Russia's secret service and politicians have close links with organised crime, according to details from leaked confidential US diplomatic documents published in a Spanish newspaper Thursday.
The daily El Pais is one of several newspapers given advance access to 250,000 US diplomatic cables by the online whistleblower WikiLeaks.
Spanish prosecutor Jose Grinda, who investigated activities of Russian criminals in Spain, described Belarus, Russia and Chechnya as "virtual mafia states", US diplomats reported after meeting with him in Madrid in 2008.
Grinda said he agreed with former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, who died of poisoning in London in 2006. Litvinenko had said that Russian intelligence and security services controlled criminal groups.
Organised crime had a "tremendous" control over strategic economic sectors such as aluminium, Grinda was quoted as saying.
The Russian government used criminals to commit acts that the state could not commit, such as selling arms to Kurds in an attempt to destabilise Turkey, according to Grinda.
The secret services might kill or jail criminals who refused to cooperate with them, the prosecutor suggested.
Some Russian political parties worked "hand in hand" with organised crime, he also said.
Senior US officials believed Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin may have known about the murder of dissident former spy Litvinenko, WikiLeaks documents also showed.
US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Fried said Putin's attention to detail meant it would have been difficult for such an operation to be carried out without his knowledge.