“Sun and Moon raise by command of Shestun”. What is currently going on in Serpukhov?
The initiative group for support of detained Aleksander Shestun still exists in the Serpukhov district, but its ranks are quickly depleting. The majority of his close associates have ‘given up’ scared by his prosecution. Local oligarch Igor Ermakov, current Chairman of the Serpukhov Council of Deputies, nominated by Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party intends to take charge over the Serpukhov district in September. The CrimeRussia checked on the former ‘domain’ of Shestun after his arrest – not so long ago, the district head had enjoyed absolute public trust there.
Aleksander Shestun, Head of the Serpukhov District, Moscow Region, has been arrested on June 13, 2018 by the Basmanny District Court of Moscow on suspicion of exceeding official powers with the infliction of grave consequences (part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Recently he launched a hunger strike in Lefortovo Pretrial Detention Center. According to his press secretary Vlada Rusinova, Shestun has even rejected infusors with vitamins and glucose – although he suffers from diabetes and starvation is prohibited for him.
Aleksander Shestun in court
In the framework of his hunger strike, Shestun has put forward the following requirements: allow his participation in the district elections on September 9, provide him with regular access to the lawyer, release him under home arrest, and launch an inquest against Andrei Yarin, Head of the Presidential Domestic Policy Directorate, and Ivan Tkachev, Head of “K” Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation. In fact, his problems with the law started after communication with the two above persons.
Shestun considers his case politically charged
To refresh background: the name of Aleksander Shestun became known to the general public amid ‘garbage riots’ in the Moscow region in April 2018: at that time, the Administration of the Serpukhov District, that had earlier authorized a protest rally against Lesnaya domestic solid garbage dump, was searched and some documents have been seized. On April 8, a video address of the district head has been uploaded on YouTube – Shestun told about threats received by him and made public a number of recorded conversations.
Then Shestun submitted a petition to Vladimir Putin claiming that the Administration of the Moscow Region and FSB are pushing him to resign and threat with framed-up criminal cases if he does not abandon the idea to participate in the forthcoming district elections. On April 22, Shestun gave an extensive interview on this subject to Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
On June 13, law enforcement operatives have come to the official’s mansion with searches – and no one had seen Shestun at liberty since then. He has been charged under part 3 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers with the infliction of grave consequences) and remanded in custody. According to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), in the period of 2008–2014, Shestun has illegally transferred, without consent of the district administration, four land lots with a total area over 10 ha in Borisovo village, Serpukhov district to Tsentr (Center) Open Joint Stock Company for trade center construction at a price of 620 thousand rubles ($9.4 thousand). The investigation believes that the lots with a market value of 62 million rubles ($936.5 thousand) were transferred to the above company for further sale. After a little while, Tsentr Open Joint Stock Company has re-zoned the lands and commenced large-scale cottage construction there.
Shestun, in turn, claims that he had never signed an order to transfer the lands and that the criminal case against him is politically charged and instituted with the sole purpose to bar him from the elections.
The defense team states that there is no evidence of his involvement in the incriminated offense because the above-mentioned order is signed not by Shestun but by his deputy. On June 26, Shestun asked Alexander Bastrykin, Chairman of the ICR, to take the investigation under personal control. On June 27, Svetlana Aleksandrova, judge of the Moscow City Court, has upheld the decision of the Basmanny District Court and left the suspect in custody.
Detained suspect barred from elections
Regardless of everything, Aleksander Shestun decided to participate in the elections. The law permits this: although a candidate must normally present nomination documents in person, if he/she is in custody, authorized representatives may do this. The signature authenticity must be certified by the prison administration – i.e. the head of the penitentiary institution acts as a notary. Shestun, who was kept in the Pretrial Detention Facility № 5 (Vodnik (Waterman)) in that period, had repeatedly submitted requests to certify his signature to Denis Popush, Head of the Pretrial Detention Facility № 5 – who refused to do so claiming that he must obtain a permission from the investigator handling the case against Shestun. However, paragraph 5 of Article 44 of the Federal Law 67 On Main Guarantees of Electoral Rights and the Right to Participate in Referendums of Citizens of the Russian Federation does not have such a provision. In early June, Ella Pamfilova, Chairperson of the Central Election Commission of Russia, has supported the detainee and confirmed that the Federal Penitentiary Service (FPS) must provide all the required documents to Shestun “regardless of somebody’s willingness or unwillingness”. Mikhail Fedotov, Adviser to the President and Chairman of the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights, made a similar request to the FPS as well.
The document submission deadline has expired on July 25. Shestun was put out of the election. According to his lawyer Pavel Bespalov, signatures in support of the district head have been gathered without opening a special election account (that couldn’t be opened without the above documents certified by the prison administration). In an act of protest and solidarity with Shestun, members of his initiative group have shaved their heads.
However, Aleksander Shestun’s wife Yulia has got a candidate’s ID and launched an election campaign in the district. Yulia Shestun expects to win thanks to the popularity of her husband. It must be noted that local residents liked Shestun – his approval rating in the district was pretty high and reached 75%.
District administration leaves no chances for the Shestun family
People living in Serpukhov and the district told The CrimeRussia that, in fact, the situation is not optimistic at all for Aleksander and Yulia Shestun. Once-loyal Deputies and the majority of his close associates have already ‘given up’ scared by his prosecution and likely won’t actively participate in the election campaign. In addition, the local officials believe that the district is to be merged with Serpukhov after the elections. Back in 2017, the Administration of the Moscow Region has lobbied the law on local self-government enabling to consolidate municipalities with elected heads into municipal districts governed by appointed officials. All the territorial units have complied with the new rules – but the Serpukhov district remains the ‘last stronghold’ of resistance. The local administration chaired by Shestun rejected the ‘city manager’ construction, and a special amendment had to be made in the Moscow Region Legislation to enable direct elections of the district head in the Serpukhov district. Of course, not forever.
Local oligarch Igor Ermakov, current Chairman of the Serpukhov Council of Deputies, nominated by Edinaya Rossia (United Russia) Party intends to take charge over the Serpukhov district in September. Ermakov is actively running his election campaign with the following slogan: “My principle is: don’t promise – do”.
Aleksei Vorobiev, former First Deputy Mayor of Serpukhov, is currently the Interim Acting Head of the District Administration. Interestingly, according to the law, during the absence of Shestun, his first deputy Nadezhda Sheiko was supposed to take charge of the district. But after the arrest of her boss, she went on an extensive – 88 workdays – vacation until September 9. Prior to the departure, Sheiko has promptly appointed Aleksei Vorobiev instead of her suddenly resigned deputy Marina Atamanyuk – and he became the Interim Acting Head of the Serpukhov District as per her order. This simple staffing trick contradicts the law because a new deputy can be appointed only on a competitive basis.
The Prosecutor’s Office of Serpukhov was supposed to contest this appointment, recognize it unlawful, and annul. But this did not happen and, according to local people, won’t happen – nobody dares to interfere with the district administration in anticipation of the gubernatorial elections.
Still, billboards in support of Aleksander Shestun have recently appeared in the Serpukhov district along motorways. Local media outlets and the initiative group for support of Shestun claim that local residents have installed the boards at their own expense. However, people asked by The CrimeRussia said that they were not aware of such a ‘public initiative’ or fundraising campaign.
Local residents think that the billboards have been installed at the expense of the Shestun family with support of his team – although depleted but still existing in the district. It includes, for instance, activists of Mestnye (Locals) – an environmental public organization earlier funded by the district administration.
“Sun and Moon raise by command of Shestun”
People say that Aleksander Shestun had also tried to keep a firm hand on his ‘domain’; there was a saying in the district: “Sun and Moon raise by command of Shestun”.
For instance, in 2009, Aleksander Shestun has arbitrarily ordered to block the Serpukhov–Stupino motorway because SUV fans had held their ‘rallies' on the territory of Rodina (Motherland) camp – not far from one of his mansions in Priluki village. The roar of engines has initially resulted in the installation of a 'No Entry' sign, then a huge concrete block was put on the road, and then the road was dug across.
By the way, the above-mentioned country home – a residence on the Oka River bank considered a local landmark for its great size and luxury – has been listed for sale since February 2018. The asking price is 380 million rubles ($5.7 million).
A lot 3.17 ha in size accommodates a mansion with a living space of 975 square meters, guest house (320 square meters), bathhouse (383.1 square meters), home for domestic servants (205 square meters), utility area (48 square meters), two gazebos (24 square meters each), garage for 5 cars (245 square meters), two homes for guards (37 square meters each), 250 thousand watt electrical substation (51 square meters), wharf, 3 helicopter pads, tennis court, etc.
“The unique property is located in a pine forest on Simpheropolskoe highway 100 km from the Moscow Ring Road, in a quiet pristine place with no through roads,” – states an ad on Cian.ru. A similar ad can be found on Avito.ru as well.
It must be noted that Shestun was arrested in another mansion located in Bolshevik township. According to sources, the district head has relocated there with his big family because it was inconvenient for him to get to work from Priluki village.
On August 8, it became known that the Basmanny District Court of Moscow has imposed a conservatory attachment on assets and monetary funds of Aleksander Shestun. According to the media, 50% of a land lot and home belonging to him (it is unknown which one), Mercedes vehicle, bank account, and payroll card have been seized.