Russian crime gang leader gets life in jail

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Sept. 7, 2011, 8:37 a.m. | Russia and former Soviet Union — by Associated Press
MOSCOW (AP) — A court in Moscow sentenced the leader of a notorious Russian organized crime gang Tuesday to life in prison for involvement in at least 20 killings. The Moscow City Court judge said 46-year old Sergei Butorin posed a grave danger to society and should be incarcerated for the rest of his life.

ITAR-Tass news agency quoted the judge as ruling Butorin had been behind 20 murders and nine attempted killings.

Butorin headed the Orekhovskaya gang, an organized criminal group that reached the height of its powers in Moscow in the 1990s. He was arrested by Spanish authorities in 2001 on charges of trading in illegal weapons and extradited to Russia last year.

Russian criminal groups flourished in the chaotic years that followed the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

One of Butorin's best-known victims was Alexander Solonik, who came to prominence in the early 1990s for a string of contract killings and the fatal shooting of four policemen. Solonik fled a Moscow penitentiary in 1995, but his dismembered remains were found in a forest outside the Greek capital, Athens, two years later.

Butorin's bodyguard, Marat Polyansky, was also sentenced to a 17-year jail sentence Tuesday.

Butorin is believed to have risen to the top of the Orekhovskaya gang after the murder in 1994 of founder Sergei Timofeyev. Prosecutors say Butorin assembled former special services officers and athletes to form a group of killers. It is a common practice across the former Soviet Union for criminal organizations to draw on martial arts fighters to fill their ranks.

The Orekhovskaya gang made its money from protection rackets, and prosecutors said it was common for gang leaders to kill fellow members in whom they had lost trust.

Russia media reported that Butorin had undergone plastic surgery and organized his own funeral in Moscow in order to elude arrest.
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