Johan Edfors, Marcello Santi, Pehr Magnebrant, Steven O'Hara, Gianluca Baruffaldi, Mark Davis, Christophe Pottier, Jean Louis Guepy and Joakim Rask finished one shot off the lead at 5-under-par 67.
Vanhootegem braved the damp conditions that delayed play for two hours at the start of the day at Le Meridien Moscow Golf & Country and picked up a birdie at the par-3 11th, his second. He found trouble with a bogey at the 15th but managed to recover with a birdie at the 17th.
Around the turn, the 30-year-old ran off three consecutive birdies starting at the par-5 second.
Vanhootegem stumbled with a bogey at the sixth but responded at the very next hole when his second shot at the par-4 seventh found the bottom of the cup for an eagle. He then added a birdie at the ninth to secure the first- round lead.
'I'm really pleased with how I played,' said Vanhootegem. 'My back nine was especially good, which was the front nine today but I came back in 5-under and finally holed some putts. I had two good birdie putts on par-5s.'
So far in 2003, Vanhootegem's best finish on the European Tour was a tie for 18th at The Diageo Championship at Gleneagles.
'This year I've actually played really well but putted badly,' said Vanhootegem. 'Now I'm trying to putt with a bit more feeling. I had been concentrating too much on the line of my putts and just being a bit too tense over the ball. Now I'm trying to keep it a bit more loose and putt with a bit more freedom.'
Oskar Bergman, Thomas Besancenez, Marcus Fraser, Michael Archer, Jesus Maria Arruti, Jose Manuel Carriles, David Orr, Mattias Eliasson, Robert Rock, Marco Bernardini, David Ryles and Martin Wiegele share 11th place at 4-under-par 68.
European Tour veteran Andrew Coltart collected five birdies and two bogeys to finish in a group at 3-under-par 69 that includes Mark Pilkington and Ian Garbutt.
'I played lovely,' said Coltart. 'I played really nice despite leaving a couple of shots out there but we'll take that because of the conditions and the wetness underfoot as well as the delay this morning.'
This event features players from the European Tour and the Challenge Tour. This is the tournament's first year on the European Tour.