Execution in 1990s style: assassination of famous restaurateur and cheese maker 

Execution in 1990s style: assassination of famous restaurateur and cheese maker
Photo: The CrimeRussia

Law enforcement agencies are looking for businessman and gangster from the 90s, Yury Biryuchenko aka Tankist. After 17 years, security forces once again put on the wanted list a member of the hitmen’s gang that shot deputy Galina Starovoytova. This time, for contract murder.

Grave under the aspen 

Sculptor and famous restaurateur Mikhail Dolgopolov went missing on April 18, 2019. The very next day, the Investigative Committee opened a case into his murder, because the security officials had no doubts that a crime had been committed. Traces of blood and a bullet in the wall was found in the country house in the Leningrad region, where Dolgopolov lived. Back then, in April, three residents of Veliky Novgorod – Sergey Kim, Andrey Vasilyev, and Vadim Obysov – were detained on suspicion of involvement in the crime. They were direct executors of murder. Their 54-year-old accomplice from St. Petersburg, Vladimir Ganin, was also detained.

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The first active search measures revealed the originality of this criminal case. The house in the village of Vaya, Gatchinsky district, where the sculptor’s phone was recorded for the last time, was registered in the name of a dummy person. The car registration number indicated by his neighbors was also fake. It became clear that the murder of entrepreneur Dolgopolov was commissioned.


Mikhail Dolgopolov graduated from the Russian Academy of Painting. He lived and worked in Moscow for a long time. He was engaged in sculpture, advertising, finance. Then he opened the Che cafe club in St. Petersburg and his own gallery-studio on the Kuznetsky bridge. In 2017, he set up the production of brie, camembert, and other cheeses in St. Petersburg. In the spring of 2018, he opened his first cheese shop on 9-ya Sovetskaya Street in St. Petersburg. The restaurant-museum Sculptors was considered his masterpiece. His series of work entitled Mishki adorns the lobby of the Angleterre and Astoria hotels.

According to the investigation, the crime took place as follows: one of the accused men took the restaurateur (in a Ford Mondeo with fake numbers specially bought for this purpose) to a rented cottage under a far-fetched pretext. Two murderers awaited the victim. Mikhail Dolgopolov was killed by a headshot. After that, the criminals covered up their tracks and got rid of the evidence. They the dead man’s body to the Novgorod region, where they buried it in the forest under an aspen.


A house where Dolgopolov was killed

Despite the fact that the investigation was actively looking into the crime, it was not immediately possible to track down the customer of this high-profile murder. However, September 23, the investigation was onto him. The form of murder (they put him up against the wall and shot him in the back of the head) and the way the crime was arranged left no doubt: there was a person who had a special criminal style.


Investigators named him right away. It turned out to be crime lord Yury Biryuchenko, better known as Tankist, who was a member of the gang led by infamous Vladimir Borisov aka Praporshchik.

Money and Principles

Yury Biryuchenko is currently on the run. Some sources say he started in Ukraine and then moved to Poland and Europe, maybe even to some islands, where long reach of the Investigative Committee will not get him.

In 2002, he and another member of the hitmen’s gang, Viktor Kudryashov, had already been returned to the hands of the Russian Themis from Prague. They were suspected of involvement in a number of serious crimes, one of which was the murder of Galina Starovoytova.


Yury Biryuchenko

This unsolved murder is still weighing on the conscience of the investigation and the FSB. Extraditing Biryuchenko from Prague, the investigation hoped to confirm that it was he who shot Starovoytova in November 1998, and Kudryashov backed him up disguised as a woman.

Suspicions of the investigation were justified. It was Biryuchenko-Tankist who owned a unique weapon, namely, a submachine gun Agran-2000. One of those was used to shot Starovoytova to death, and the other belonged to him.



The fate of Borisov’s gang is noteworthy. For many years, an operational investigative unit was gathering evidence of their involvement in many bombings, executions, and killings. In 2000, the prosecutor’s office of the Central District of St. Petersburg managed to complete the investigation and refer the criminal case of the criminal group led by Praporshchik to the court. His gang, consisting mainly of former soldiers, committed contract killings and extortion and was considered one of the most dangerous in the city. They were distinguished by excellent preparation and subtle artistry.

Their long list of assassination attempts included the alliesof crime lord Aleksandr Anisimov (Akula), Razzuvaylo, and Los’. One was wounded by a bandit who was disguised as a homeless person, and the other was blown up in a car on the Neva embankment. Los’ got lucky. The bomb was not very powerful, and he survived. He testified against Biryuchenko and everyone else who could be involved in the assassination attempt. Prosecutor's office Senior Investigator Vadim Pozdnyak, who was in charge of the investigative team, believed that the assassination was a consequence of Praporshchik’s ingratitude, because he got to the top thanks to Akula's patronage. By 1998, under his leadership, Borisov’s brigade turned into an organized crime group with its team of hitmen and dozens of controlled enterprises throughout the North-West.


Los' (on the left)

The murders were carefully prepared. Killers used a wide variety of weapons, from TT pistols and Dragunov sniper rifles to improvised explosive devices made of plastic. The services of Biryuchenko's hitmen were a costly affair. At the time, the price of their “work” was around $200–500. For the murder of a famous person, they were paid $2 thousand. The hitmen gang of Yury Shutov received half as much.


Yury Biryuchenko is a former military, who served in a tank battalion at the Kamenka training ground near Vyborg. He committed his first crime as a cadet in the 1980s. He tried to crush a soldier with a tank. In the 90s, as a captain, he shot a soldier who was rude at him in a military canteen. To conceal the scandal, he was declared insane and sent to a psychiatric hospital. After being released in 1994, he joined Borisov’s gang. In 2002, he was extradited from Prague, and in 2008, he left the colony and went into business.

A clear hierarchy, like in the army, with strict submission - that was what distinguished it. For failing, a member of the OCG could be deprived of their “salary,” and for serious misconduct, they could be killed. It was these concepts that Biryuchenko was guided by when he decided to order a hit of the sculptor, creator and restaurateur Mikhail Dolgopolov. He was too far from appreciating art.

Borisov’s gang was not put in jail in the 2000s, although investigators detained those who had fled from under Pskov, Novgorod, Rostov, and Vologda. On December 4, 2001, 11 gang members were released on their own recognizance. Deputy Prosecutor of the city, Boris Salmaksov, quite unexpectedly withdrew the request for their confinement. Back then, people talked a lot about bribes and patrons from the FSB and among the military. But there is no escaping the fact that the long-term work of operatives went down the drain.

Debts and art

Businessman and art person Mikhail Dolgopolov was open to creativity and everything new in art and restaurant business. He resided in St. Petersburg and Moscow. He combined the activities of a restaurateur, sculptor, and interior designer. At the time of his death, he was creative director of MMD (Modern Mental Design), which was founded in Russia by two Italians – Cristiano Cheretti and Marco Morosini. The company specialized in the production of exclusive furniture and design art objects. The Italians were widely known in Europe and worked with many fashion houses in Paris and London. Their products were intended for interior decoration of hotels, expensive restaurants, art spaces, galleries, and houses of oligarchs.


In addition to art, Mikhail was engaged in business – he launched several successful restaurants and a network of cheese factories. In the spring of 2018, he opened the first cheese shop on the corner of Grechesky Lane and 9-ya Sovetskaya Street, and then another one on Belinsky Street. Here you could buy a product and taste it by going to the bar-room next door, where the appropriate wine was served to the fondue, raclette, and cheese plate. It was expensive, tasty, luxury, and prestigious. But above all, expensive for the restaurateur himself. In order to launch a line of elite cheeses, not only expensive foreign equipment was required, but also appropriate specialists. As restaurant critics commented the launch of this cheese shop in St. Petersburg, Mikhail Dolgopolov spared no expense and invited cheese sommeliers from France. Rumor has it their salary was tens of thousands of euros.


Little is known about where the restaurateur took such large amounts of money to promote his business. But it is known that he did not use bank loans, but took money at interest from certain “respected” people, one of whom was Yury Biryuchenko. The investigation is to find out how two such different people – a sculptor and a bandit – hurled together. As of today, it is known that following the old commandments of Praporshchik’s gang, Biryuchenko paid three killers $50 thousand for the murder of Dolgopolov. The amount of debt is said to be several million.



Tankist is currently on the run. He is changing places of stay and passports like a woman changes clothes. However, according to sources, if law enforcement bodies do not get him, crime lord Los’ will do it. On November 15, 2018, he and his accomplices got a acquittal at the St. Petersburg City Court. The court found Los’ and his brother guilty of only one episode of drug sale and sentenced them to 9 years in prison. The investigation in the case took 4 years, and the trial lasted for 3.5 years. Due to this, Los’ will soon be released. But, according to rumors, in 2011, he was under investigation and trial due to the fact that Biryuchenko’s people disclosed some facts to someone as a payment for the last communication of Los’ with the security forces. Now it is time for Los’ to act. 



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