Isn’t that too good? Ex-Mayor of Balashikha to become Head of Pushkino District 

Isn’t that too good? Ex-Mayor of Balashikha to become Head of Pushkino District
Tarnished reputation and scandals don’t prevent Evgeny Zhirkov from holding high posts in the Moscow region Photo: The CrimeRussia

The Moscow region is a unique phenomenon in the Russian corruption system. Kleptocrats of the metropolitan area demonstrate a truly grand scale and impudence. Their symbol is Evgeny Zhirkov. He transfers between various municipalities and leaves traces everywhere.

Travels in the metropolitan area

Recently, Evgeny Zhirkov has been appointed the Interim Acting Head of the Pushkino District. To get rid of the prefix “Interim Acting”, Zhirkov launched a frenzied activity. He held a reception of local residents and promised them to improve yards, perform capital renovations, resettle an unsafe building, etc. Too bad, the people did not ask the official why hadn’t he promised this earlier – for the last three months, Zhirkov was a Deputy Head of the Pushkino District responsible for the housing and public utilities sector.

In fact, he has done nothing in that period on purpose. Sergei Gribyunchenko, ex-Head of the Pushkino District, started talking about his resignation immediately after the appointment of Zhirkov his deputy and, following an old tradition, designated Zhirkov his successor. Since then, Zhirkov had been preparing for the meeting with the people. Personal tragic experience taught Zhirkov to highly value ties with ordinary people – especially those displeased with the housing and utilities sector.

While being the Head of Balashikha, he had mostly ignored the residents, public relations, and communal problems, including such huge ones as Kuchino waste landfill whose emissions exceed the permissible limit by 9 times and poison not only Balashikha but Zheleznodorozhny as well. Ultimately, the President decided to shut down the dump site, while Evgeny Zhirkov decided to resign. For more than six months, he was not in charge of any city in the Moscow region – a unique period in the life of Zhirkov. However, he retained some ties in Balashikha – for instance, with owners of Kuchino waste landfill called leaders of Balashikhinskie organized criminal group by the media.

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Kuchino waste landfill

The malodorous and pestilential dump site had officially belonged to Karstat Universal Ltd. offshore company incorporated in the sunny Seychelles. In reality, the owners of Kuchino lived nearby. Karstat Universal Ltd. belonged to Aleksander Solomatin – a well-known in narrow circles financier administering the thieves’ pooled cash fund of Balashikhinskie gang. But the real owner of the dump side is ‘authoritative’ businessman Valery Smirnov (Yasny). Of course, garbage is not the sole source of income for the criminal ‘authorities’.

Take, for instance, Union Trade and Entertainment Center in Balashikha. It is administered by Union company belonging to two respected wives – spouses of Smirnov and Anatoly Petrov (Petrukha). Union Trade and Entertainment Center is not the only focus of social life in Balashikha – but, for some reason, then-Mayor Evgeny Zhirkov had favored it. Sources believe that he had held the notorious ‘informal sessions’ there – video records of these meetings went viral on the Internet. The person outside the camera's view is supposedly Petrukha – but the Mayor discusses with him not the closure of Kuchino landfill.

Authoritative regime 

The participants of the session are more interested in the cash inside the bag brought by Zhirkov. In an informal manner indicating the regular nature of such meetings, the people discuss who is entitled to how much. They openly call the money ‘kickbacks' and mention such sources of revenues as road maintenance and re-zoning of nonresidential premises into residential. It is possible to understand from their conversation that Zhirkov, who is shown by the camera, takes 25%, while the persons outside the camera's view also get 25% each. The ‘masters' of the city count the money and distribute 1.85 million rubles ($28.2 thousand) to each person. "This is for January," – Zhirkov notes.

Zhirkov distributes ‘kickbacks’     

Zhirkov discusses the Vorobiev family and Kerimov   

The same three people also divide a joint business. Some Aleksander Ivanov shown on the record together with Zhirkov had acted as the Director of above-mentioned Union company and even owned 20% of shares in it. Similarly with its other female co-owners, Ivanov had ties with Balashikhinskie gang and was an uncle of Petrov. However, neither the ‘authoritative’ relative nor Deputy’s mandate obtained with the assistance of Zhirkov could save Ivanov from revenge. The advisor to the Mayor paid with his life for the leak of compromising videos.

Zhirkov and Petrov freely use the term "kickbacks" and openly discuss the amounts. The Mayor calls Suleyman Kerimov a raider on the video and mentions Shoigu and Vorobiev junior and senior saying: "This is their land". The Federal Center of Forensic Expertise of the Ministry of Justice has confirmed that the video was not edited, while the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation established the identity of Zhirkov. However, FSB operatives were not interested in the statements made by the Mayor or origin of the money in his bag. The local police have also ignored the leaked videos. After all, Mikhail Moskalenko, Head of the Administration for the City of Balashikha of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), is a good friend of Petrukha and Zhirkov and always helps them in difficult situations.

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Expert assessment carried out by the FSB   

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Expert assessment carried out by the Ministry of Justice

The death of Ivanov was officially named a suicide. Allegedly, the advisor felt ashamed for himself and the Mayor slandering Vorobiev “junior and senior”. Anatoly Petrov, who calls himself a “very religious person”, will pray for his uncle in a church built by him in Cyprus. The Petrov family resides in Cyprus because the methane concentration in Balashikha exceeds the maximum permissible limit by 9 times.

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A daughter of Petrov in Cyprus

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Church built by Petrov

Attack of ‘fish hawks’ 

On the other hand, Zhirkov was not ashamed by the leaked video. Not only hasn't he resigned – but, instead, launched another ‘grand embezzlement' jointly with Petrov. In April 2017, he announced ‘good news' to Balashikha residents: the Municipal Culture and Leisure Park will be reconstructed. The Mayor had promised to the suffocating city a dance floor, skateboard park, and flower beds at a cost of 190 million rubles ($2.9 million). And this was just the beginning. In total, Zhirkov had planned to ‘use' 360 million rubles ($5.5 million). By some coincidence, a year before that decision, Sergei Titov, a business partner of the Petrov family, was appointed the Park Director. 

Titov used to be in charge of a company belonging to the spouse of Anatoly Petrov. The wife of the ‘authoritative' businessman had highly appreciated the performance of Titov. He still lives on savings made in that period. Otherwise, how could a ‘gardener’ with the official salary of 40 thousand rubles ($610) per month have two deluxe cars? The park reconstruction had all chances to commence – but the Live Presidential Phone Conference broadcasted by the national TV put an end to that project.

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Income declaration of Titov for the year of 2016

The joint business of Zhirkov and Balashikhinskie gang was established a long time ago. Back in 2012, the Mayor’s son was spotted together with Yasny and Petrukha. His wife has purchased plenty of commercial real estate for next to nothing and now successfully leases the premises at market prices. In addition, the Zheleznodorozhny-based companies of his son need new contracts. 

While Zhirkov senior was in charge of Zheleznodorozhny, his companies Skopa (Fish Hawk), Skopa Plus (Fish Hawk Plus), and Skopa Nedvizhimost’ (Fish Hawk Real Estate) had flourished. The Mayor has even demolished the only – and freshly-renovated – maternity clinic in the city. Zhirkov junior erected an elite building instead of it. A new maternity clinic has been built in Zheleznodorozhny also thanks to Zhirkov junior. 

Evgeny Zhirkov learned how to sell municipal real estate at suspicious auctions while being the Mayor of Zheleznodorozhny. He had practiced on social facilities. As a result, the city had neither a maternity clinic nor a Civil Registry Office for some time. Using the same technique, the Zhirkov family acquired buildings on Novaya street earlier belonging to a kindergarten (now they belong to the daughter of Zhirkov and some S.M. Smirnov) and the sole municipal pharmacy having a prescription medicine production department.

Over time, it became broadly known that residents of Zheleznodorozhny have to travel to other cities to buy medicines, marry, and give birth. Zhirkov became aware of this and filed a lawsuit to defend his honor and dignity. The court has officially recognized the absence of these traits in him. Now the official whose qualification is confirmed by the court verdict and expert assessments of the Ministry of Justice and FSB is going to take charge of the Pushkino district. Such skilled and experienced specialists are as valuable as gold.

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