Palace frenzy and other frills of Leonid Markelov
A CrimeRussia source states that during the searches, original pieces of art sought by the police and a lifetime edition of poems by Aleksander Pushkin with an author’s autograph were found in one of the apartments belonging to the ex-Head of the Mari El Republic.
Every three hours, small gates open on a balcony on the third floor of a palace on Kokshaga River quay, and Jesus riding a donkey appears accompanied by the disciples. Bells are ringing and a copy of the Spasskaya tower clock chimes. This architectural masterpiece is the main pride of Leonid Markelov, ex-Head of the Mari El Republic. Various copies of architectural monuments, not only Russian but also foreign ones, have been randomly erected in the city center. Tourists are surprised, while the residents of Yoshkar-Ola outraged. A few meters from the ‘palace quay’, the unpleasant reality of the city begins: barracks, pits and bumps, dirt, and poverty.
Jesus riding the donkey and the 12 disciples on the tower clock in Yoshkar-Ola
The opposition had repeatedly accused Markelov of spending public money on this weird ‘ensemble’. Leonid Markelov had always testily responded that it was constructed on private investments – although he never provided the names of benefactors. Perhaps, because they never existed?
“Why build a Kremlin in Yoshkar-Ola?” – visiting journalists had asked Markelov. “Because my subordinates wanted so. They enjoy working in the Kremlin...” – Markelov responded once.
In fact, the truth is in the architectural details. The copies of architectural masterpieces have been built not according to a standard design but based on personal preferences of the eccentric ex-Head of the Republic. Therefore, their real cost can’t be tracked.
Gates of the ‘Yoshkar-Ola Kremlin’ with a family crest
Leonid Markelov, a former Head of the Mari El Republic, used to live in an apartment building surrounded by the castellation walls of the Kremlin. This building looks like a castle and is sheltered from prying eyes by gates decorated by the family crest of ‘Leonid the Magnificent’. This is how the local people have nicknamed the former Head of the Republic. There were other nicknames as well, for example, ‘Lemon’. Apparently, the residents were comparing Markelov with Prince Lemon from Cipollino fairy tale by Gianni Rodari. In fact, Markelov had behaved similarly with this fictional character while being confronted by journalists asking inconvenient questions about revenues and assets of his relatives. Leonid Markelov owns an apartment worth almost 30 million rubles ($534.8 thousand) in the building with gates and family crest. In one of his last interviews, the ex-Head of Mari El claimed that he has built the mansion at his own expense. According to his tax declaration, Markelov has earned 3.138 million rubles ($55.9 thousand) in 2015, so the question is: where is the money from? In addition to the palace on the quay, the ex-Head of the Republic owns several apartments in Yoshkar-Ola and Moscow – although officially these properties belong to his relatives and children.
Markelov’s family crest
Recently Markelov stopped denying that his ex-wife had assets bringing billion-ruble ($17.8 million) revenues. In one of the last interviews, he has openly stated that Irina Markelova was the owner of several companies, and after the divorce, he had to control those “because people must receive salary, it is not their fault”. In fact, all businesses belonging to the ex-wife have been transferred to stepmother of the ex-Head of Mari El Tatiana Markelova, born in 1945. All the palace frenzy erected in Yoshkar-Ola belongs to the Markelov family.
Irina Markelova, née Starygina, is a graduate of the Glushkov Orshansk Teachers College and Faculty of International Affairs of the Mari State University. She is the founder of the following companies: Mariisky Tsement (Mari Concrete) Limited Liability Company, KChK Limited Liability Company, MNVK (Mari Independent Broadcasting Corporation) Limited Liability Company owning Evropa Plus Yoshkar-Ola Closed Joint Stock Company, and Iyun’ 2006 (June 2006) Limited Liability Company – the founder of 12 Region TV Company Limited Liability Company, which is the founder of Puls-Radio Closed Joint Stock Company. Later these companies have been transferred to the stepmother together with Chukshinsky Kar’er (Chukshinsky Quarry) Limited Liability Company, Voskresensky Park Limited Liability Company, and Kardinal (Cardinal) Limited Liability Company.
Media estimate the wealth of the ex-Head of Mari El at 500 million rubles ($8.9 million). In fact, at a conservative estimate, the empire belonging to the Markelov family brings annual revenues totaling 1 billion rubles ($17.8 million), while the real cost of the assets is some 10 billion rubles ($178.3 million). For example, 12 Region TV Company – the largest financial and development holding previously owned by Irina Markelova and then transferred to Tatiana Markelova, stepmother of Leonid Markelov, ex-Head of the Republic – acquires or leases lands for elite housing construction in the center of Yoshkar-Ola for next to nothing .
According to the records of auctions of rights to lease lands in Yoshkar-Ola carried out by the Committee for Municipal Property Management, the lands were provided to the Markelov family at ridiculously low prices. The same legal entity – 12 Region TV Company Limited Liability Company – is mentioned in all the documents; its head is also a suspect in the ‘Markelov case’.
12 Region TV Company easily wins all the auctions due to the lack of competition at the market. Apparently, there is a conspiracy of officials. Who would decline a request from the Head of the Republic? Who would dare to question the legitimacy of the deal? For example, in March 2015, an auction of the right to lease a land lot with the area of 7,976 square meters for five years at the price of 148.36 rubles ($2.64) per square meter was carried out. The Yoshkar-Ola Committee for Municipal Property Management had leased an elite piece of land on Uspenskaya street to the stepmother of Markelov at a price 30 times lower than the market rates. Furthermore, all the lands for elite housing construction were already prepared for development, including utility lines in place.
Markelov’s residence in the center of Yoshkar-Ola
It is also necessary to note that all the palaces and residential complexes erected on Obolenskogo-Nogotkova square, Malaya Kokshaga quay, Voskresensky avenue, and Chaivana boulevard have been leased out for 700–1000 rubles ($12.5–17.8) per square meter. Leonid Markelov liked to walk along the quay and ‘count his assets’. According to people close to the ex-Head of the Republic, during these ‘hiking tours’, Markelov had visited the tenants once a month and personally collected rent, thus, assisting his stepmother in her business.
Mari El officials enjoy working in the Kremlin built by Markelov’s stepmother
But in February 2016, the company belonging to the stepmother of the Head of Mari El suddenly started selling out its assets at pretty high prices. For example, the cost of 1 square meter in an elite residential building on Leninsky avenue was 70–100 thousand rubles ($1.2–1.8 thousand), while the cost of 1 square meter of living space in a newly-built complex at the intersection of Mashinostroiteley street and Leninsky avenue had reached 120 thousand rubles ($2.1 thousand).
The construction of elite new housing under control of Markelov and 12 Region TV Company is still ongoing in Yoshkar-Ola. At a conservative estimate, the total value of elite real estate in the center of the city owned by Markelov via his stepmother Tatiana Markelova is some 10 billion rubles ($178.3 million). In addition to seizing the residential construction market, the Markelov family was actively involved into quarry development and investments into securities; they also owned a small TV company broadcasting Markelov’s speeches about multibillion investments attracted into the republic on a monthly basis.
Elite hotel belonging to the Markelov family
A CrimeRussia source in law enforcement structures states that during the searches, original pieces of art sought by the police and a lifetime edition of poems by Aleksander Pushkin with an author’s autograph were found in one of the apartments belonging to Markelov. Currently the investigators are collecting information on all the assets of the ex-Head of Mari El and verifying the origin of money spent on their acquisition. They are also checking how the stolen paintings of high artistic value could end up in the residence of Markelov. Should it be confirmed that the real estate was purchased on bribes, it is to be confiscated.