about the legal and illegal sources of income of the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov. In it is a small, but important mention: “Andrey Semididko, head of the Anti-Raider Union of Entrepreneurs, adds: “I heard that up to $1,000,000 from the protection of the gambling industry went on financing the “Azov” regiment.

From the above quote it is not clear whether such an amount is per year or per month, but given the massive costs of “Azov” (which only officially includes more than 1500 equipped soldiers by the standards of NATO with armored vehicles and artillery), it is most likely per month.

$1,000,000, with an average “tax” (according to “Strana”) of 30,000-50,000 UAH ($1200-$2000) from one gambling hall in a month means that the only “Azov” that was fostered by Avakov had to be “fed” from 500 to 1000 gambling halls. Given that, most likely, the biggest part of “tributes” from the underground casinos, which according to “Strana” consists of 750 million UAH ($30 million) per month, arrives in the pockets of Avakov and high-ranking officials of the Interior Ministry of different levels in the capital and regions, as also in the pockets of their equally greedy colleagues in the Security Service of Ukraine.

Tattooed neo-Nazis, which completes “Azov” and its Civil Corps, play, (as it was during the governance of Avakov in Kharkov in 2005-2010) in all of this scheme, the role of “bouncers”, destroying if necessary the casinos (whether legal or illegal ones) who refuse to pay, or work with competitors.

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