Kremlin-backed Abkhazia anticipates Moscow’s demand to extradite Astamur Butba and Nugzar Papava, two men recently charged by Russian authorities in absentia in the 2009 murder case. The victim was a notorious Russian crime boss, Vyacheslav Yvankov, better known under his criminal alias “Yaponchik.”
The Investigative Committee of Russia stated on January 19 that the two suspects sought shelter in the occupied region following the murder, and added that they are working to send extradition demand to Sokhumi. Both Butba and Papava have dual citizenship – that of Russia and of Abkhazia.
According to the Russian investigation, Butba, an ethnic Abkhaz, fired the shot from a sniper rifle at Ivankov. An ethnic Georgian, Papava was an accomplice. He was also present at the crime scene, in a getaway car.
Abkhaz ‘prosecutor’s office’ confirmed a day after the Russian agency’s statement, that they received the request from Moscow and are looking into the matter. But Abkhaz ‘prosecutor’s office’ stressed, that this won’t lead to extradition, since the Abkhaz laws prohibit handing over its citizens to a foreign state for criminal prosecution.
Instead, the office argued, in accordance with Sokhumi’s deal with Moscow, Butba and Papava may be tried in Abkhazia, based on evidence submitted by the Russian authorities.
Papava is also charged in Abkhazia with extortion, in a separate case of the abduction of Omar Mirtskhulava in Sokhumi district in April 2019. Sokhumi ‘court’ in October 2020 eased his measure of restraint from detention to house arrest. The Abkhaz ‘prosecutor’s office’ completed the preliminary investigation in December 2020 and the trial is to be scheduled.
Russian media reported that Ivankov’s murder was part of a gang war between his associate Georgia-born Aslan Usoyan, better known as Ded Hasan or Grandpa (killed in Moscow in 2013), and ethnic Georgian crime boss Tariel Oniani.