We're gonna be honest here, sometimes the Death Porn beat gets us down. Sometimes we find ourselves asking, are we the only ones who care? Is the rest of the media really so jaded that they don't even notice when a mass grave of 30 whores gnawed on by wolves turns up in the woods outside of Nizhni Tagil? Are we really the only ones who do a double-take? Thirty whores? Mass grave? Exsqueeze us? Shouldn't someone be writing about this? Doesn't that count as NEWS?! Not according to Russian papers, most of which devoted an in-brief sized blurb to the case. That's right, we're talking about a mass grave bigger than the ones we found in Kosovo, and all it gets is a little mention on page five! WE BOMBED YUGOSLAVIA OVER KOSOVO! THE MEDIA CRAWLED ALL OVER IT! WHERE'S HOWELL RAINES WHEN YOU NEED HIM? FLOOD THE ZONE, FOR CHRIST'S SAKE. FLOOD THE ZONE!
Olya & Vika, both 13 years old
But no, this story flew under the radar, we're guessing because Nizhnyi Tagil isn't high on most journalists' lists of dream assignments. Yet even the bare bones (pardon the pun) of the story are amazing: The remains of up to 30 girls, aged 13 to 26, turned up badly decomposed in the woods near the village of Levikha. The bodies had been picked at by wild animals and were so disfigured that only 15 of them have been identified. In fact, the authorities don't even know how many more bodies there are; pending DNA tests, they're guessing between 13 and 15. Eight men have already been arrested. This wasn't the work of a lone Jack-the-Ripper type, but a criminal gang that decided it simplified things to kill sex slaves that resisted being turned into prostitutes. And, judging by the fact that the mass grave received its first victim in 2002, a whopping four years ago, it looks like they had a point.
As we learned more, it confirmed our suspicion that this story makes the so-called Suffolk Strangler (or the Suffolk Suffocater, as we prefer to call him) pale in comparison. The Suffocater, who only killed five prostitutes, held the whole English speaking world's attention for weeks and spawned whole websites. Worse still, he got more coverage in Russia than this case. That's the Putin-era all over -- report on the West's screw-ups and cover up Russia's own, much worse ones.
Olya Bubovna, 15 years old
The story, according to Komsomolskaya Pravda, the paper that broke the story on February 2 and only major one that's milking it, is almost too twisted to believe. Once the bodies were discovered in shallow grave outside of the village of Levikha, the case developed at break-neck speed, with the eight arrests of guys suspected of being involved in the prostitution ring. The only real question is why it took four years to catch them. You'd think a few missing school girls would be enough to get the militsia on the lookout. Nope!
When 17-year-old Nizhni Tagil native Ira Kuzmina disappeared in 2004, her family reported it to the cops. What did the militsia do? Nothing. Instead, they opened an investigation against Ira's older brother, who stood to gain her share of the apartment... Ira's twin sister could have even positively identified one of the gang members to the cops, had they thought to investigate her disappearance. But noone thought to ask.
Marina knew about her sister's abductor because of the way the gang went about "recruiting" prostitutes. Not long before Ira disappeared, a good-looking guy approached the two sisters on the street and started hitting on them. He introduced himself as Stas (Marina only found out recently that his real name is Mark Kustovsky), and Ira was charmed by him. Marina told KP that she wasn't interested in him because, "I don't like blondes," a fact which probably saved her life.
Ira & her twin, Marina
He and Ira started seeing each other occasionally and then she disappeared. Anyone who's ever read a true crime book would be a little curious to find out more about "Stas," who was apparently Ira's first boyfriend, especially because he should have been linked to several previous disappearances. Ah, well, should'a, could'a, would'a. It's all so obvious in hindsight.
The gang's basic strategy was to have Mark lure the girls back to his apartment, where a group of guys would gang-rape them and force them into prostitution. For those who proved to be recalcitrant, they'd kill them and leave them for the wolves in Levikha. The beauty of the plan proved to be its simplicity, and the fact that hundreds of people go missing in Nizhni Tagil every year. In fact, in the last tow years, of the 1409 (!) people to disappear from the city of 400,000, 462 (+/- 15) of those cases are still unsolved. According to KP, dozens are underage girls like 15-year-old Olya Bubnova and 13-year-old Vika Yushkova.
Pimps Eduard & Dmitri with their wives
When those two tarts disappeared in June 2005, the authorities also didn't bother investigating. After all, in the words of their former school assistant director Ludmila Ulyanova, "Olya had a lot of suitors. She was, in principle, a little bit of a street-walker." That's her principal talking! Both pairs of parents had received vague notes from their daughters saying that the girls were in Moscow (notes they were probably forced to write before they were killed), and the authorities left it at that.
If the killers hadn't been quite as complacent, they might never have been caught at all. But, owing to the ease with which they were getting away with murder, they started getting sloppy. By the end, they didn't even bother burying the bodies, and just tossed a few branches over the new deposits. Even then, it took for ever to discover the body dump.
The band was led by Eduard and Dmitri Chudnikov, two brothers from Nizhni Tagil. They've been described as average guys and, in a bow to the New Russia, registered their pimp business with the authorities. Their cover was a beverage delivery business, and they even paid taxes.
There are still plenty of gaps in the story, like whether any living prostitutes were released from captivity when the ring was busted. Hopefully KP will get to the bottom of it, because no-one else is trying. Meanwhile, the militsia will continue trying to match the bones to missing girls, and close a few more of those missing persons reports.
GENERAL DIRECTOR SHOT
Here’s another Death Porn that proves Moscow’s favorite way to solve business disputes is a control shot. Last Monday night, Mikhail Vartazarov, the General Director of Stroimontazhtrest No. 3, was whacked on his way home to his parents’ apartment.
The 33-year-old pulled his Merc up to the apartment around midnight and, before he had time to turn off the lights, he was hit by several shots fired from about 20 meters. The hitman then ran up to the car and put one bullet in his brain. Vartazarov’s mother heard the first shots and even caught a glimpse of the killer as he fled to a waiting red Niva. By the time she woke her husband and he got to his son, Misha was bleeding heavily from the temple and unconscious. He didn’t ever regain consciousness before he kicked it.
According to Moskovsky Komsomolets, Vartazarov had been busy restructuring his factory for about half a year, since around the time he’d taken over. While he was thought of as a good manager and had no known enemies, clearly his schemes rubbed some of the shareholders the wrong way.
BORED IN SAMARA
Last Friday 11 kids from Samara aged 14 to 17 got sent down to juvvie hall for random acts of violence. Five of them had previous records and all of them were the product of Russia’s orphanage system, so they should be able handle the transition to jail pretty well.
The first attack took place last April outside their school, where they were hanging out and drinking one night. A pedestrian passed by and didn’t give them a cigarette, so they beat him to death. Not too long after, some other jerk made the same mistake and met the same fate.
Then, in May, the group attacked another stranger, stabbing him six times and then cutting off various parts of his body as souvenirs (this report came from newsru.com, so we don’t get the juicy details of exactly what parts they took). A week later, they killed another passerby, at which point the militsia decided enough was enough and caught them.