‘Criminal quartet’ of Roman Starovoit 

‘Criminal quartet’ of Roman Starovoit
Head of the Kursk Region surrounds himself with suspicious people Photo: The CrimeRussia

The recent appointments in the Government of the Kursk Region made by the Interim Acting Governor raise numerous questions and suspicions. Why is Roman Starovoit surrounding himself with persons with ‘murky’ past? Why a number of key positions have been entrusted to people having ‘dark spots’ in their biographies?. Aleksander Mikhailov, the predecessor of Starovoit, had never appointed persons having criminal records or ties with criminal groups to governmental posts. But, apparently, his successor does not really care about this.

We are going to review the biographies of some of these ‘fresh legs’ – from the most ‘harmless’ ones to persons whose past deeds or supposed plans for the future may damage the state prestige and cause unpredictable far-reaching consequences.

Irina Grigor’evna Khmelevskaya is the new Vice Governor for Social Policy and former Pro-Rector of the Kursk State Medical University. Khmelevskaya was never caught in any reprehensible acts – except for concealing information about her father – Grigory Andreevich Chaly, ex-Head of the Organic Chemistry Department at the above-mentioned Kursk State Medical University. In 2007, Chaly was arrested by operatives of the Department for Combating Economic Crimes of the Administration for the Kursk Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation in his office for bribe-taking on a large scale and forcing female students to render sexual services to him in exchange for passing tests. His further fate remains unknown, which implies that somebody is unwilling to give publicity to these facts – perhaps, to facilitate the career of his daughter?

The unpleasant story was concealed so professionally that it was really difficult to uncover its details.


Irina Khmelevskaya

Almost all online references to the arrest of Chaly have been removed. The personnel of the Kursk State Medical University refuse to answer any questions about him. Even our sources in the police decline to provide comments. Therefore, we had no choice but to address representatives of the criminal world whose information is often more accurate than the official one. 

A criminal ‘authority’ well-known in the Black Earth region agreed to help us, and three days later, we had a telephone conversation. 

— Professor Chaly has served some two years under Articles 290 and 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (bribe-taking and swindling). Was convicted to some three years in a general regime penal colony by the Leninsky District Court of Kursk. Was released on parole. In December 2008, was sent to the Penal Colony № 9 Federal Budgetary Institution in Kosinovo, Kursk region. Served his term calmly. Had no problems with other inmates due to his age. During the investigation, materials on his sexual crimes were gathered as well – but ultimately, these were not used against him. People in penal colonies don’t dig into others’ souls. In the colony, Chaly had regretted about his silly capture and complained that he was unable to save enough money to buy something for his daughter, — our source said.


Grigory Chaly, ex-Head of the Organic Chemistry Department at the Kursk State Medical University

A weird situation. A daughter working in the same university with her father could not be unaware of his wrongdoings. Normally, in such situations, the parents generously share the corruption ‘revenues’ with their children. In other words, the children gain indirect benefits from the corruption – although, according to Article 51 of the Russian Constitution, they do not have to report their parents to the law enforcement authorities. 

Khmelevskaya was appointed to a high-ranked position. Did she disclose the criminal record of her father in the employment questionnaire? According to The CrimeRussia sources, information about the conviction of the former Professor could be removed even from the MIA Information Center. 

Ekaterina Vladimirovna Kharchenko, the Vice Governor for Internal Policy and former Chairperson of the Regional Education Committee, also has relatives with tarnished biographies. 

Her father, Vladimir Il’ich Kharchenko, has resigned from law enforcement structures in 2004 and became employed with Social Initiative organization. While working there, he was repeatedly charged in the framework of more than ten swindling cases (cases № 36757 of 21.03.2006, № 36754 of 21.03.2006, № 36281 of 26.01.2006, № 36279 of 26.01.2006, № 36756 of 21.01.2006, and № 36283 of 26.01.2006) and numerous other episodes. Kharchenko had embezzled funds belonging to clients of Social Initiative, thus, leaving the people investing their money into the financial pyramid without means of sustenance. However, in the course of the investigations, the name of Kharchenko had mysteriously disappeared from the case files – and he escaped liability for numerous criminal episodes being punished only for some petty crimes. Still, the inquest into operations of the company entitled “Social Initiative & Co. Limited Partnership” has uncovered colossal financial frauds. To carry out such a complicated inquest, special operative groups were created at the MIA General Administration for Combating Organized Crime and Department for Combating Organized Crime of the MIA Administration for the Kursk Region. The MIA investigative structures assigned best investigators to take charge of these groups throughout the country. As a result, the leaders of the financial pyramid – Nikolai Karasev, his spouse Natalia Karaseva, and accountant Sergei Litovchenko – have been sentenced in 2009 to 7–10 years behind bars, which, in turn, sparked a new wave of criminal cases and episodes. Thousands of people throughout Russia fell victims to the fraudsters. It was a matter of honor for the MIA to expose this large-scale swindling scheme. Overall, the police have done their job well – except for some incidents. Some suspects managed to avoid liability and invest the stolen funds in profitable ventures. Years later, this enabled the father of Ekaterina Kharchenko to boost her career. Vladimir Il’ich Kharchenko luckily escaped the punishment and became in 2008 a security guard in a kindergarten of Russian Railways Limited Liability Company. He had worked there for several years – not sharing the secrets of his biography with anyone and pretending to have no significant capitals.

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Ekaterina Kharchenko

In 2010, Ekaterina Kharchenko was arrested for drunk driving. At that time, such deeds were not punishable as severely as now – but still, the episode vividly characterizes the personality of the future official.

Overall, both ladies have family ties with people involved in criminal offenses, and their appointments to high governmental posts seem questionable, to say the least. But, perhaps, Roman Starovoit knows better.

Both Igor Vladislavovich Kutsak, Chairman of the Property Committee of the Kursk Region, and Aleksei Borisovich Smirnov, First Vice Governor of the Kursk Region, have plenty of unpleasant stories ‘on the record’. 

Igor Kutsak is known for his drinking problems, disorderly conduct, and violence against members of his family. Kutsak had repeatedly battered his wife, parents, and even young child. According to the criminal case № 3584 of 13.02.2013:

“On February 9, 2013, at some 09:10, Igor Vladislavovich Kutsak, a native of Gir’i village, Belovo district, Kursk region, being intoxicated, has caused bodily harm to his underage daughter and threatened his wife with murder”.


Igor Kutsak

Kutsak was lucky – the criminal case against him was dismissed based on non-exonerating grounds (allegedly, for admission of guilt and active repentance). After the closure of the case, he remained sober for some time – but then cracked up again. On June 26, 2015, Kutsak was arrested by the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate for drunk driving. Administrative protocol № 46AA563150 was drawn up under part 1 of Article 12.8 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation (driving a transport vehicle by a driver in a state of alcoholic intoxication). Kutsak was deprived of his driver’s license and fined 30 thousand rubles ($464). The CrimeRussia became aware that, even after these episodes, Kutsak did not give up alcohol and drinks himself insensible on a regular basis – although taking precautions not to be caught by the police again. 

But the true ‘champion’ in notoriety is Aleksei Borisovich Smirnov

Being a seasoned politician, Smirnov has plenty of skeletons in his closets. While being the Chairman of the Kursk Committee for the Housing and Public Utility Sector, he was charged by the Regional Prosecutor’s Office under part 1 of Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers) for renovating real properties belonging to a Deputy of the Kursk Municipal Council at the public expense in the course of the rezoning of nonresidential premises into residential ones. The people’s choice was supposed to perform these works at his own expense – but the ‘generous gesture’ of Smirnov relieved him from extra costs.


Aleksei Smirnov

According to our sources in the law enforcement structures, that time, Smirnov managed to get off the hook. The criminal case against him was dismissed in exchange for incriminating evidence against Aleksander Bogoyavlensky, then-Head of the Department for the Kursk Region of the Federal Tax Service of Russia. Smirnov has shared with the investigators plenty of exceedance of official powers episodes committed by Bogoyavlensky in the course of inspections of the housing and public utility infrastructure. However, the statements made by Smirnov were refuted by Bogoyavlensky and could not be verified. As a result, the above episodes were not presented to the court, which has resulted in the acquittal of the taxman to the displeasure of the Prosecutor’s Office.


Aleksander Bogoyavlensky

Still, the investigators have kept their word – the illegal renovations performed by Smirnov were forgiven to him. According to rumors, in 2010, he became involved in another scandal and had to hastily flee the Kursk region and relocate to the Moscow Mayor’s Office. 

Our sources in the criminal world of the Black Earth region claim that Aleksei Smirnov maintains sustainable ties with a person mentioned in our previous journalistic investigations – Timur Tutov supposedly involved in the gunning down of a cash couriers’ vehicle in Voroshnevo township, Kursk district, Kursk region. Tutov reportedly flaunts his friendship with the official and says that he and companies affiliated with him are going to receive a number of significant governmental contracts in the near future.


Timur Tutov

According to the same sources, Smirnov and Tutov are planning to launch a single housing and utility payment processing center in Kursk in order to concentrate cash in their hands. They are going to receive utility and management companies’ fees paid by the customers through this center on a monopoly basis and use the cash in Moscow and St. Petersburg for illegal cashing-out operations, including money lending to companies on interest. The official reportedly visits the home of the criminal ‘authority’ on a regular basis.



Mansion of Tutov.

If the above information is correct, the region is facing a criminal wave amid the inaction of watchdog structures who never touch such high-ranked officials without an instruction from Moscow. Timur Tutov is going to get a formidable ‘cover’, while Smirnov would be able to ‘settle’ many issues with the law enforcement authorities using the cash flows under his control. Most probably, he won’t need the services of his relative – some tax official Shvedyuk – anymore (according to the sources, currently Shvedyuk ‘patronizes’ the Vice Governor).

Author’s opinion

It would be interesting to ask Roman Starovoit about the reasons behind these weird appointments. What is this ‘criminal quartet’ for? Who are these people concealing their criminal records and wrongdoings of their relatives?



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