Fake citizenship and access to state secrets. Former Ukrainian officials get supreme posts in Crimea
More and more questions arise with regards to the staffing policy of the Crimean authorities. This summer, Roman Podsudevsky has been appointed in charge of the Yalta Commercial Port – a strategic objective. The former Ukrainian border guard officer wanted at home for divulgence of state secrets and corruption easily gained the Russian citizenship and made a successful career in Crimea. In March 2017, he was a senior security specialist in Genbank; in the same period, he attempted to become the Head of Shchelkino Municipal Administration but lost in the competition; and since December 2017, Podsudevsky became an aide to Sergei Aksenov. The CrimeRussia was figuring out how former Ukrainian enforcement officers and officials become supreme functionaries in Crimea.
‘Valuable Ukrainian’ in charge of a restricted access facility in Yalta
Roman Podsudevsky used to serve in the Ukrainian border guard since 2003 and arrived to Russian Crimea only in 2015. In 2012–2014, during the ‘Crimean spring', he was a Ukrainian border guard officer and served in the Border Control Department of Izmail Border Guard Detachment (Odessa region). In March–April 2015, Podsudevsky was at the disposal of the Head of the Southern Regional Border Guard Administration of Ukraine. On the other hand, the Crimean Government claims that Podsudevsky has arrived to Russian Crimea back in January 2015 due to the political situation in Ukraine. According to the media, in April 2015, Podsudevsky was stripped from the major's rank in Ukraine, demoted to a private, and discharged to the reserve through disciplinary action.
According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of Ukraine, Roman Vladimirovich Podsudevsky has been on the wanted list since May 2014 on suspicion of committing crimes stipulated in part 3 of Article 368 (receipt of improper advantage by an official), part 1 of Article 328 (disclosure of a state secret), and part 1 of Article 408 (desertion) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.
According to the official web site of the Ukrainian MIA, Podsudevsky has been in hiding since May 2014
The situation looks really weird: a Ukrainian border guard officer put on the wanted list in May 2014 gets an excerpt from the discharge order in May 2015 – but somehow arrives to Crimea in January 2015 to be appointed to senior posts soon.
Details of charges laid against Podsudevsky in Ukraine remain unknown. According to The CrimeRussia sources, he had disclosed state secrets for money – allegedly, Podsudevsky provided classified operative documents to businessmen charged with smuggling. With regards to the improper advantage, he is suspected of bribe-taking on an especially large scale.
Upon arrival to Crimea, Podsudevsky assured journalists that he possesses all the papers required to join the civil service, including a letter confirming his discharge from the Ukrainian border guard service. He also claims that he has received Russian citizenship in 2015 – although in May 2015, he was just discharged to reserve in Ukraine. How could Podsudevsky receive a Russian passport so promptly? It is not a secret that many Crimea residents are still camping on the doorstep of the Federal Migration Service.
A former Ukrainian border guard officer promptly received Russian citizenship in Crimea
According to Sevastopol-based ForPost (Sevastopol.su) Internet portal, "Aleksei Chelpanov, a friend of Podsudevsky and Head of the Yalta Municipal Administration, could help him to settle in Crimea. Prior to the reintegration of Crimea, Chelpanov had worked in Ukrainian special services and then became an advisor to Sergei Aksenov. The Press Service of the Head of the Republic of Crimea was unable to specify when and how was Podsudevsky appointed an aide to Aksenov – but assured that Sergei Aksenov is aware of his qualification requirements and noted that all candidates undergo a thorough check prior to the entry on duty".
Podsudevsky confirmed to the ForPost journalist that he is wanted in Ukraine and emphasized that he was put on the wanted list “similarly with all other Ukrainian military men in Crimea – just for coming and staying there”.
Large family of Sergei Aksenov
Retired colonel Aleksei Chelpanov is a native of Simferopol; he was appointed the Yalta Mayor on May 11, 2018, after the arrest of his predecessor Andrei Rostenko charged with exceedance of official powers.
According to his official biography, in 2006–2014, Chelpanov had served in Ukrainian state protection services and ensured the security of power brokers in Kiev. Then he has transferred to the Federal Protection Service of Russia. Since 2016, Chelpanov has been an aide to the Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea. His appointment the Yalta Mayor was closely monitored by Dmitry Polonsky, Vice Premier of Crimea supervising the internal policy; Valery Kovalenko, Head of the Parliamentarian Committee for Economic, Budget, Financial, and Tax Policies; and Valery Kosarev, an advisor to the Speaker of the Crimean State Council (Parliament).
According to Crimean public activists, “Chelpanov is going to become an intermediary for the family of Aksenov in the Yalta Primorsky Beach Improvement Project including the construction of multifunctional complexes. Evgenia Dobrynya, a Deputy of the Crimean State Council and sister of Aksenov’s wife, is in charge of this project.
Rosgranitsa not locked down?
It is necessary to note that all persons joining the civil service in Crimea are subject to a thorough check. Their papers are verified in the Anti-Corruption Committee, HR Department, and other structural subdivisions of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea. This procedure is supposed to be mandatory for everybody. But apparently, some exceptions are still possible. In April 2018, the MIA and Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation have found out that the Russian citizenship granted to Dnepropetrovsk businessman Maksim Balatsky in Crimea is illegal. In 2015, he became the Head of the Crimean Territorial Administration of the Federal Agency for State Border Infrastructure Development (Rosgranitsa) and in summer 2016, was appointed a Deputy Minister of Internal Policy, Information, and Communication of the Republic of Crimea by a personal order of Sergei Aksenov. These governmental positions give access to numerous state and departmental secrets.
The investigation has identified numerous frauds committed by Balatsky in order to receive a Russian passport; in April 2018, the Alushta City Court has established the illegitimacy of his Russian citizenship. The decision has been made following a claim filed by the MIA for the Republic of Crimea. In addition, the FSB accused the official of using knowingly false documents because the building indicated as the place of his permanent residence in Crimea was not residential. The Directorate for the Republic of Crimea of the FSB has charged Balatsky under part 3 of Article 327 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (use of a knowingly forged document).
Maksim Balatsky in court
Maksim Balatsky has filed an appeal with the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea – and the verdict delivered by the Alushta City Court was suddenly annulled. The arguments presented to the judges remain unknown because the hearing was held behind closed doors.
A business partner of Balatsky – Nikolai Bibik, judge of the Babushkinsky District Court of Dnepropetrovsk – has also relocated to Crimea. He was put on the wanted list in Ukraine, but somehow managed to cross the Crimean border in 2015 and received a Russian passport at a record pace – in one month only.
Now Nikolai Bibik is in charge of a Rosgranitsa administration in Crimea and reports to Maksim Balatsky.
Nikolai Bibik was the Head of the Rosgranitsa Liquidation Commission and has access to state secrets
“Based on open sources, Dnepropetrovsk judge Bibik has delivered plenty of judgments in favor of Cyprus-based Hagworth Management Limited offshore company affiliated with Balatsky at that time. The company was the plaintiff in many lawsuits; it specialized in ‘seizing’ debts, apartments, and other assets. The amounts mentioned in these verdicts are huge – millions of dollars,” – claims Crimean human rights activist Aleksander Talipov.
Prosecutor with fake citizenship
Fraudulent legalization and subsequent appointment of former Ukrainian citizens to senior positions are pretty common in Crimea. For instance, the Russian passport of Aleksander Shkitov, Deputy Prosecutor of Simferopol, was revoked in September 2017 – his residential registration data and registration cards turned out to be non-existent. Shkitov received a Russian passport in late April 2014 in Sevastopol where he allegedly had a residential registration in the Balaklava district (although it is known that he was employed with the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine up until that time).
The inquest against Shkitov has been instituted for exceedance of his prosecutor's powers – he had issued warnings to Crimean film distributors prohibiting them from demonstrating Matilda movie.
“In the course of the inquest, the Crimean Prosecutor’s Office has initiated a repeat inquiry into the legitimacy of my citizenship. A response has come stating that my citizenship was received illegally, and I was terminated because a person without Russian citizenship cannot be a prosecution officer," – this is how Shkitov has explained the situation to the media. He also promised to appeal this verdict.
On June 8, 2018, it became known that the court has reinstated the Russian citizenship of Shkitov. However, the Russian passport hasn’t been returned to him pending the outcome of another inquest into the legitimacy of his Russian citizenship launched by the MIA Prosecutor for the City of Sevastopol.
Ex-Prosecutor Aleksander Shkitov
In other words, a prosecutor, who had gained Russian citizenship in a somewhat obscure way, used to prosecute Russian people in Russian Crimea for three years.
This makes one thinking of pervasive corruption and illegal issuance of Russian passports in Crimea.
The current situation emerged as a result of a number of factors. First, violations became possible amid the frenzy with provision of Crimean people with Russian passports – the officials were simply not ready to this. Second, the passportization campaign in Crimea had an internal legal conflict from the very beginning. The unclearly stipulated procedures made it possible to issue passports to people who hadn't resided in Crimea during the March 2014 referendum. Then the Russian authorities have understood that too many passports were issued. Currently it is virtually impossible to receive the citizenship in Crimea; in addition, commissions have been established to verify the legitimacy of documents issued during the mass passportization period.
Initially, the defendants in the case had been charged with embezzlement through swindling in the amount of 225 million rubles ($3.3 million). In the final version of the indictment, the article was changed to 1.5-billion-ruble ($22.45 million) embezzlement.