The Russian mafia is extending its influence in Germany, the president of the country's Federal Criminal Police Office said.

"We are experiencing Russian-Eurasian organized crime as very dynamic," Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) President Holger Münch told Welt am Sonntag newspaper.

"It is currently expanding into the West," Münch said.

Approximately 20,000 to 40,000 individuals living in Germany are estimated to have Russian mafia links, according to the BKA.

Münch said that the gangs were targeting German prisons in a recrutiment drive, with approximately 10% of inmates Russian speakers. Some gangs members had entered the country disguised as refugees, necessitating increased cooperation between the BKA and Germany's Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF), Münch said.

He said that Russian gangs were increasing their involvement in crimes such as mass burglaries and shop thefts, which they did not previously take part in.

Russian criminal gangs originated in the gulags of Soviet Russia, and since the fall of the USSR have established a presence around the world, operating drugs, prostitution, arms trafficking and assassination rackets.

A 2014 German interior ministry report found an increase in organised crime activity, with 30 cases brought against East European gang members over the previous year.