Crime, war, and intelligence, the untold story of Longifolia PVC

15 January 2024 21 minutes Author: Cyber Witcher

There are many similarities between military and criminal organizations. Both structures are characterized by a sense of isolation and uniqueness, and have their own rites and secrets. However, the key difference is that the military is there to protect the public, while organized crime groups only look out for their own interests. These simple observations were summarized in a table created in 2015 by the future head of the Convoy private military company, Kostiantyn Pikalov, for his mentor at the GRU, Denis Smolyaninov.

GRU and shadow military: Uncovering the history of the Longifolia PVC

There are many similarities between military and criminal organizations. Both structures are characterized by a sense of isolation and uniqueness, and have their own rites and secrets. However, the key difference is that the military is there to protect the public, while organized crime groups only look out for their own interests. These simple observations were summarized in a table created in 2015 by the future head of the Convoy private military company, Kostiantyn Pikalov, for his mentor at the GRU, Denis Smolyaninov.

At that time, the Russian authorities started a hybrid war in Ukraine and came up with a simple idea: bandits can serve the motherland through PMK — semi-legal structures that covertly perform state tasks. In 2022, Yevgeny Prigozhin perfected this scheme, recruiting thousands of convicts for the war with Ukraine.

But long before that, the GRU brought under its control the former leaders of OZU, who registered a private military company and set out to establish relations with mercenaries around the world. The article tells about PVC “Longifolia”, translated from Latin – “long-necked”. There are only two fleeting mentions of her on the Internet and, judging by everything, she did not conduct any real activities — instead, she tried to connect the GRU with the largest private military companies in Russia and the world.

Volodymyr Borisov is a smiling, balding middle-aged man. His photo was first published in 2021 by the VChK-OGPU Telegram channel alongside the news that the man had been extradited to Russia from Bulgaria on charges of fraud. The authors of the article called Borisov a legend of gangster Petersburg. He earned this title at the end of the 90s – during clashes with members of the famous “Shark” OZU.

Volodymyr Borisov

In 1997-1998, St. Petersburg law enforcement officers arrested a criminal authority nicknamed “Shark” and his entourage. A fight for their inheritance broke out in the city. Attempts were made on the former brigadiers of the group, who continued to control some points. The killers shot Vadim Izmorosin – he left the house with his wife, and their killers were ordered to “knock both of them down.” In August 1998, another “shark” brigadier, Ihor Rozzuvaylo, encountered a homeless man on the street – not far from the building of the FSB in St. Petersburg and the Lenoblast.

The homeless man turned out to be a bandit with make-up on – after taking out a gun from under his jacket, he fired three shots into Rozzuvailo’s chest and a control shot into his head. Half an hour later, the car of the third foreman, Gennady Losya, exploded – but the killer pressed the button too early, and Losya managed to survive. It was he who testified against Volodymyr Borysov and his gang — a total of 15 people were detained. Borysov’s henchmen said that he is a former military man nicknamed “Ensign” and assembled a whole gang of special forces on the basis of the Falcon-95 pop-up. According to them, Borisov managed dozens of companies and commanded a gang of killers. OZU Borisov was suspected of murdering the vice-governor of St. Petersburg Mykhailo Manevich, law enforcement officers and criminal authorities.

At one time, the mass media called one of Borisov’s killers the perpetrator of the murder of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoytova. As Oleksandr Lytvynenko wrote, gang members learned the techniques of external surveillance and wiretapping of telephone conversations from staff members of the GRU and the St. Petersburg FSB.

The investigation dragged on for many years: due to numerous mistakes, the case was returned to the prosecutor’s office several times, and the chief investigator Vadim Pozdniak later became the bandits’ lawyer. The verdict was passed only in 2007. By then, all the defendants had walked free and the case had fallen apart, with charges of contract killings, extortion and arms trafficking dropped due to lack of complicity, lack of a crime, or the expiration of the statute of limitations. Four people were acquitted, and Borisov and his other accomplices were sentenced to suspended terms for one episode each – for the attempted kidnapping of Ihor Rozzuvaylo a few days before his murder.

Soon, Borisov’s career will go uphill: he will turn from a convicted bandit into a respected businessman. His closest partner, Vitaly Kuzmin, comes from the same criminal environment. Police records show that in 1994 he was detained for attempted extortion and checked for weapons, and in 1999 he was suspected of attempted murder.

Vitaly Kuzmin

It is not known how the investigations against Kuzmin ended, but by 2013, he and Borisov were able to legalize their activities — instead of leaders of OZU, they became the founders of PMC and registered Longifolia in Panama. Soon the former bandits began to cooperate with the GRU. Having learned from the documents of the military intelligence colonel Denys Smolyaninov. There you can find the plans, correspondence and reports of Longifolia – as well as other private military companies. We told more about Smolyanin himself in the previous investigation. One thing is important for the history of “Longifolia”: since at least 2014, this mysterious PVC has been an example of state-criminal cooperation.

It is not known exactly how the “legends of gangster Petersburg” got to know Smolyaninov, but already in October 2014, Vitaly Kuzmin handed over a document called “a list of tourists to the collective farm” to a GRU officer – it listed the data of ten former soldiers and security forces, who were obviously intended send to Ukraine. Two months before that, in August 2014, Smolyaninov flew from Moscow to St. Petersburg with Borisov, according to the ticket purchase database. The colonel himself made only a transfer in Moscow, and initially flew from Rostov-on-Don, the nearest airport to the border with the Donetsk region.


Nowadays, private military companies have become a common phenomenon in Russia. Since the beginning of the full-scale war in Ukraine, the “Wagner” PVC managed to become a social elevator for prisoners, organize a mutiny against the leadership of the Ministry of Defense, and collapse after the death of Yevgeny Prigozhin. We will also mention Convoy PVC, the company of former bodyguard and Cossack lover Kostiantyn Pikalov, which receives financing from VTB Bank and the structures of Arkady Rotenberg. In total, about thirty units of mercenaries are fighting on the side of the Russian army. But this is not always the case.

Before the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the PVC market was organized completely differently. In Russia, there were completely legal companies that worked abroad and provided services for the protection of goods, objects and people in conflict zones. One of them was Moran Security Group. It was her experience that “Longifolia” gave itself.

Since 1999, “Moran Security Group” has been engaged in maritime escort of ships in pirate-dangerous areas of the Indian and Pacific oceans. “Moran Security Group” worked for many years in Iraq for various customers from Russia (for example, “Zarubiznafta” and “Budtransgaz”), and also participated in the UN program “Oil in exchange for food”.

In 2010, “Moran” began to actively cooperate with the company “Sofcomflot”, which was controlled by Timchenko’s suitor and business partner Serhiy Frank. For this purpose, a working group “JSC “Sovkomflot” – “Moran Security Group” – Russian Navy was created. The interests of the Navy, as noted in the company’s presentation, were represented by Captain First Rank Vyacheslav Molochnyi. It is known from public sources that at that time he really took part in the anti-piracy operation of the Navy. “Moran” also coordinated its activities with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia. “Moran” even participated in the Navy – NATO summit in St. Petersburg in 2012.

The successful development of “Moran Security Group” was interrupted by a failure in Syria. In 2012-2013, the deputy director of the company Vadym Gusev created the Slavonic Corps company in Hong Kong and sent about 270 Russians to Syria. They were promised multi-thousand-dollar fees for the protection of local infrastructure facilities, but the mercenaries had to participate in hostilities without the necessary equipment. The detachment was commanded by Gusev himself, and Dmytro Utkin, the future head of the “Wagner” PMC, fought under his leadership. In the end, the fighters managed to evacuate to Moscow. Special forces and the FSB met them at the airport.

Gusev became the first Russian convicted of organizing mercenaries, was sentenced to three years in prison and, having served half of the term, was released by the Ukrainian Communist Party. In an analytical note available to the Dossier, he blamed the failure on the Syrian government and “intrigues in Russia” – he said the unit was supposed to have twice as many fighters, and the Syrian government had promised to provide them with heavy weapons and tanks. One way or another, the activities of Moran Security Group came to nothing after this fiasco – the legal entity in Russia was closed in 2017. But the company still had offshore structures, and Gusev had ambitions. It was he who became the connecting link between Moran Security Group and Longifolia.

Among Longifolia’s documents, we discovered a share exchange agreement dated 2016 between the company and the offshore Moran Security Group in Belize. According to the document, “Moran” was to be represented by Vadym Gusev and company director Oleksiy Badikov, and the “authoritative” PMC was to be represented by Kuzmin and Borisov. However, there are no signatures on the agreement — it was probably just a draft. Oleksiy Badikov in the Dossier comments said that he had not heard of Longifolia, did not exchange shares with it, and did not conduct joint activities. We could not contact Vadym Gusev.

However, in their presentations, Longifolia executives claimed that it is part of the same group of companies as Moran Security Group and Kostyantyn Pikalov’s Convoy, and attributed the experience of Moran’s operations since 1999. They also claimed that the “group of companies” had 1,000 fighters and had 500 weapons and ammunition. All this was supposed to help the expansion of “Longifolia” abroad.

Presentation of “Longifolia”

All things considered, Longifolia’s main task was to act as a cover for the GRU in the international arena. The documents show that at the same time the company began to actively enter the foreign market and seek contacts with Western PMCs. In 2016, Longifolia joined the International Association of Private Military Companies (IPSA), registered in Great Britain. As noted on the association’s website, membership provides access to presentations by equipment suppliers, mentorship from members of the governing board, and lobbying of members’ interests in government structures. An honorary member of the association is, for example, the vice-speaker of the British House of Lords, Baroness Ruth Henig.

IPSA membership certificate

Soon, the Panamanian legal entity “Longifolia” also received an NCAGE code. This identifier is given to companies so that they can enter into contracts with the ministries of defense of NATO member countries and other structures of the alliance. Obtaining the code is a complex procedure for which the GRU-linked company of former crime bosses had to pass several checks. The very presence of the code is a confirmation of the company’s reliability, the military expert said. “Longifolia” is still in the register of companies accredited by NATO.

At the end of 2015, Longifolia tried to build a partnership with the scandalous German PMC Asgaard, reporting it in detail to its supervisor at the GRU.

In November 2015, Germans Wilhelm Heuser and Alexander Kale flew to St. Petersburg. Heuser’s LinkedIn profile states that he was currently working as a key account manager for Asgaard. Dirk Gassmann, head of the German PMC, said that Heuser was a freelance sales manager and that the company stopped working with him in 2016. He was unable to explain why the alleged freelancer signed himself off as a key client manager in correspondence with criminal authorities.

Over the next few months, Asgaard and Longifolia negotiated the opening of a branch or franchise of Asgaard PVC in Russia. In the motivational request, Volodymyr Borisov insisted that the German PMC should consult the Russian one, provide contracts for international missions every two months, conduct training, briefing and certification for Russian contractors. In the letters in response, “Asgaard” showed interest and even made a preliminary contract, the total amount of which was supposed to reach 670 thousand euros. The head of Asgaard, Dirk Gassmann, confirmed that the company was in talks with Longifolia.

“The reason for the appeal was the idea of creating a branch in Russia. It was about providing security services in Russia according to German standards in order to ensure the personal protection and safety of German and European clients in Moscow and neighboring cities.

After inspections at our company, the seriousness of the intentions of the Russian side was questioned. There was a suspicion that she might be connected with enemy special services/FSB/GRU, so we refrained from doing business with Longifolia. Since Asgaard is a security company that recruits its employees exclusively from specialized military and police services, and we have former members of the German intelligence services in our ranks, you can probably imagine that we have the opportunity to detect such connections.” Hassmann said.

According to him, he did not find the previous contract with “Longifolia” for 670,000 euros in the company’s archive. However, Gassmann claimed that most of the documents were destroyed in accordance with the law on the protection of personal data.

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Longifolia’s attempts to attract foreign partners were not limited to the failure with Asgaard. In the winter of 2016, Borisov and Kuzmin went to the United Arab Emirates for negotiations with an employee of the British company Olive Group, which conducts training for security personnel. Olive Group is part of the American holding Constellis, which is called the largest PVC in the world.

The holding also includes one of the most famous PMCs, Blackwater, with which the American authorities actively cooperated. Among other things, Blackwater guarded the head of the US administration, Paul Bremer, during his visit to occupied Iraq in 2003, US embassies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Bosnia, Israel, took part in hostilities and was involved in several high-profile scandals. For example, in 2020, the media reported that the head of the company tried to cooperate with PMC “Wagner” in Africa. In the end, the company was forced to rebrand — it is now called Academi.

If the reports are to be believed, the negotiations went well: the parties discussed the possibility of jointly guarding Russian fuel and energy companies in Iraq and the Middle East, and Longifolia even offered Olive Group a share in the authorized capital of its branch in the Emirates – in exchange for equipment, weapons and human resources. . It is impossible to verify whether the British agreed to this proposal: the UAE registers do not reveal the composition of the founders. We have written to Olive Group with a query but have not received a response.

In the archive of “Longifolia” you can also find several documents of the Western military. For example, the former Estonian marine Alex Kislevits sent the founders of the Russian PMC his passport, the results of an alcohol and drug test, as well as a resume, which separately emphasized his skills in handling the weapons of NATO countries. Kislevits currently heads his own PMC in Estonia called Iron Navy.

Also, the resume of a certain Ron Aledo, who called himself a former freelance CIA analyst, was found in the Russian PMC. GRU Colonel Smolyaninov received it two weeks after Vitaly Kuzmin’s trip to the USA in August 2016. Subsequently, Aledo appeared in a column on the website of Konstantin Malofeev’s Katekhon think tank, where he doubted Putin’s involvement in the poisoning of Litvinenko and stated that Russia could take over Ukraine in two weeks if it needed to (it expanded after the invasion began in 2022). approximately 40 days).

In addition to western expansion, Longifolia worked in Africa and the Middle East. According to reports, PVC won the tender of the Nigerian National Oil Company to protect the 200-kilometer oil pipeline, and with the mediation of the Swiss companies Activa Power Trade AG and Crossbov Ltd (the first company we found in the Swiss registry – it was liquidated in 2007). the second could not be found anywhere). It was not possible to find traces of the implementation of this contract.

In addition, the PMC, according to reports, held negotiations with representatives of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the murdered Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi. A graduate of the London School of Economics, Gaddafi Jr. made a name for himself as an international diplomat, artist and tiger lover, but was wanted by the International Criminal Court in 2011 for crimes against humanity during the Libyan civil war.

Six years later, the GRU-supervised private military company of St. Petersburg authorities offered Gaddafi its services in the protection of oil fields, reform of the armed forces, training of personnel and maintenance of army computer systems. These delicate negotiations took place somewhere in the Middle East, and in the picturesque German city of Konstanz on the shores of Lake Constance. Saif Gaddafi himself could not be due to an international manhunt, sending representatives instead. The report especially emphasized that the Libyan partners seek rapprochement with Russia, believe in Russian diplomacy and are ready to continue communication with official bodies in Moscow.

Saif Gaddafi

Vadym Gusev himself wrote in the documents that the “group of companies” is a screen for the GRU. In February 2017, he persuaded the curator to send him again to the Middle East to carry out GRU tasks under the guise of security activities:

“In the event of a decision to create an operational-tactical group based on the Longifolia — Moran Group PVK to protect the oil interests of the Russian Federation in Iraq, it is expedient to form two BTGs for action at night and day, with the necessary skills of maintaining a database in small tactical groups structured like military personnel. Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, under short-term or full contracts and at the same time as employees of the PMC, which will allow additional funds to be paid to these people.”

“Currently, Russia has no legal basis and opportunity to deploy its military units in Iraq in another way. This operative-tactical “unit”, deployed under the cover of the CHOP, will allow the GRU to fulfill its duties in the region. Legal and agency measures have already been taken to solve this problem.”

Why bandits to the state?

Cooperation between Russian special services and organized crime is a widely studied phenomenon. Since the time of the USSR, intelligence services have used the connections of the Russian mafia there for espionage and financing of political operations. As early as 2007, the Swiss Analysis and Prevention Service wrote: “More and more European intelligence agencies state the powerful presence and active interest of Russian special services in the economy in general – and especially in strategically important industries.”

The documents also confirm that cooperation with organized crime to solve state problems remains a conscious strategy of the special services. The GRU began working on the idea of putting OZU at the service of the state no later than 2015. The head of the “Convoy” PMC, Kostiantyn Pikalov, conducted a comprehensive comparative analysis of the RAM and military structures for Smolyaninov, discovering many similarities between them. It was emphasized that both in the OZU and in the army there is a sense of closedness and selectivity of the community, its own rituals, the experience of changing the personality (for thieves it was driven, for the military it was a rank), hierarchy, its own systems of secret knowledge (concept or statute) and even team cohesion due to joint violations (crimes or suicide).

Advantageous differences of the army from the criminal community, in his opinion, were that the army serves society, not its own interests, is predictable, disciplined and loyal to the hierarchy, not a specific leader. The analysis was conducted in order to increase discipline and improve the image of the PMK — according to the logic of the document, they are an intermediate link between the RAM and the army. It turns out that the use of PVC is useful not only for military operations, but also for putting crime under the actual control of the authorities, while preserving criminal traditions.

Kuzmin and Borysov themselves openly wrote in Longifolia documents that the advantage of their PMC lies in its connections both with the state and with other bandits:

“The management of Longifolia company, using the available resources in the system of state authorities and among the criminal structures of various states, provide services in the settlement of conflict situations and the resolution of disputes between individuals, commercial enterprises and criminal organizations both on the territory of the Russian Federation and abroad, in those areas where the activity of law enforcement agencies is ineffective.”

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of another PMC, started out as a petty criminal, rose to the top, and then outlawed himself again and mysteriously died soon after. The history of Kuzmin and Borisov is also cyclical. From bandits, they turned for a while into respected leaders of a whole group of private military companies, and then again found themselves on the dock.

In 2017, the founders of “Longifolia” began to communicate with Smolyaninov less and less. At the same time, a new criminal case was brought against Kuzmin and Borisov – this time for fraud and money laundering. According to the investigation, Vitaly Kuzmin together with two accomplices raided the State-owned Institute of Architectural and Construction Design.

The defendants bankrupted the institution, accumulating unsustainable loans, put it up for auction and sold it to an affiliated company under the leadership of Volodymyr Borisov. The court estimated the total damage to the state at more than 285 million rubles. If the investigation is to be believed, the gang of Kuzmin and Borisov has been engaged in the theft of state property since 2012, that is, in parallel with the PMK organization under the control of the special services. It was reported that during the search Kuzmin found the seal of the private military company he headed together with Borisov.

In June 2023, the failed head of condottieri Vitaly Kuzmin was sentenced to six and a half years of imprisonment in a general regime colony. His colleague Volodymyr Borisov is waiting for the verdict of a separate court, because he was on the run until 2021. His son Kostyantyn Borisov followed in his footsteps. Until 2023, he headed the Kupchyno municipal education in St. Petersburg, but was arrested in March, also accused of fraud. According to the version of the investigation, Borisov Jr. spent budget millions on the purchase of tickets for events with free entry.

In the reports for curators from the GRU, signed by Borisov Sr., it is clearly stated that “Longifolia” was conceived as a “private tool for the protection of the national interests of the Russian Federation”, capable not only of taking on “the functions of protecting objects and training security specialists, but also implement the plans of the Russian state, being an effective tool of the state’s foreign policy”.

It is difficult to say whether “Longifolia” achieved any success in this field: the GRU does not give comments, and Kuzmin and Borisov are imprisoned. Perhaps Smolyaninov received everything that the “authoritative” PMC could give and switched to other projects. Or numerous negotiations did not lead to anything, and “Longifolia” was simply written off.

An acquaintance with the criminal environment of St. Petersburg claims that Vitaly Kuzmin was inspired by Yevhen Prigozhin. “His laurels have been bothering Vitaly Gennadiyovych for many years, but apparently he lacks resources or brains – he managed to clap very crookedly.” However, compared to their more famous colleague in the workshop, Kuzmin and Borisov still had little blood.


This article tells about the history and activities of the private military company (PMC) “Longifolia”. It highlights the connections of this company with Russian intelligence, in particular with the GRU (Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation), and its involvement in international conflicts. The article describes in detail how the criminal leaders became the founders of the PMC, their international operations and attempts to integrate with global private military firms. It also examines the legal and ethical aspects of the activities of private military companies in modern wars, highlighting the challenges they pose to international law and security.

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