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Feature Story February 6, 2008
Russia's Sex Slave Graveyard
Over the Urals and through the woods to the mother of all Russian crime stories By Yasha Levine & Alexander Zaitchik Browse author
Page 2 of 6

“This city is full of savage, wild people. People who come here, come with caution," a teenage girl named Marina Kuzmin told us the day we arrived. And she should know.

* * * *

Dusk was falling in November, 2004, when Marina Kuzmin and her 16-year-old twin sister Irina were hurrying home from the trade school where they studied to become secretaries. Bitten by the cold, they ducked into a corner store to buy a snack and warm up. When they emerged, a young man approached them. He zeroed in on Irina.

"You're so pretty," he cooed. "Won't you give me a bite of your corn dog?"

The man introduced himself as Stas. He wore a dirty black raincoat, scruffy white sneakers, and a tattered beanie. Yet he had the confidence of a player in an Armani suit. He looked directly into Irina's eyes and complimented her long eyelashes and the sheen of her jet-black hair. She recoiled when he placed a hand on her shoulder and chided her for wearing such a light jacket in early winter. "It's so thin, I can practically see through it," he joked, throwing Marina a wry smile.

Stas's large, luminous blue eyes were "a little hypnotizing," Marina recalled years later. Within minutes of their meeting, Stas had found a topic of common interest: a new bowling alley in the center of town. Soon the three were chatting. Stas talked rapidly, asking about their age, where they studied, and where they lived. He said little about himself. The only thing the girls could get out of him was that he kept a chicken coop in the back of his house, which explained his soiled clothes. Stas said he was 19, although the wrinkles around his eyes and his weathered skin hinted at a much older man. People age quickly in Nizhny Tagil, but the Kuzmins hadn't met many teenagers who were this slick. The sisters were intrigued, but sensed something wasn't right. Eager to get rid of him before they reached their apartment building, Irina agreed to meet him the next day at the local movie theater.

Stas cleaned up for the date. His ratty clothes were gone, as was his pushy manner. He arrived with flowers, dressed in black, clean slacks and a tucked-in dress shirt. He tickled Irina with compliments as they strolled through a barren winter park. It was her first real date, and the attention made her swoon. Telephone calls followed, then a second date, and then longer talks on the phone. She didn't return home from their third meeting. Her lifeless body, found by the side of a road outside a nearby city, would be returned to her family a year later.

Stas’ real name was Mark Kustovsky, a local ironworks factory hand. Kustovsky supplemented his wages by finding young girls like Irina for a local gang headed by a hulking 45-year-old thug named Eduard "Edik" Chudinov and his buddy, Igor Melizhenkov. For each girl Kustovsky handed over, he'd get anywhere from $20 to $500. "The better the merchandise," Kustovsky later wrote in a confession, "the more I got."

Once Kustovsky's girls were handed over to Chudinov, they were offered a choice: Accept a life of prostitution, or join Uncle Edik for a private picnic in the woods north of Nizhny. Those who accepted were kept as prisoners in their own city, sometimes only blocks from their homes. Those who rejected the offer would take a ride with Edik or his henchmen and learn that the picnic menu was limited to rape, torture, and strangulation.

Police file photograph: investigators rummaging through the snow to get their first glimpse of the bodies

According to Chudinov's videotaped confession, which the police encouraged Marina to watch, most of the girls were dumped in a mosquito-infested clearing adjacent to a forest swamp, about 30 miles south of Nizhny Tagil. The mass grave is just a few minutes by foot from the main road. One of its distance-marker signs which features an ominous bullet hole from a high-caliber gunshot.

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Save The eXile: The War Nerd Calls Mayday
The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

Scanning Moscow’s Traffic Cops
Automotive Section
We’re happy to introduce a new column in which we publish Moscow’s raw radio communications, courtesy of a Russian amateur radio enthusiast. This issue, eXile readers are given a peek into the secret conversations of Moscow’s traffic police, the notorious "GAIshniki."

Eleven Years of Threats: The eXile's Incredible Journey
Feature Story By The eXile
Good Night, and Bad Luck: In a nation terrorized by its own government, one newspaper dared to fart in its face. Get out your hankies, cuz we’re taking a look back at the impossible crises we overcame.

Your Letters
Russia's freedom-loving free market martyr Mikhail Khodorkovsky answers some of this week's letters, and he's got nothing but praise for President Medvedev.

Clubbing Adventures Through Time
Club Review By Dmitriy Babooshka
eXile club reviewer Babooshka takes a trip through time with the ghost of Moscow clubbing past, present and future, and true to form, gets laid in the process.

The Fortnight Spin
Bardak Calendar By Jared Lindquist
Jared comes out with yet another roundup of upcoming bardak sessions.

Your Letters
Richard Gere tackles this week's letters. Now reformed, he fights for gerbil rights all around the world.

13 Toxic Talents: Hollywood’s Worst Polluters
America By Eileen Jones
Everybody complains about celebrities, but nobody does anything about them. People, it’s time to stop fretting about whether we’re a celebrity-obsessed culture—we are, we have been, we’re going to be—and instead take practical steps to clean up the celebrity-obsessed culture we’ve got...


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