Power vacuum in enforcement structures. Key Kuzbass agencies ‘beheaded’ in six months
A paradoxical situation is unfolding in the Kemerovo region. Numerous terminations of high-ranked functionaries and generals from key positions have resulted in a ‘vacuum’ in the law enforcement and political structures in a region that may easily become socially unstable in the absence of a strong power.
Everybody remembers the miners’ strikes in the 1990s and how these have changed the political and social landscape in the country. Amid the obscure situation with the health of Aman Tuleev, one of the oldest governors in Russia, and numerous rumors circulating in the region, the overall situation with the Kuzbass enforcement structures resembles an agony.
The epoch of ‘acting heads’ has begun in the region in the end of the last year. In November 2016, Sergei Kalinkin, Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Kemerovo Region of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR), First Vice Governors Aleksander Danilchenko and Aleksei Ivanov, Yelena Troitskaya, Head of the Department of Administrative Structures of the Administration of the Kemerovo Region, and several other officials have been removed from their posts amid a corruption scandal. These people had attempted, jointly with local oligarch Aleksander Shukin, founder of Ugol (Coal) Production and Trading Company Limited Liability Company, to seize Razrez Inskoy (Inskoy Pit) coal enterprise for the benefit of the oligarch using their official capacity. After being caught with the extortion of the control block of shares, all the above persons have been criminally charged. Sergei Kalinkin is the only member of the criminal group remanded in custody (the CrimeRussia had already covered this story in detail).
Vice Governors of the Kemerovo Region Aleksander Danilchenko and Aleksei Ivanov
Sergei Kalinkin, Head of the Investigations Directorate of the ICR in the Kemerovo Region
His deputy Pavel Mullin was appointed the Acting Head of the Investigations Directorate in the Kemerovo Region. But apparently, this position is cursed. In March 2017, the court has placed Mullin under home arrest. In a short span of time, colonel of justice Mullin managed to commit offences falling under three Articles of the Criminal Code. He has been charged under part 1 of Article 286 (Exceeding Official Powers), part 3 of Article 33, and Article 292 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Complicity to Official Forgery). The investigation believes that Mullin had obstructed the solution of a crime pertaining to illegal turnover of firearms. The local police had received information about a cache of unregistered firearms stored in a warehouse located in the Izhmorsky district of the Kemerovo region. Operatives of the Department for Combating Extremism of the General Administration for the Kemerovo Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation had arrived to the underground cache and started searching the premises. Upon becoming aware of this, Mullin has called the operatives and ordered them to stop the search immediately, leave the warehouse, and neither seize the weapons nor submit those for expert assessment. He has also strongly recommended to leave the ‘respected persons’ alone. The police officers have obeyed orders from a person in charge of a different agency. According to some information not confirmed officially, by speaking of some ‘respected persons’, Mullin had referred to himself – because the operatives were searching his own lodge used by Mullin and his high-ranked friends as a hunting seat, and the unregistered rounds had belonged to him.
The next ‘acting head’ has been appointed to the vacant position. As a result, the region has been living for eight months without an officially approved commander of a key enforcement agency. No one can predict when the President appoints a new Head of the Investigations Directorate without the ‘acting’ prefix. Furthermore, there are no candidacies for this post at the moment.
The MIA General Administration for the Kemerovo Region is shaken out as well. A month after the arrest of Mullin, Viktor Kutylkin, deputy head of the regional police and witness in the case against Mullin and some other high-profile cases, has resigned. Concurrently, his wife Ekaterina Kutylkina, Vice Governor for Industry, Transport, and Business, has resigned – allegedly voluntarily – as well. On July 6, two high-ranked police commanders – Yuri Larionov, the Head of the MIA General Administration in the Kemerovo region, and his deputy Vladimir Shepel, Head of the Administration of Criminal Investigation, – have been removed from their posts by a Presidential Order.
Viktor and Ekaterina Kutylkin
The situation with Larionov is of special interest. The first rumors about his intention to resign had started circulating back in December 2016. At that time, a criminal case has been instituted against Vitaly Trotsenko, the Deputy Head of the Center for Economic and Service Provision of the MIA General Administration for the Kemerovo Region Federal Budgetary Institution, under part 4 of Article 160 (Misappropriation or Embezzlement, that is, the stealing of other people's property entrusted to the convicted person on an especially large scale) and part 1 of Article 285 (Abuse of Official Powers) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. According to the investigation, in December 2014, Trotsenko had instructed heads of departments to collect applications for financial assistance from the employees and ordered the accounting office to produce a payroll sheet on the basis of these applications. As a result, over 1.2 million rubles ($20.3 thousand) have ended up in the pockets of Trotsenko. In addition, in November 2014, the defendant has abused the official powers by failing to return 45 thousand rubles ($761) earlier received as a traveling allowance to the cash office of the organization. Furthermore, while attending advance training courses in another region, the defendant opted not to live for free in a hostel he was entitled to – but had instead rented an apartment. Immediately after the termination and arrest of Vitaly Trotsenko, Yuri Larionov, the Head of the MIA General Administration for the Kemerovo Region, has submitted a resignation letter. Some sources close to the general had claimed that the arrest of his subordinate and resignation letter were just a coincidence. Allegedly, a few months earlier, Yuri Larionov had received such a lucrative job offer from a commercial structure that he could not reject. No one can say whether this is true or not. It is known, however, that in the last six months, the lieutenant general had withdrawn and resubmitted his letter several times. He has also transferred his son from Novosibirsk to Kemerovo. Evgeny Larionov junior is currently the police chief of Kemerovo (Deputy Head of the MIA Administration for the City of Kemerovo), which creates a direct conflict of interest – relatives can not hold so high-ranked positions in the same region. Someone has to leave... Colleagues of Evgeny Yurievich Larionov expect him to be promoted after the resignation of his father: the new post is to become an additional bonus to the pension of Larionov senior.
The termination of Vladimir Shepel is a more broadly discussed topic. There are plenty of versions explaining it. Some experts remembered that the Head of the Administration of Criminal Investigation has declared an income of 8 million rubles ($135.3 thousand) for the year of 2016. However, an explanation has been proposed for this: the lion’s share of the income were proceeds of the sale of an apartment earlier belonging to him. Still, the police commander can’t complain on insufficient living space: Shepel owns two apartments (one jointly with his wife) and a garage. Another garage has been provided to him for use. Perhaps, an Audi A6 vehicle built in 2014 is parked in one of these garages – earlier it had belonged to the policeman, but later was transferred to his spouse who also owns one more apartment.
Another version links the termination of Shepel with the events dated May 2016 – at that time, an apartment belonging to the Head of the Administration of Criminal Investigation was robbed. The official two-room apartment was used as a storage place – no one lived there, the family had kept its belongings in it. The thieves had apparently acted on a tip-off and stole everything they could remove – appliances, several expensive fur coats, and a precious designer watch. They have left, however, an equally valuable item: a floor-to-ceiling portrait of the apartment owner. Shepel had denied for a while that this was his apartment – but ultimately he had to admit this. The entire MIA General Administration was looking for the burglars. Interestingly, the initial cost of the stolen goods was 8 million rubles ($135.3 thousand); however, over time, the list of stolen items and their total cost have been reduced considerably. For instance, only one fur coat, out of the four, was left on the list, while the designer watch worth 2 million rubles ($33.8 thousand) has dropped in price to mere 200 thousand ($3.4 thousand).
According to the third version, the termination of Shepel was a result of interference of his high-ranked relative. The father of the Kuzbass policeman is Vladimir Stepanovich Shepel, Chairman of the Vologda Regional Court and Honored Jurist of the Russian Federation. The sources claim that the father managed to grant judicial immunity to his son to save him from possible criminal prosecution in the Kemerovo region. Vladimir Shepel has arrived to Kuzbass in 2011, after a scandal in the Vologda region. The local people were outraged to know that the Chairman of the Court and Head of the Administration of Criminal Investigation of the MIA General Administration for the Vologda Region are close relatives. Shepel junior had to relocate thousands of kilometers away to the Kemerovo region. But the father still intends to transfer his chair to the son by succession! Last year, Shepel had taken exams to acquire the judicial status – but failed. Perhaps, this year, the situation was more favorable and he has submitted a resignation letter?.. It can’t be ruled out though that the supreme command had issues with his performance. Candidates applying for investigators’ positions had repeatedly complained that he never asks questions pertaining to the Criminal or Criminal-Procedural Codes of the Russian Federation during job interviews, neither is he interested in the number of solved or unsolved criminal cases. Instead, he had asked the candidates to read classic poetry by heart or sing the anthem. This reminds the words of Rashid Nurgaliev, ex-Minister of Internal Affairs who has transformed the militia into police: “Each policeman must recite poems and waltz”. Shepel had never assisted his colleagues in work-related matters. 10 days prior to the Presidential Order, he and two his deputies, have suddenly taken sick leaves.
No one in the Administration of Criminal Investigation can now extend the criminal cases. Similarly with the Regional Investigations Directorate, there are no candidacies to fill the vacant positions of the Head of the Administration of Criminal Investigation and the Head of the MIA General Administration for the Kemerovo Region without the ‘acting’ prefix.
In the meantime, the residents of the region are drawing up the balance: Kuzbass is ‘beheaded’. An ‘Acting Governor’ rules the region, an ‘Acting Head’ is in charge of the Investigations Directorate, while the MIA General Administration is under command of an ‘Acting Chief’. Furthermore, malicious gossip has it that the General Administration for the Kemerovo Region of the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia is also about to lose its boss. Major general Konstantin Antonkin has discredited himself. There were plenty of complaints against Antonkin and his subordinates accusing them of inaction and corruption – and some of these complaints have been confirmed. For example, in April 2017, following a prosecutor’s investigation in the Penal Colony № 44 Federal Budgetary Institution, a criminal case has been initiated against Aleksander Shtoiko, its Deputy Warden for Security and Operational Work, under Article 285 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (abuse of official powers). According to the preliminary version, the federal funds allocated for the renovation were embezzled, and in order to commission the facility, Shtoiko had established a ‘barter system’ by granting extended visitations to relatives of inmates in exchange for construction materials. According to the relatives, the colony management had often extorted money from them – but the Investigations Directorate does not have evidence of this yet. While the prosecutors and ICR operatives were working in a colony subordinate to Konstantin Antonkin, the major general was busy with a more important matter: he had sued those posting complaints against him on a popular web site for convicts. The major general had filed against them a civil lawsuit to defend his honor, dignity, and service reputation asking to recover from the defendants a compensation for moral damages in the amount of 100 thousand rubles ($1.7 thousand) – but has lost in all the judicial instances. Reportedly, on June 22, a criminal case has been instituted against Konstantin Antonkin under Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling on an especially large scale) – but this information hasn’t been confirmed officially yet.
Major General Konstantin Antonkin
Only two enforcement agencies in the region haven’t been affected by personnel reshuffles yet – the Regional Directorate of the Federal Security Service (FSB) of the Russian Federation and the Regional Prosecutor’s Office. All the processes inside the FSB are normally classified and go public only occasionally and post factum – but the Regional Prosecutor’s Office is currently preparing for a major inspection from Moscow scheduled to this fall. No one can predict at this point the possible outcomes of that inspection...
Amid the two-month-long absence of Governor Aman Tuleev at the workplace, a logical question arises: is the current succession of ‘acting heads’ in the regional enforcement structures a series of coincidences or not? Isn’t somebody ‘holding’ the key positions for his/her new team?