One of the most personally dangerous gangsters in the Russian underworld – in the sense of a willingness to get his hands dirty in his own ‘wet work’ as well as giving the orders to others – has just been sentenced to life in a Moscow court. Sergei Butorin, known as ‘Osya’, was convicted of 29 murders. 29! As if that were not enough, he and his gang claimed the scalps of some of Russia’s most notorious gangsters himself, including the contract killer Alexander Solonik and the over-reaching Georgian godfather Otari Kvantrishvili (shot by Butorin’s right-hand man Alexei Sherstobitov, ‘Lyosha the Soldier’).
Butorin was a member of the Orekhovo gang in Moscow established by Sergei ‘Silvestr’ Timofeev in 1991. It specialized in extortion through violence and threats and also quickly acquired a reputation for a willingness to take on other gangs. After Timofeev’s death in 1994, Butorin took over, and if anything adopted an even more aggressive line. His gang was responsible for the deaths of key figures in the so-called ‘Assyrian’ gang, the two leading lights of the Kuntsevskaya brigade (Alexander Skvortsov and Oleg Kaligin) and one of the leaders of the Sokolnicheskaya gang.
Those were the days of the ‘wild nineties’ when there seemed no rules, no limits. He held this position until 1999 when, feeling that his enemies (including a state beginning to become less tolerant of open anarchy under a new Prime Minister, one Vladimir Putin) were becoming too strong, he faked his own death (even to arranging his own funeral), had cosmetic surgery to alter his appearance and fled to Spain. This was no retirement, though, as he continued his criminal activities there until his arrest in 2001 on firearms charges, for which he was sentenced to 8 years in prison. At that point, the Russians began extradition proceedings and in 2010 he was transferred to Russia.This is another encouraging sign that Russian courts can and do prosecute serious crime figures (at least when they don’t have powerful political protectors). In contrast to the way Vyacheslav Ivankov (‘Yaponchik’) was freed after a rigged trial on his extradition from the USA in 2004, Butorin faced a serious, correct trial and has been found guilty.
(His bodyguard, Marat Polyansky, extradited from Spain in 2009, pleaded guilty to 4 murders and received a sentence of 15 years.)
In its prime, the Orekhovo gang was unusually violent and also increasingly transnational. As well as Spain, it was operating in Greece (where Solonik was killed) and Ukraine. It had joined with the Medvedkovo group which gave it a greater presence in Moscow and also in Vladimir region, and through Medvedkovo also had links with the major Solntsevo combine. Since Butorin’s arrest, Orekhovskaya-Medvedkovo grouping has essentially faded as an independent gang, largely becoming a collection of ‘mini-gangs’ within the wider Solntsevo network. Nonetheless, Butorin’s conviction is likely to have a salutary effect on the Russian underworld.