Elista residents vs Donetsk People Republic's Khasikov
On October 1, Head of Kalmykia, Batu Khasikov, accepted the resignation of the government without signing the decree on the appointment of a member of the Federation Council from the executive branch on time. He ordered that the deputies of the Elista City Assembly (ECA) vote for Acting Head of the city administration, “Varangian” from the Donetsk People’s Republic Dmitry Trapeznikov. Against the backdrop of protest rallies against the appointee, Khasikov said that he performed “state tasks” in the DPR. This statement was refuted in the Kremlin. The situation in Kalmykia continues to heat up; local nationalists are particularly protesting. The CrimeRussia tried to find out what was happening in the republic, how Trapeznikov became mayor of Elista, what could connect Khasikov with the corrupt former Donetsk official and what risk does the case of Trapeznikov pose for Kalmykia.
On September 26, by order of Batu Khasikov, Dmitry Trapeznikov’s candidacy for the position of Acting Head of the Elista administration was “extended” by a vote in the Elista City Assembly.
Deputies of the 6th convocation of the Elista City Assembly voted for Trapeznikov
And on September 29, unauthorized rallies against the so-called Varangian from the Donetsk People’s Republic began in the capital of the region. According to their organizers and participants, this appointment indicates complete disrespect for the city residents.
Kalmyk Batu Khasikov is a native of Moscow, ex-kickboxer and multiple world champion among professionals. It is noteworthy that officially, he became head of the republic only on September 21 this year (before that, since March 20, he had been in the status of acting head). That is, he “delayed” Trapeznikov’s candidacy 5 days after his official assumption of office.
Head of Kalmykia Batu Khasikov
Some media reported that Assistant to President of the Russian Federation, Vladislav Surkov, who had long maintained friendly relations with Trapeznikov, allegedly proposed Khasikov Trapeznikov's candidacy. This is quite possible, since he also congratulated the newly appointed mayor of Elista, wishing him success. “I am glad and proud that our Donetsk cadres are in demand. I wish you success,” Vladislav Surkov said.
Vladislav Surkov supported the appointment of Trapeznikov as mayor of Elista
Trapeznikov himself denies lobbying of his candidacy, declaring that “they say all kinds of things and often come up with various fictitious stories. I don’t think we should pay attention to this. I was invited by Batu Sergeevich Khasikov.
Trapeznikov on being invited by Khasikov
When the Kalmyk people’s discontent became known to the Kremlin, Russian Presidential Spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on this appointment, calling it “the exclusive prerogative of Head of Kalmykia, Batu Khasikov.” According to Peskov, the main thing is “that the appointment does not violate Russian law, and this person has Russian citizenship.” In turn, Batu Khasikov made a public appeal to the residents of the republic, in which he asked to support Dmitry Trapeznikov.
“Trapeznikov has tremendous experience in rebuilding the Donbass. I saw the extent of destruction, and what results he managed to achieve in several years. There is no better school for a crisis manager,” Khasikov said. At the same time, he stressed that the new mayor “is now preparing a comprehensive plan for the development of the city and needs time; he must be judged according to the results.” It is known that by “compromise,” the head of Kalmykia means a year. In his opinion, this is how long it takes for the “crisis management” performed by Trapeznikov to bring positive results.
But the residents of Elista are very definitive about this. The townspeople have made a corresponding online petition demanding the removal of Dmitry Trapeznikov from office. In addition, the executive committee of the Congress of the Oirat-Kalmyk people turned to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation Yury Chaika with a request to verify the legality of his appointment. In particular, the prosecutor general is asked to find out whether Trapeznikov is on the international wanted list, when and under what circumstances he became a citizen of Russia, and whether he is simultaneously a citizen of Ukraine and the DPR. Petition authors doubt the legality of Trapeznikov’s three higher degrees and note that he does not have any work experience on the territory of the Russian Federation.
“Head of the region does not have the right to appoint head of the municipality. According to our constitution, a municipality is not subordinate to the state. The head of the region was given the right to withdraw his confidence from the mayor of Elista due to the loss of confidence or due to a violation of the law, but he does not have the right to recommend or appoint anyone,” member of the executive committee of the Congress of the Oirat-Kalmyk people Semyon Ateev noted.
To con an oligarch
Who is Dmitry Trapeznikov that startled Kalmykia? He is 38, a native of Krasnodar. Although the fact that he is called a native of Donetsk is not unfounded. The Trapeznikovs moved to the Donbass in 1982, when the future manager was only one-year-old. It is known that Dmitry Trapeznikov graduated from the Donbass State Academy of Construction and Architecture, as well as the Donetsk State University of Management. In the period of 2001-2005, he was the manager of Shakhtar football club, owned by Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov. According to available information, Trapeznikov was responsible for the team’s fan club, and was fired following an official investigation into his financial activities. Sources from FC Shakhtar report that he had a lot of money as a net income, implementing a fairly straightforward scheme. Namely, according to the documents, there were one number of fans leaving for matches, including abroad, but in reality, their number was different. After three years of such scams, Trapeznikov acquired an expensive foreign car and his own apartment in the center of Donetsk. After his dismissal from Shakhtar, he held senior positions at Baustandard LLC, Billiarday LLC, and Blagosvit charity foundation.
From 2012 to February 2014, Dmitry Trapeznikov was the general director of the Ukoopvneshtorg trading house. He did not take part in the so-called “Russian Spring,” being the organizer of the Akhmetov rallies “For United Ukraine” at that time. And when in July 2014, Igor Strelkov’s detachments entered Donetsk from Slavyansk and management began to retire from the city, Trapeznikov suddenly became an activist for the DPR. He began to distribute humanitarian aid (once again, from Akhmetov), which was delivered to the Donbass Arena. Trapeznikov appeared in a public field only in September 2014, when he was appointed head of the Telmanovsky district of the DPR.
In 2016, Dmitry Trapeznikov became vice-premier of the republic and head of the Department of Internal and Foreign Policy of the Administration of the DPR Head. On August 31, 2018, after the death of Alexander Zakharchenko, Trapeznikov became acting head of the Republic in accordance with the Constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Although, a week later, the Prosecutor General’s Office of the DPR called his appointment illegal and, as a result, Dmitry Trapeznikov was replaced by Denis Pushilin as head of the department.
Trapeznikov and Pushilin at an emergency briefing after the death of Alexander Zakharchenko
It should be stressed that Dmitry Trapeznikov had a conflict with the well-known DPR Minister of Revenue and Duties, Alexander Timofeev (Tashkent), who also fled to Russia. Therefore, the assumptions of a number of persons regarding whether Trapeznikov would invite Tashkent to his Kalmyk office are unfounded. Despite the fact that on the eve of their escape from the DPR, they were spotted together at the grave of Alexander Zakharchenko, where Trapeznikov emphasized that the vertical of power was preserved and a single team would fulfill all the wills of the deceased head. Just a few days after these assurances, both Trapeznikov and Timofeev left the republic. According to available information, they are denied entry to the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Fraudster behind the scenes
In the DPR, Dmitry Trapeznikov considered a “shadow behind the scenes” in Alexander Zakharchenko's circle. He often remained in his shadow, but made decisions regarding many things in the republic. It turned out that those decisions were not in favor of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The following picture shows Trapeznikov in 2015. Donetsk Military Commander Irina Lashkevich comments on his picture as follows: “He seemed so humble and quiet in his oversized coat.”
‘Humble’ Dmitry Trapeznikov in 2015
Actually, as soon as the appointment of Trapeznikov as mayor of Elista was reported, DPR residents and those who had a direct relationship with the republic were the first to sound the alarm. Donetsk residents believe that the “professionalism” of this manager in the Donbass, where a “black hole” has been gaping for the sixth year, in which Russian subsidies dissolve and multimillion-dollar siphoning schemes are implemented, makes a mockery of Kalmyks.
It should be stressed that Trapeznikov’s career growth is associated with a rather murky story of the assassination of Alexander Zakharchenko, under whom he was engaged in the “management of the community.” It is no secret for Donetsk that Trapeznikov had direct access to Vladislav Surkov (which is important in Donbass realities), and this prevented the official expelled from the DPR from going into oblivion.
By the way, Trapeznikov's call sign was Maestro, although nothing is known about where and under whose leadership he fought during the Donbass war. Nevertheless, he always wore a military uniform. In 2016, he received the military rank of colonel of the Armed Forces of the DPR.
Is Trapeznikov not a real colonel?
It is noteworthy that Trapeznikov’s wife was the actual owner of the main construction general contractor in the DPR, Trest Donbasstroy LLC, through which financing of reconstruction works was carried out. According to our sources from the Donetsk People’s Republic, the extent of corruption was phenomenal, and it was through the efforts of the Trapeznikov family that all programs for restoring private housing that had suffered from hostilities were halted. More precisely, after the trial construction of hundreds of houses in the destroyed cities of Ilovaisk and Debaltseve, facts of uncontrolled embezzlement of money allocated for this project from Russia were revealed. We stress that neither The CrimeRussia nor other media have any documented evidence of the corruption activity of Dmitry Trapeznikov in the DPR during the period 2014-2018, and it is unlikely that such documents will ever be made public. Since all financial crimes in the republic were carried out (and still are being carried out) not without the knowledge of Moscow curators. In other words, local executives usually share the “hard-earned” money with those who gave them the opportunity to dispose of certain resources allocated by Russia. Therefore, it is not surprising that in 2017, Dmitry Trapeznikov was awarded the Order of the Republic “for special outstanding services to the DPR and its people in the cause of state building and courage and bravery.”
“It was this ‘successful’ official who showed that they could steal without even pretending to be working. And as a person responsible for domestic politics, Trapeznikov was distinguished by his tough practice. In the DPR, it is impossible to create any organizations or movements legally, and attempts to create them were harshly suppressed by direct prohibitions or the involvement of the Ministry for State Security. The opposition would put all dissenters in the basement. Trapeznikov’s model of a scorched civil field is his style. He hoped to become the head of the DPR, but this did not happen. Zakharchenko’s team was systematically cleaned out. In spite of the attempt to organize a seizure of power at the time of Pushilin’s election by members of the Oplot organization, Trapeznikov decided not to get involved; he preferred to agree to the conditions set by Moscow. Kozak-Kurchenko and Surkov must have appreciated this. And instead of criminal cases, Trapeznikov managed to retain all of his assets and got a state post in Elista,” the Nezygar’ channel commented via Telegram.
Brother for a brother?
In spite of everything, Dmitry Trapeznikov is still trying to get used to the Kalmyk environment and become a guy next door for the residents of Elista. At a press conference at RIA Kalmykia, he said that he was not going to hide anyone, as he was “no criminal,” promising to meet with to the protesters. But never did.
“If people take to the streets, it means they have a burden in their heart. They have been suffering for years. It means they have problems that trouble them. A certain mistrust of power. I believe that in any business there should be a constructive dialog. If there is a problem and a question they want to ask the authorities, it needs to be conveyed by the method of dialog, and not by rallies,” he stressed.
Dmitry Trapeznikov during a press conference in Elista
It should be noted that Trapeznikov has got a point; there indeed are a lot of problems in the region. Kalmyks complain about the constant rise in prices for food, gasoline and diesel fuel amid falling income levels of the population, the difficult situation with lending to individuals and legal entities, unemployment, lack of support for agricultural producers, etc. The public debt of Kalmykia continues to increase, and it is possible that it will grow by another billion rubles by the end of this year. Of course, all this is sad, but why do we need some “Varangian” to solve the above problems, who once turned the whole region into a poor corruption dump? After all, it is obvious that with the help of such managers as Trapeznikov, Elista is unlikely to be able to get out of the crises.
Acting Head of Elista Trapeznikov, picture of the press service of Elista City Assembly
The position of the Kalmykia head, who created a problem out of the blue, is surprising. After all, protest moods related to the appointment of Trapeznikov may well develop into riots if government officials do not hear the townspeople. But no one hears Batu Khasikov.
“I ask you not to shout out slogans, but be objective and fair. Think about who benefits from provoking you,” he said to the Kalmyks. Obviously, he is well aware that in this case, there is provocation only on his part. It does not matter whether there was pressure from Vladislav Surkov in this regard. It is important that the residents of Elista want a local to be in charge of the city, and not a Varangian from the DPR with a dubious reputation.
“Batu Khasikov has brought a lot of Varangians to the republic, who are not known for any special merit, and refuses to rely on local personnel. Kalmyks find it very hard when representatives of other ethnic groups dominate them. They are afraid that Dmitry Trapeznikov will bring his comrades from the Donbass into power,” political analyst Andrey Serenko believes.
And he is right. The fact that the Chuulhn-Congress of the Oirat-Kalmyk people is actively opposing Trapeznikov’s appointment is nothing but a movement of Kalmyk nationalists.
“They are Kalmyk marginals offended by the fact that a Russian from above has been sent to rule them,” Donetsk blogger Vladislav Ugolny wrote.
Khasikov's official tasks
However, Head of Kalmykia Batu Khasikov decided to maintain the momentum in the desire to protect himself and his Donetsk friend, having “allied” with the Donbass agenda.
“I met Dmitry Trapeznikov a few years ago. We worked together and performed official tasks on the territory of the DPR,” Khasikov said, leaving in doubt not only the residents of Kalmykia and Donbass, but also Kremlin representatives.
Batu Khasikov made an ambiguous statement
“Head of Kalmykia Batu Khasikov did not perform any special tasks in the Donbass; perhaps, he performed other tasks,” Dmitry Peskov said, thus accusing Khasikov of lying. The President's Press Secretary advised reporters to ask questions to the head of Kalmykia, who, as far as is known, did not comment on this issue.
Khasikov’s delusional statement was picked up by some media outlets, as a result of which there was information that he could allegedly speak at the military court in The Hague in the case of a Boeing that crashed in the Donbass, and that the lawyers of the victims of the plane crash were allegedly exploring the possibility of using his statement to bring him to court.
Publication of RIA Federal Press of October 4, 2019
It is not clear why Khasikov’s statement about “official tasks in the DPR” was interpreted solely in connection with the Boeing. After all, the phrase “we met a few years ago” does not carry a clear timeline, and may very well not cover the summer of 2014. By the way, back then, Trapeznikov was not yet an official, but was engaged in distributing Akhmetov’s humanitarian aid to residents of the DPR. To recall, the trial over the suspects in the crash of MH17 Boeing will begin on March 9, 2020.
One thing is clear; the events in Kalmykia demonstrate the insolvency and non-self-sufficiency of Batu Khasikov, who compromised himself at the very beginning of his term of office. The current situation has exposed a whole layer of contradictions in the republic, generating another point of instability.
Trapeznikov does not belong in the Elista administration
“I have said more than once that the purpose of these appointees is simply to turn the financial flows of the republic and the city in the direction that they need. I regard this appointment as the highest measure of political cynicism, the humiliation of all residents of the republic. Batu Khasikov showed us that he considers everyone living in Kalmykia not worthy of trust and respect... It is clear that these are the consequences of the illegitimate elections of Khasikov himself and the deputies of the Elista City Assembly from United Russia. The task of United Russia is clear, namely, turning a once proud and independent people into an obedient herd of sheep as a result of fraud with the election results,” Natalya Manzhikova, deputy of the People’s Khural of Kalmykia and ex-candidate for the post of head of the republic from the Just Russia party noted. In addition, she stressed that due to objective reasons, “she was not in Elista, and therefore, unfortunately, she can’t take part in rallies.”
“For Khasikov, this is a very serious challenge. Clearly, this appointment has been agreed with the Kremlin. If it was some kind of competition for the post of mayor, then events could have gone differently, but here citizens were simply confronted with a fact and they did not like it. Plus, in Kalmykia, there is a conflict surrounding the appointment of the senator, whom Khasikov has yet to appoint. That is, further events in the republic will show the level of political stability and the level of support for Khasikov from Moscow,” political analyst Evgeny Kalinin said.
Vladimir Putin and Batu Khasikov
“It's not good. Batu hides behind the police, threatening to punish people for an unauthorized rally. If he had talked to people, tensions would have subsided. Who gives him such stupid advice?” Kalmytskie Slukhi noted.
However, if the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain. On October 5, a group of residents of Elista managed to meet with the head of the republic. According to the meetings participants, it was to no avail; everyone remained unconvinced.
“When asked for what merits Trapeznikov was appointed, what his confirmed achievements were, Khasikov couldn’t say anything, he only used general phrases without facts... We objected that we were ready to make advances and proposed appointing Trapeznikov as acting adviser to the city head, replacing him with a person who has already worked in the city’s governance system. Khasikov was adamant and said that he would not change his decision. We couldn’t get across to him or find a compromise,” Kavkazsky Uzel cites Elista residents.
The lack of understanding resulted in the decision to hold another rally in Elista. Why do rally participants carry bottles of water? It is simple. During the meeting, Khasikov suspected that an activist intended to throw a bottle at him. He came close to the man and asked whether this was so, to which the latter replied that he was simply getting a drink of water. This episode became a kind of meme of the upcoming protest rally.
The vast majority of respondents are ready to take part in the next rally
“Apparently, his days are numbered, the republic needs to prepare for early elections. Khasikov has no managerial talent; he does not know how to clearly express his pathetic thoughts! It is obvious that Khasikov will resign ahead of schedule. This is evidenced by the absolute lack of understanding of how to manage the republic and how to issue a salary and complete national projects without increasing public debt. The question is who will replace this pathetic “gym teacher”? readers of the Telegram channel Bumba comment.
According to some sources, the situation in Elista is under control of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation. But we know which of the high-ranking officials from the Russian president’s circle lobbied for the “political tour” of Trapeznikov in Elista. Something tells us that even if Batu Khasikov is forced to resign, Dmitry Trapeznikov will remain “working as a Kalmyk,” to which they will find thousands of excuses. A retreat option is also possible if the Elista residents do not limit themselves to law-abiding rallies and petitions.