United Russia party member who beat journalist accuses Moscow of black PR
The head of the Shirinsky district, Sergey Zaitsev, who beat the journalist for questionsult, suspected the correspondent of a provocation. The culprit accused senators and politicians who offered him “to pack his things” of trying to “hype.” The leadership of United Russia, which has fired him out of its ranks; he stated that it made a mistake, scattering such valuable personnel. Zaitsev threatened: “If they don’t get better, if they don’t understand this mistake, then I won’t be able to manage the process.” The CrimeRussia found out what kind of process Zaitsev organized and why the official did not like the questions of journalist Litomin.
On December 8 last year, the Russian President called on members of the United Russia party to monitor their behavior. Vladimir Putin said that there should no longer be “rudeness, arrogance, disregard for people at any level.”
However, some ordinary members of the ruling party understood the recommendations of the President in their way. On May 22, the crew of the Vesti. Dezhurnaya Chast' program of the Russia-24 TV channel entered the office of the head of the Shirinsky district of Khakassia, member of United Russia party Sergey Zaitsev. The journalists asked the question about the houses built for victims of the terrible fires took place in the spring of 2015, which entered the history of Khakassia as Easter Fire, with federal funds. Correspondent Ivan Litomin asked Zaitsev why some fire victims are forced to live in inhuman conditions.
A rather simple question discomposed the official. The head of the district became mad. At first, he tried to pull the microphone out of Litomin’s hands; then he threw the journalist to the floor. He also used foul language: "Get out of here, f**king fa**ot."
Several other local administration officials were present in Zaitsev's office, but they did not alleviate the raging chief. Instead, they tried to prevent the cameraman from filming what was happening, closing the camera lens with a folder, and then took away the film crew into the corridor of the district administration. The journalists did not even try to resist.
The cameraman managed to shoot the attack on a colleague, the video was posted on the Web and got a full response. However, instead of apologizing for his behavior, Zaitsev decided to blame journalists for everything. The head of the Shirinsky district declared that he was deliberately provoked: “I think this is a planned action.” He briefly described the reasons for the attack: “They rushed into the office after business hours and accused me, called me a thief and a corrupt official, that I have a criminal past and whether I am not ashamed to take the place of the head. For ten minutes!”
Probably, Zaitsev reckoned on sincere sympathy from his fellow party members. However, the Khakassian United Russia overestimated loyalty of “its people”: the top leadership of United Russia did not speak in support of the head of the Shirinsky district. The deputy secretary of the General Council of United Russia, Evgeny Revenko, apologized to journalists "for the attack" on behalf of the entire party. According to Revenko, “he is ashamed” for a party member, because “no matter how difficult and unpleasant questions are, the member of the United Russia party, especially when on duty, must answer these questions.” Revenko also promised to put the dismissal issue at stake.
Senator Alexey Pushkov suggested on Twitter in advance that the head of the Shirinsky district would not hold office for long. “Kokorin and Mamaev also say that they were provoked. No matter what the reporter says, assault cannot be justified, ”Pushkov commented on the situation. The senator's prediction came true: on the same day, the Presidium of the United Russia General Council decided to exclude Zaitsev from the party.
The ICR in the Republic of Khakassia conducted an audit of Zaitsev’s actions, and on May 27 the Committee initiated a criminal case against the head of the Shirinsky district under part 3 of Art. 144 of the Criminal Code (Obstruction of the Lawful Professional Activities of journalists). Also, as part of the investigation of the case, the ICR promised to verify information about the corruption corpus delicti in Zaitsev’s activities. The Deputy Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Yuri Gulyagin, took the investigation under his control.
When the Khakass official realized that the demonstrative purge had begun, he decided to dress up. The invasion of journalists turned to the attack of a gang of gopniks on a lonely defenseless passer-by. “Just bandits! Bypassing the guards, three men drop in after hours,” as the head of the district described the appearance of the film crew in his office. Then he added: “Maybe I am exaggerating, but it seemed to me that they kicked the door!” In another interview, he told what happened: “At about 7:20 pm, three unknown men burst into my office — one - with a camera that has already worked. The second was with a microphone. The third one stood behind them; I do not know who it is. The one with the microphone came close to me as I sat at my desk. He did not introduce himself. And at once he asks me a question: why I occupy the post of the head of the Shirinsky district having a criminal record. I asked him to sit down, to introduce himself and tells what was going on. But he refused to sit down and began to shout insults.”
Zaitsev did not deny that he was trying to expel journalists. He admitted that the awkward questions in his own office outraged him. “I have icons there, I am a believer,” he explained. However, now the official insists that he was not going to touch anyone: “Well, again, no intention to fight, how could I fight with three? They are better than me.” Litomin allegedly not only provoked the beating but also imitated it. The head of the district did not expect the journalist to end up on the floor: “When I pushed him, he involuntarily kicked me, I let him go - and he fell. But he continued to insult me even lying on the floor and smiled for some reason!”
The new version of Zaitsev is so contrary to the video that the official was asked once again to clarify - is he sure that Litomin imitated the fall. “He purposely fell, I didn’t even touch him,” Zaitsev stated. The journalist "fell to the floor, continued to comment. I think he is a professional of imitation,” the official added.
Then Zaitsev was asked to explain why the video demonstrates another situation. The head of the district stated that the video was edited. For example, the record does not show how "deputies and heads of departments came to the meeting" and "pushed the film crew, which tried to resist, out of the office." Later, employees of the Shirinsky administration had allegedly heard journalists discussing among themselves that "it was a successful day." According to the head of the district, it confirms that there was a “planned provocation.”
A new detail has also appeared. According to the head of the district, Litomin once again tried to provoke him. And despite the poor state of health, the official did not attack him. “I'm generally hypertensive; I have diabetes. I was in the hospital; the doctor sent me for outpatient treatment for three days. On the same day, in the evening I was sitting at home, my friend invited me to a cafe at two o'clock for lunch. I think I will share it with them. I went in, we sat down in a closed room, a kick in the door – and I faced the microphone once again. Well, the hostess came in, accepted the order, did not allow them,” said Zaitsev. Also, the head of the district reported that on May 27 he fulfilled a promise: he wrote a statement to the police with a request to bring the Vesti correspondent to criminal responsibility and to “initiate a criminal case under the article of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation, “Public insult of a Government Official.”
Having presented the edited and augmented version of events, Zaitsev managed to reach members of the same party. On May 28, the entire political council of the district office gathered for a meeting and defended the head of the district. Moreover, the local United Russia members are so determined that they are ready to leave the party of power if the General Council of United Russia does not reconsider the decision to exclude Zaitsev.
Following the meeting, the executive council of the Shirinsky local branch of United Russia sent an appeal to the secretary of the Presidium of the General Council of the party, Andrey Turchak, and the secretary of the Khakass regional branch, Sergey Mozharov. The authors of the document set an ultimatum: either they return the party membership card to Zaitsev, or the entire local department leaves United Russia. All 14 people. Moreover, United Russia objected to initiate a criminal case against the head of the region, since they “do not find the corpus delicti following part 3 of Art. 144 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation", and the initiation of a criminal case without conducting a pre-investigation check is biased. The authors of the appeal asked the party leadership not to respond “to a false negative information background” and take into account the merits of Zaitsev. The main one is that Putin’s candidacy was supported by 79% of voters in the last presidential elections in Russia, - more than anywhere else in Khakassia. As emphasized in the appeal, "it proves respect for the current head of the district."
Republican deputies also took the side of Zaitsev. The members of the Council of Municipal Formations of the Republic of Khakassia Association signed appeals in his defense; it was sent to Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika, Interior Minister of the Russian Federation Vladimir Kolokoltsev and Chairman of the ICR Alexander Bastrykin. In their appeals, the deputies repeat the words of Zaitsev that the journalist "deliberately provoked the conflict." The executive council of the Shirinsky branch of the ruling party, “comprehensively and objectively analyzed the television plot of the Vesti program and concluded: Litomin faced the authenticity of the facts.”
Several accusations were made against Zaitsev in the fake plot, prepared by the crew of the Russia-24 TV channel. One of the main reasons is why the Shirinsky district, which was most affected during the Easter Fire, is headed by the man who is guilty of the fact that the village “was in the epicenter of fire.” It’s pointless to accuse journalists of falsing the facts because only a month ago the court concluded that Zaitsev is one of three people guilty of the fire consequences in the spring of 2015. The investigation established that it was the head of the district and the head of the Shirinsky Village Council, Yury Kovalev, who had to organize an emergency warning system and remove the dump near the village, which had spread from the steppe. However, both leaders did not fulfill their duties, so the town caught fire so quickly. The head of the Khakassia Fire Service Detachment, Viktor Zenkov, did not supervise the subordinates, did not ensure “proper cooperation and leadership of the fire brigade units,” so the fire failed to cease in time.
On April 26, the Chernogorsky City Court found Zaitsev, Kovalev, and Zenkov guilty of a crime under part 3 of Art. 293 of the Criminal Code (Negligence resulting in the death of two or more persons). The court found that the defendants' inadequate discharge of their official duties led to the death of 12, injuries of 54 people; more than 500 residents of the Shirinsky district lost their houses and property in the fire. The judge rendered real terms to the defendants: Zaitsev got four and a half years in a penal colony, Kovalev - four years and eight months, Zenkov - four years and seven months. However, all three were immediately released from the imposed punishment following the resolution of the State Duma of the Russian Federation “On the declaration of an amnesty in connection with the 70th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945”. According to the decision on amnesty adopted in 2015, criminal records were dropped from officials. Perhaps that is why the Prosecutor's Office did not demand that Zaitsev and other defendants be dismissed from their posts. The supervisory authority changed its opinion only after a scandal over the beating of the journalist when all asked to remove the head of the Shirinsky district.
Zaitsev was very mad at the journalist's question about the criminal past. Formally, the official has reason to be indignant, because the conviction was removed from him. The head of the district managed to avoid responsibility for other criminal cases brought against him. So, in 2010, the official became the person involved in the criminal case initiated under part 2 of Art. 286 of the Criminal Code (Exceeding Official Powers). The investigation concluded that Zaitsev unlawfully transferred two land plots with a total area of about 18.500 square meters of the property belonging to specially protected natural territories and owned by the Russian Federation to his close friend's wife. However, in December 2011, the Shirinsky District Court issued an acquittal. The state prosecution filed a cassation appeal to the Supreme Court of the Republic, but even there the sentence was considered sound.
Pavel Dvigun acted as a lawyer at the trial on charges of exceeding official powers. Journalists of Vesti called the lawyer the owner of the land, which now houses a landfill of solid waste. “Perhaps, Dvigun received the public land and then leased it to the administration. Now the district annually pays the owner 2 million rubles. The question about the landfill became the last straw in a conversation with Sergey Zaitsev. He became furious and pounced on journalists with his fists,” it follows from the plot of the Vesti program.
It is difficult to judge whether Zaitsev could pay off the lawyer for his services. But it is easy to establish that Dvigun indeed owns the site on which the landfill is located. According to local community activists, the lawyer purchased the site for 50 thousand rubles just when it became known that they were going to place the landfill on it. And now the administration of Shirinsky district regularly has to pay rent to the owner. Dvigun gets his money through the court. So, in February 2016, the Arbitrazh Court of the Republic of Khakassia ordered the municipality to pay the debt for 661 thousand rubles for the use of the land plot with cadastral number 19:11:011302:0027 for the period from August 17, 2015, to January 16, 2016. So, the lease of land gave the lawyer of Zaitsev more than 130 thousand rubles per month, more than a half million per year. Journalists of Vesti call another figure - 2 million, for three years the rent could skyrocket. By the way, now Zaitsev does not deny that Dvigun owns the land, only assures that he had no relation to its sale: “There was a private deal: it passed a whole step. We have no right to keep track of this.”
Zaitsev raised hell with the question of Litomin about a huge cottage on the central square of the village. “Three separate entrances, a luxurious bath, walkways, a separate utility block are all fenced with a high brick fence,” this is how the mansion is described. As residents told the authors of the plot, a cottage for Zaitsev “was built by a company that won a tender for the construction of a sewage treatment plant in the district center. According to experts, the amount of the state contract was overvalued by almost two and a half times. According to the documents, about half a billion rubles were paid for tanks and pumps, while their real price was about 180 million.”
The official's mansion
Vodrem Building Company of Siberia LLC won the competition for the construction of wastewater treatment plants in the village of Zhemchuzhny, the cost of the first phase of the project was 500 million rubles. For several years local community activists have been trying to draw attention to the fact that the cost of the work was too high, but after winning, Zaitsev snaffled a luxurious cottage, which was built by contractors. So the journalists of Vesti didn’t reveal a sensation but reported about a fact that has long been known to residents of the Shirinsky district. The official admitted that the mansion was built by the same company that built the sewage treatment plant. However, “the contractor built it for himself,” “with private funds.” And Zaitsev just bought a finished cottage for almost five million rubles to invest his own money. “I turned out to be the ultimate buyer,” the landlord stated incomprehensibly.
By the way, describing Zaitsev’s mansion, journalists missed another fact: the most expensive house in the village was built not just in the very center of the city, next to the Monument of Glory, but behind the House of Culture - where there were a square and a playground. So, Zaitsev also deprived Shirin mothers of the opportunity to walk with their children. According to his words, earlier, “there was a swamp.” So Litomin should have asked Zaitsev another unpleasant question.
On May 29, Alexey Pushkov, the chairman of the interim committee of the Federation Council on information policy and media relations, said that the commission carefully studied the situation and came to a different conclusion than Khakass United Russia deputies: the journalist acted within the framework of professional authority. After that, the Chairman of the Federation Council, Valentina Matvienko, called on the head of the district to listen to his conscience: “It's a shame, please, resign, what kind of person has the moral right to work after that?”
The fire victims are forced to live in such conditions
How did Zaitsev respond to the call? He did not even think to write a statement “on his own.” On the contrary, he said that he would retake office, also if he was forced to leave the post at the request of the Prosecutor's Office: “Well, they will remove me. I'll be appointed again because it's up to the voters. The last word should remain for people.” The General Council decided to exclude him from the ranks of United Russia; it also does not matter: “The party is not only the chairman of the General Council. We have normal people.” United Russia expressed sincere hope that the party leadership would change its mind. At the same time, he frightened the members of the General Council: "If they don’t get better, they don’t understand this mistake, then I won’t be able to manage the process." At the same time, Zaitsev commented on the speeches of metropolitan senators and politicians who suggested to “to pack things," calling them stupid.
The edition of the Khakass authorities published material that an angry resident of Smolensk called the 19rus.info editorial office and demanded that the purge of the head of the Shirinsky district be stopped. “Now Matvienko is speaking. And why doesn't she say in which housing she lives, in which housing Pushkov lives? Zaitsev has cheap accommodation! They want to remove the person and hire their staff. It's the only conclusion,” a simple Russian stated.
The intel scandal involving Oleg Smolenkov, who had access to the Kremlin and possessed valuable information, has become a widely discussed topic. It was CNN who reported, citing sources in the CIA and Donald Trump administration, on the “informant” being evacuated from Russia in 2017. It turned out that for certain people in Russia, the spy’s disappearance was not a secret, while the Russian elite denied the fact of espionage in unison with the American one. The Smolenkov family was forced to leave their luxurious mansion in Virginia, and their current whereabouts are unknown. Smolenkov’s “patron,” Assistant to the President of the Russian Federation for the International Sector Yury Ushakov, continues to fulfill his duties. The CrimeRussia looked into the story of “exfiltration” of the top informant and the possible consequences of his work as an intelligencer.