Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Police Hunt For Escaped Suspected Crime Boss

Moscow police are out in force looking for a former rugby player they say is an organized crime boss who led a band of former athletes linked to at least 10 murders.

Dmitry Rozhkov, 28, escaped from police Sept. 17. He was immediately placed on the all-Russian most wanted list and made the target of a federal law enforcement search.

Rozhkov had been showing investigators a site where he said he had killed Oleg Bolotov, a former police officer, in late 1997, said Alexei Kutilin, a spokesman for the Moscow anti-organized crime department.

After Rozhkov had described the shooting of Bolotov f who was fired from the police over alleged connections to organized crime, Kommersant Daily newspaper reported f he and investigators began to ride back to the Butyrsk prison where Rozhkov was being held, Kutilin said. Suddenly Rozhkov told the investigators that he had remembered another crime he had committed not far away, on Ulitsa Miklukho-Maklaya, Kutilin said.

Officers stopped at Miklukho-Maklaya and left the police jeep to examine the site Rozhkov had indicated, leaving Rozhkov behind in handcuffs and with a driver to guard him. But there was no shield separating the front and back seats, and Rozhkov managed to overpower the driver and flee on foot, Kutilin said.

"[Rozhkov] is a great athlete," said Alexander Rakitin, who as deputy prosecutor of Khimki in the Moscow region investigated two murders linked to Rozhkov.

Rakitin said that in the murders that he investigated, Rozhkov acted alone, used different caliber handguns to shoot his victims and then ran away on foot, sometimes covering great distances.

"In one of the murders, he simply ran away after shooting his target five times," Rakitin said. "In the other murder, there was a car waiting for him, but he still had to run to it for a long time."

Rozhkov and a group police say he first organized in 1993 are suspected of at least 10 murders and at least 10 robberies. They are being investigated by the Prosecutor General's office, but a spokesman for the prosecutor refused to comment on the case.

From the first arrests, information about Rozhkov and his group was considered highly sensitive, said Andrei Pashkevich, a spokesman for the Moscow regional organized crime department, also known as RUOP.

Rozhkov's escape is thus something of an embarrassment, and RUOP and the Moscow police department took to blaming each other. "He ran away from RUOP," said Vladimir Zubkov, a spokesman for the Moscow police.

"Normally, when a criminal is escorted f even when they are sitting in a hallway f a guard follows him around, and the two are handcuffed together."

RUOP's spokesman denied that his agency was accompanying Rozhkov.

"This looks like somebody [else's] mistake," Zubkov said. "And since the issue is who made it, no one is going to say anything."

Rozhkov and all but one other member of his gang f Roman Babakhanov f were arrested in August, Kutilin said.