Criminal lord Vorozhtsov murdered for garrulity?
In June 2016 a surprise news shocked St. Petersburg: criminal lord Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov, bandit and murderer of policemen, suddenly died in a transit prison in Yugra. The sudden death immediately caused rumors. Was Vorozhtsov killed to prevent his testimony in court?
Nightmare of casinos
In summer 2010, criminal activities of Vorozhtsov’s gang instantly became the main headache for St. Petersburg police. A non-departmental security service patrol was gunned down. Police officers Dmitry Voronin and Vladimir Krutov were shot when they decided to check a suspicious car.
It was quickly determined that the murderers of police are professional criminals and members of a major gang whose boss was Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov. Eight, out of the nine, gang members were arrested the same summer. In August law enforcement authorities detained Vorozhtsov, Mikhail Batashev, Boris Makedon, Dmitry Pritula, Ekaterina Romanova, Roman Filatov, and Irina Danilova (common-law wife of Vorozhtsov). Businessman Dmitry Sidorov was arrested on suspicion of being an accomplice to gang operations. Only Vyacheslav Parushenkov managed to escape. He was on the wanted list until June 2016.
After the arrest, the investigation found out that the armed gang is responsible for numerous raids on slot-machine parlors; it was persistent, well-organized, and operated since 2009. It was them who robbed Paritet illegal gambling club on Industrialny prospect in St. Petersburg in December 2009. That time, the criminals got 611 thousand rubles. Later the investigation discovered that many illegal gambling clubs preferred to keep silence about the gang operations. It was safer for them to accept the loss of money rather than to go to law enforcement authorities.
The gang operations were well-coordinated because there were almost no ‘novices’ among them. Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov himself was on parole; he had one outstanding conviction for murder and another conviction for robbery. Dmitry Pritula had earlier served a term for armed assaults. Roman Filatov was on the wanted list for a violent crime. Irina Danilova, Vorozhtsov’s comrade-in-arms, was also on the wanted list for fraud.
The gang arsenal seized by the investigators included not only pistols and rounds to them, but also two grenade launchers masks, and radios. Their "record" included six successful raids on slot-machine parlors, armed assaults and, as it was found later, three attempted homicides.
On August 4, 2010, when the gangsters were going to rob another gambling club located at 27 Industrialny prospect, they did not plan to kill police officers. Following the scheme, Vorozhtsov, Batashev, and Danilova arrived to the "scene". Danilova acted as a "finger": she was entering the club, examining its security, and then reported to the partners. Then the criminals were putting on masks and starting "the job". This ill-fated day everything went wrong.
Danilova left, and Batashev and Vorozhtsov were waiting for her. Weapons and masks were hidden in Irina’s purse. A non-departmental security service patrol was driving by, and a car with two men inside seemed suspicious to the officers. The policemen suggested that the men are robbers: there was a woman’s purse, but no woman. When a police officer asked to show what’s inside the purse, the bandits lost their nerves. Batashev and Vorozhtsov attacked the policemen, beat them up, handcuffed, and seized pistols and radios. In fact, they had no reason to murder the officers.
Later Batashev will tell the investigators that it was a coincidence. He yelled: “Bugger off!” to Vorozhtsov – and Vyacheslav shot in officers’ heads without a moment's hesitation. Batashev meant: “running away”, but was misunderstood. The investigation ruled this out as an empty talk: it was easier for the bandits to kill the unwitting witnesses, especially taking that murder was not something new for Vorozhtsov. Dmitry Voronin, a 25-year old police sergeant, died, while Vladimir Krutov, his 26-year old colleague, survived by a miracle but became incapacitated.
It was difficult to find witnesses of this crime – although there must be many of them: the murder occurred in broad daylight, near a residential building. But nobody rushed to help the officers; people called ambulance and police only after the bandits have fled the scene.
It took the investigation three years to put together all the evidence; the trial had lasted for almost 2 years (21 month). The defendants requested their case to be examined by a panel of jurors. But it took considerable time and effort to find jurors. Candidates were scared for their lives and mostly refused. When the panel was finally gathered, it turned out that the court has to work almost without substitute judges. This circumstance has delayed the complicated trial even more. The question sheet for the panel of jurors included 230 questions. In this regard, Vorozhtsov’s gang surpassed the gang of Borovikov–Voevodin, where the jurors had to answer 200 questions.
Let the women go
The trial of the group headed by Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov was complicated and scandalous. Defense attorneys were leaking to media inadequate information about court sessions. For instance, they claimed that some defendants started making confessions right away – while the court hasn’t even started questioning by that time. Judge Olga Nechaeva had to postpone hearings several times due to jurors’ illnesses.
Judge Olga Nechaeva specializes in complicated and difficult criminal cases. She handled the case of Andrey Malyugin, a member of the gang of Borovikov–Voevodin; chaired the trial of Agaron Galstyan, a taxi driver and poisoner, who killed more than 7 people; and sentenced a gang of former Federal Bailiff Service Special Forces operatives who used to rob and rape women in St. Petersburg massage parlors. In 2011 relatives of suspect Ara Arutyunian threatened to kill the judge during the sentencing and attempted to burst into the jury room. A criminal case was initiated due to this incident under Article 296 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (threat in relation to administration of justice). The judge remained under the state protection for several months.
During the trial, Vorozhtsov was polite and steady, as befits a true criminal lord. In his final statement he admitted full guilt on all crimes incriminated to him, denied nothing, and only asked the judges: “Let the women go. Release them. Do whatever you want with me”. According to the court audience, Vorozhtsov had full understanding of his fate and was not upset. His concern about the women was in line with the criminal ‘code of conduct’. Especially taking that by the end of the process, his common-law partner gave birth to his second child and was bringing the toddler to the court room to let the father see him – even from the cage. People in the court were openly saying that the lady brings the baby on purpose, to move the panel of jurors to pity.
It took jurors the morning, the whole day, and even a portion of the night to reach a verdict. The announcement of the verdict has also taken a whole day and evening. Vorozhtsov, Batashev, Makedon, Pritula, and Filatov were found guilty of armed assaults on a number of gambling establishments; Sidorov was found guilty of preparations for the assaults; Romanova and Danilova – guilty of complicity in the assaults. Vorozhtsov and Batashev were also found guilty of assault on police officers Voronin and Krutov. The jurors decided that they don’t deserve leniency. During the second debates, after the verdict announcement, state prosecutor Natalia Tsepkalo asked the court to sentence Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov and Mikhail Batashev to 23 and 19 years in a maximum security penal colony for the totality of the crimes committed.
Ultimately, judge Olga Nechaeva sentenced Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov to 21 year and 6 months behind bars, Mikhail Batashev – to 17 years, Dmitry Sidorov – to 11 years, Dmitry Pritula – to 13 years, Roman Filatov – to 14 years, and Boris Makedon – to 11 years. Ekaterina Romanova and Irina Danilova received conditional terms of two and three years. In addition, families of the slain police officers recovered 1 million rubles each from Vorozhtsov in compensation for moral damages.
Death and "Los" (Moose)
It is necessary to note that Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov was the only defendant who did not attempt to appeal his sentence in the Superior Court.
According to rumors, in spring he was supposed to appear in the St. Petersburg City Court to give testimony at the trial of the gang of Alexander "Los" (Moose) Kuriakov. Apparently, the insolent and rude member of "Tambovskie" gang got personal disapproval from Vladimir Barsukov-Kumarin aka ‘Kum’. After some Kuriakov’s actions, "Kum" allegedly said that he can not call himself a member of "Tambovskie" gang anymore. After serving his second term for murder, Kuriakov was released on parole and joined "Kudryashevskie" gang.
The gang of Alexander Kuriakov included 14 people. According to the law enforcement authorities, in the period of 1994–2012, gang members committed seven murders and seven drug-related crimes. The Federal Security Service (FSB) and Federal Drug Control Service of the Russian Federation were hunting for him. Kuriakov got his first conviction for a petty theft; in 1995 he was arrested for murder. In 2000 was sentenced to 11 years behind bars. At the time of arrest, pretended to be the brigadier of "Tambovskie" gang. In 2002 was released on parole. Arrested again in 2012 on 5 murder charges. In addition, today Alexander Kuriakov is the only defendant in Russia charged under part 4 of Article 210 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (creation of a criminal society by a person having a top rank in the criminal hierarchy).
Today, in addition to murders and creation of a criminal society, "Los" and his accomplices are charged with banditism, illegal turnover of drugs, and other serious crimes. It is unknown what criminal episode Vyacheslav Vorozhtsov was supposed to testify about. On April 12, 2016 he was transferred to Yugra and a few days later found dead in his cell. According to the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia, “no foul play signs were found”. Allegedly, Vorozhtsov died from aortic aneurysm rupture. However, the unofficial information is different. According to one version, he had a dispute with a fellow-inmate who killed him. Another version, popular in St. Petersburg, says that associates of "Los" did their best to ensure that Vorozhtsov never appears in court. His death became known only in June 2016. Irina Danilova has already buried her common-law husband.
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