22 December 2021. RIA Novosti

Translated by Elizaveta Ovchinnikova


Head of the International Police Association Russian Section, Lieutenant General, Doctor of Law Yury Zhdanov told RIA Novosti in an interview about the damages caused by cybercriminals in 2021, how the migration situation in Russia would develop in 2022 and what new tricks to expect from IT fraudsters in the IT sector.


RIA Novosti: Yury Nikolaevich, how has the situation with migrants in Russia changed in 2021?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: After a relative lull during the progress of the pandemic and restrictions on international transport in 2020, migration, especially its illegal component, has become one of the most pressing issues on the world agenda in 2021. In the outgoing year, a steady increase in migration is recorded. For example, in Russia, 10.6 million foreign citizens and stateless persons completed migration registration in 10 months. The data show that the citizens of Uzbekistan (more than three million) and Tajikistan (more than two million) came to us the most, less from Kyrgyzstan (751.7 thousand) and Kazakhstan (401.4 thousand). In addition, the number of migrants living in Moscow has increased by almost a third this year – to 1.033 million. These are mostly citizens of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan.

RIA Novosti: Should we expect an increase in the migration flow in Russia in 2022?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Of course, there will be an increase in the migration flow in 2022. This process will be influenced by the latest changes in migration legislation, which will come into force on 29 December. There will be the optimisation of migration registration and control of foreign citizens and stateless persons entering the territory of the Russian Federation, which include mandatory state fingerprint registration and photographing (including in the form of a card with an electronic data carrier) for foreign citizens who arrived for a purpose not related to labour for a period of more than 90 days and arrived for a labour-related purpose.

In the conditions of the current liberal Russian migration legislation, simplified employment regime for migrants, taking into account the assessment of the current monthly dynamics, it should be expected that migration flow in 2022 will grow by an average of one third. That is, up to 14-15 million migrants per year.

It is also important to keep in mind the fact that the spread of coronavirus has significantly worsened the economic situation in most countries worldwide. This has and will have a significant influence as a factor of increasing labour migration. Because for citizens of CIS countries and migrants from other regions with poorly developed economic infrastructure, employment in Russia is the optimal solution to ensure a minimum standard of living for their families. According to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation on funds sent to the CIS countries, only in the third quarter of this year, individuals transferred $ 3.8 billion from Russia to the CIS countries, which is 14.6% more than the same indicator last year. At the same time, the average cheque for one transfer has also grown: on average, this year, $ 11 more was sent to the CIS – $ 256 each one.

RIA Novosti: And how is changing the situation with labour migrants working in Russia under quotas?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Statistics say that we have about 4% of all foreigners currently living in the Russian Federation. In principle, I think it’s time to abandon the quota mechanism, as it is redundant in this situation.

RIA Novosti: And how is the situation with illegal migrants developing in Russia? Will there be more of them in 2022? And what measures, in your opinion, should law enforcement agencies take?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: If we look at statistics, in January-October 2021, foreign citizens and stateless persons committed 30.8 thousand crimes in Russia (an increase of 5.1%), including 24 thousand crimes committed by citizens of the CIS member States. This is 8.7% lower than last year but their share is 78% of the total number of migration crimes. During the same period, the number of crimes related to the organisation of illegal migration increased by a quarter, 784 persons who committed these crimes were identified. Such a 25% increase in illegal migration-related crimes is a vivid marker of existing problems in this area against the background of a decrease in the total number of crimes committed in Russia.

However, it is worth mentioning that in general, a comparative analysis of the illegal migration situation in Russia and abroad indicates that in Russia this situation as a whole is controlled and stable.

RIA Novosti: How does the migration situation in Russia look against the background of the European Union and the United States, for example?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: The general statistics of illegal migration in 2021 illustrates its negative trends, that is, growth worldwide. In Russia, the growth was 25.5%, in the EU – 70%, in the USA – 330%. The migration stagnation of 2020 due to anti-Covid restrictions predetermined a multiple migration increase in 2021.

For comparison, according to the Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, in January-October, the total number of illegal border crossings by migrants inside the EU increased by almost 70% to 160 thousand, compared to the same period in 2020. And by 45% compared to 2019. The most significant growth was recorded on the routes of the eastern and western Balkans, the central Mediterranean, as well as in Cyprus.

According to official data from government agencies, in 2021 the minimum number of illegal migrants was: more than 800 thousand people – in the Russian Federation, 2.08 million – in the European Union and 1.96 million people – in the United States.

Experts claim that the total number of illegal migrants in Russia varies between 2.5-10 million people, in the European Union – 2.08-3.9 million, in the USA 5.6-10 million people.

Therefore, it is necessary to implement a set of measures to ensure migration stability and prevent a surge in ethnic crime. Migration legislation needs to be modernised and tightened in order to streamline legal provisions, primarily concerning electronic control of migrants, taking into account the capabilities of the latest information technologies, biometric identification tools for migrants (in particular, shortening the consideration terms of the draft law of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia dated 1 March 2021 ‘On the Conditions of Entry (Exit) And Stay (Residence) in the Russian Federation of Foreign Citizens And Stateless Persons,’ which is planned to be enacted in 2024). We need to tighten criminal liability for the commission of serious crimes related to illegal migration. It is necessary to increase the introduction of innovative tools and means of social engineering into the operational investigative activities of operational units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the FSB of Russia.

In addition, I believe that it is simply necessary to strengthen border control measures and international cooperation in the course of administrative control, operative and search measures in the field of ensuring migration stability and counterterrorist security within the framework of international cooperation.

RIA Novosti: Should we be afraid of an increase in migration crime in Russia in 2022?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Over the past five years, the total number of crimes committed by foreign citizens has steadily decreased from 40 thousand crimes in 2017 to 34.4 thousand in 2020. The number of illegal acts of migrants in 2021 will be known at the beginning of next year. But the assessment of the current monthly positive dynamics of crimes in this category allows us to predict a change in this trend. That is, we should expect growth in 2022. So yes, taking into account the current risks and threats, we should expect an increase in migration crime in Russia.

RIA Novosti: What is the reason for this?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Negative trends in migration crime already this year are due to a combination of external threats: the ‘Afghan’ factor and the intensification of hybrid illegal activities of foreign policy opponents; as well as internal – social and psychological tension, including in the migrant environment, and crisis phenomena in the economy caused by the progress of the pandemic. All of them have a powerful criminogenic potential.

Keeping in mind these factors and the effectiveness of the internal affairs bodies work in detecting and suppressing migration crimes, an absolute figure not exceeding 35 thousand crimes of migrants per year can be considered a relatively favourable version of the forecast for 2022.

RIA Novosti: You mentioned the ‘Afghan’ factor. How did the events in Afghanistan affect the situation with migrants in Russia? Is there any reason to fear that, for example, drug trafficking from Afghanistan will increase through Russia?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: And not only drug trafficking. The coming to power in Afghanistan in August 2021 of the radical Islamist movement *Taliban, recognised by the UN Security Council as a terrorist organisation, caused an outbreak of illegal activities on the territory of Russia by radical individuals, primarily within the migrant communities.

The ‘spontaneous’ series of mass violations of public order (fights) by migrants swept through the Russian capital and major cities of the country in August-September of this year. These fights illustrated only the surface of the full destructive potential of the radical Islamist underground inspired by the *Taliban’s victory. These events just provoked illegal activity in order to create social tension in society and destabilise it, especially among migrants.

The timely response of the Security Council of the Russian Federation, prompt measures taken by Russian law enforcement agencies made it possible to prevent an extremely negative development of this situation.

In the context of the total crisis in Afghanistan, we should expect an increase in drug production and, accordingly, drug trafficking to Europe and the Russian Federation.

RIA Novosti: If we turn from migrants to the statistics. How has cybercrime changed in 2021? What damage has been caused to Russia and the world as a whole by crimes in the IT sector?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, almost 494 thousand cybercrimes were committed in 11 months, more than 88 thousand cybercriminals were identified. In other words, it can be stated that every fourth crime out of its total amount is committed using information and communication technologies (ICTs). At the same time, law enforcement agencies managed to halt the explosive growth of this type of crime (+73.4% by the end of 2020).

At the same time, the damage from cyberattacks increases every year. The 16th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report for 2021 estimates the damage from cybercrime at six trillion dollars this year. Similar figures were announced by the UN Secretary General, international and Russian experts.

In Russia in 2021, remote (phone) fraud alone caused the amount of damages estimated at 45 billion roubles, and the total damages from cybercrime are estimated at 90 billion roubles. For comparison, in 2020, the damages from cybercrime were estimated at around 70 billion roubles. The results of sociological research have shown that the damages from the cybercriminals’ actions amounted to 150 billion roubles. And unfortunately, in 2022 we should expect a steady positive dynamics in the growth of crimes committed using ICTs or in the computer information sector. According to the estimates of international expert communities, the damages caused by cyberattacks will increase every year, and in 2025, the damages from cybercrimes will reach 10.5 trillion dollars annually.

RIA Novosti: What new tricks should we expect from cybercriminals in 2022?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: Currently, cybercrime is a transnational, cross-border type of organised crime, which is an integral component of the global ‘metaverse,’ which requires a joint struggle of all leading States. Russia is an active participant in the global community in countering cyber threats. In its activities, the country relies on the UN guidelines on cybersecurity and operational cooperation with Interpol and Europol. It can be argued that the methods and tools used by cybercriminals are increasingly being used in other areas of crime, and the digital criminal ecosystem continues to develop at an alarming pace. The privacy and convenience offered by communication platforms, the distribution of cryptocurrencies are beneficial in any illegal activity.

I think in 2022, the spread of malware for mobile devices during online purchases will progress, the use of phishing lures to force victims to download malicious code to steal personal data. The ‘Trojans’ of mobile banking will not go anywhere. In addition, criminals will continue to use COVID-19 narratives to sell fake medical products online and will seek to steal personal data and credentials. Although bitcoin currently remains the preferred cryptocurrency for users and merchants on the darknet, the popularity of other digital coins is growing. Criminals are increasingly converting their illegal income received in cryptocurrencies. Here is an example: materials about sexual abuse of children are actively sold in peer-to-peer networks and the darknet, where cryptocurrency is used for payments.

Anonymity problem on the Internet is exacerbated by the widespread use of encryption technologies that can benefit both legitimate users and criminals at the same time. In addition to legitimate services, international law enforcement agencies are closely monitoring VPN and cryptographic phone providers who serve criminal elements of our society. Everywhere an increase in interest in buying ransomware can be detected.

An ordinary Internet user often remains the weakest link in the IT security system. Social engineering remains a serious tool for gaining access to the information system or, in the case of fraud, to the victim’s bank account. The market of criminal goods and services is booming. Personal data and credentials are in high demand because they play an important role in increasing the success of all types of social engineering attacks.

RIA Novosti: Then how can you resist cybercriminals?

Mr Yury Zhdanov: First of all, it is necessary to provide law enforcement agencies with timely access to data for the immediate conduct of operative and search activities. It is necessary to organise additional training for law enforcement officers and provide them with modern tools to combat cybercriminals. We need to expand international cooperation for the rapid exchange of operational information.

Finally, it is vital to continue to increase collective literacy and awareness in the field of information technology, since cybercrime is firmly rooted in our society and often takes advantage of the ignorance of the population in these matters.

* The movement is under UN Security Council sanctions for terrorist activities