DPR without Zakharchenko: Officials, oligarchs, and thieves-in-law divide the area
After the murder of Aleksander Zakharchenko, everything has changed in the Donetsk People's Republic (DPR). A redistribution of spheres of influence is ongoing in the region at all levels of the state (and not only state) power. It is not a secret that Denis Pushilin, Interim Acting Head of the DPR, has been dreaming about this post for four years. Although he was among the DPR leaders, being the Chairman of the People’s Council and Permanent Representative to the Minsk Contact Group, Pushilin had no possibility to implement his financial plans and schemes, nor had he access to shady financial flows. The ‘Trapeznikov–Tashkent’ team spreading pervasive corruption in the republic was in charge of this sector.
Moscow imposes Denis Pushilin upon Donetsk people
Now Denis Pushilin has the upper hand and actively gets rid of members of the previous team using every trick in the book and building a vertical power structure for himself. His main motives are revenge and ambition – nothing personal. In addition, he has an ace up sleeve – it is commonly known that Pushilin is a creature of the Presidential Executive Office. Many people state this openly, including Aleksander Borodai, Head of the Donbass Volunteers Union and first Prime Minister of the DPR.
Aleksander Borodai and Aleksander Zakharchenko
"Let's put it straight: Pushilin is a candidate supported by Russia. He is supported for a number of simple and obvious reasons. Officially, Pushilin was the second person in the republic. On the other hand, he had no real levers of state power. Due to his position, he wasn't "just one of the Donbass politicians" – but the only person working closely with Moscow. Undoubtedly, Zakharchenko had also interacted with Moscow – but significantly less than Pushilin. Pushilin was continuously involved in the "Minsk process". This person is well-known here. This is a serious reason to stake on him. Because outsiders are not suitable. The person in charge of the republic must be a local. Therefore, what local resident is most well-known and demonstrates the best executive discipline? Pushilin! The choice is clear," – Borodai told in an interview to RIA Federal News Agency.
The acceptability of Pushilin for Moscow overcomes the antagonism of Donbass residents. After all, the DPR is not a self-sustained state; its course is determined by Moscow supervisors. A step left or right is considered an escape attempt.
That is not to say that late Aleksander Zakharchenko had disobeyed directives from Moscow. Of course, he had fulfilled (or tried to fulfill) all instructions – but he was not an unthinking doer and could take separate actions any time.
For instance, in May 2018, the Armed Forces of Ukraine (VSU) had tried to breach DPR defenses near Gorlovka – and Zakharchenko, being the Commander-in-Chief of the DPR Army, has ignored the prohibition on military responses without hesitation and ordered to disrupt the attack, which was successfully fulfilled by the DPR forces.
Without such an order from Zakharchenko, the territory of the republic could be reduced yet again.
It is also necessary to note that Aleksander Zakharchenko had adamantly opposed the return of the DPR under the Ukrainian jurisdiction – regardless of its status and political context. But under the rule of Denis Pushilin, a special status of Donbass as a part of Ukraine is a pretty real possibility. Statements of the new Interim Acting Head of the DPR that “the course laid by Aleksander Zakharchenko will be continued” are just bluff. The “executive discipline” of Pushilin suggests otherwise.
These political considerations have resulted in the exclusion of the most prominent hero of the ‘Russian Spring’ – 35-year-old Pavel Gubarev, creator and commander of the Donbass people's volunteer corps, former people’s governor of the Donetsk region, and leader of Free Donbass Public Movement, – from the election race. The Central Election Commission of the DPR has found more than half of signatures collected by his supporters invalid and charged his wife Ekaterina Gubareva with provision of false information in her income declaration.
As a result, aside from Denis Pushilin, only four little-known technical candidates have been registered for the elections scheduled on November 11: Elena Shishkina, judge of the Ukrainian People’s Tribunal for Investigation of War Crimes Committed by the Regime of Petr Poroshenko; Roman Khramenkov, ex-Mayor of Gorlovka and Enakievo; Roman Evstifeev, Head of the Military and Labor Hall of Fame of the Union of Afghanistan Veterans of the Petrovsky District of Donetsk; and Vladimir Medvedev, Deputy Minister of Education of the DPR. Local people say that none of them could (or even tried to) collect signatures required for the registration as candidates.
In other words, after the death of Aleksander Zakharchenko, the DPR is facing elections without any real choice.
The DPR gets rid of Tashkent’s legacy
The Ministry of Revenues and Taxation is the former domain of Aleksander Timofeev (Tashkent) who has fled to Russia. Any sensible politician would get rid of this agency in the first instance. Denis Pushilin launched this process without delay. According to his order amending the legislation, structural subdivisions of the Ministry of Revenues and Taxation have been disbanded effective October 1, 2018.
“We are currently developing a new structure for the ministry. As soon as it is approved, a new staff register would be produced and the agency would be completely reorganized,” – says Evgeny Lavrenov, Acting Minister of Revenues and Taxation.
It is necessary to note that the DPR intends to enact a new tax code as early as in January 2019.
“Denis Pushilin, Interim Acting Head of the DPR, has set an objective to completely revamp the taxation system in the republic. The new system is to be developed based on the simplicity and transparency principles. This will create a safe investment environment and stability,” – Lavrenov notes.
Evgeny Lavrenov is responsible for comprehensive revamping of the DPR taxation system
The Interim Commission of the DRP People’s Council established to determine damages sustained by legal entities and individuals due to illegitimate actions of the Ministry of Revenues and Taxation has already submitted to the DPR Prosecutor’s Office materials pertaining to 13 complaints received from citizens. In total, 22 complaints have been examined at four sessions of the commission.
“Mostly, these are complaints about violations of the inspection procedure and unreasonably high fines. For instance, a private entrepreneur having a monthly profit of 7 thousand rubles ($107) was fined 756 thousand rubles ($11.5 thousand),” – Andrei Baevsky, Chairman of the Interim Commission, says.
In addition, the People’s Council Press Service reported that 52 submissions have been received on the hotline of the Interim Commission for Transition of Markets Operating in the DPR to the State Ownership and Operations of Enterprises and Non-Resident Institutions where Interim State Administrations Were Imposed.
The interim commission created by Denis Pushilin is getting rid of Tashkent’s legacy
The materials have been submitted to the Permanent Commission for Control over Compliance with the Budget and Tax Legislation and Legitimacy of the Possession, Use, and Administration of State Property.
Balance of criminal powers disturbed?
A few days ago, Novaya Gazeta newspaper wrote that in late September 2018, a congregation of criminal ‘authorities’ and thieves-in-law attended by some 15 persons was held in Rostov-on-Don. The newspaper provided names of the participants: Aleksander Baturin (Batura), overseer of Gorlovka from Enakievskie gang; Armen Sarkisyan, overseer of Gorlovka from Akhmetovskie gang; Vitaly Metla, unit commander at Vostok (East) Battalion and Deputy of the DPR People’s Council; thief-in-law Eduard Asatryan (Edik Osetrina (Edik Sturgeon Meat), Edik Tbilissky); representatives of Dnepropetrovsk thief-in-laws Sergei Oleinik (Umka), etc. Congregation participants had allegedly discussed their spheres of influence in the DPR, redistribution of assets, smuggling, transportation coordination, security of gang members, and collaboration between the criminals of Ukraine, Russia, and Donbass.
The CrimeRussia has verified this information with its sources, and they confirmed the fact of congregation, although it was held not in Rostov-on-Don – but in the Rostov region. However, the information published by Novaya Gazeta newspaper that the DPR customs post at the Gorlovka direction has been closed following the results of this congregation was not confirmed.
It is necessary to note that DPR President Aleksander Zakharchenko and Leonid Pasechnik, Interim Acting Head of the Lugansk People’s Republic (LPR), had planned to disband this department, that was subordinate to Tashkent’s ministry, back on January 31 – on that day, they have signed a common customs space protocol in Donetsk. By the way, the border between the two republics was created following an initiative of Igor Plotnitsky, ex-Head of the LPR. The customs posts between the DPR and LPR were supposed to be closed on February 1 – but apparently, the business interests have overcome political reasons.
Zakharchenko and Pasechnik had planned to close customs posts between the republics back in winter 2018
In May 208, the LPR has unilaterally removed all customs posts at the DPR border, while Donetsk made no announcements and didn’t remove anything. In fact, some LPR customs posts, including the one near Debaltsovo, are still operating. On October 3, 2018, Leonid Pasechnik has discussed this matter with Denis Pushilin, Interim Acting Head of the DPR, in the framework of a work meeting in Lugansk.
“We have discussed all the planned issues, including the removal of customs borders between our republics. This is to be done in the nearest future,” – Pasechnik said and noted that Pushilin shares this point of view. However, according to The CrimeRussia sources residing in Donbass, as of today, some “booths in the open field” belonging both to the DPR and LPR continue operating.
‘Neooligarch’ Sergei Kurchenko subjugates the DPR
With regards to the industrial potential of Donbass in general and the DPR in particular, The CrimeRussia sources believe that the murder of Aleksander Zakharchenko has cleared the way for 33-year-old Ukrainian–Russian oligarch Sergei Kurchenko. Kurchenko is currently the owner of Gas Ukraine Group of Companies, UMH Group Media Holding, FC Metalist Kharkiv, fuel station chain in Crimea, etc. He is also the Chairman of the Board of East-European Fuel and Energy Company (VETEK). The young oligarch’s office is located in one of the Moscow International Business Center towers.
In the past, Tashkent’s team hadn’t allowed Kurchenko to enter the regional market and completely controlled gasoline shipments to the DPR. In 2015, a henchman of Kurchenko – Evgeny Fainitsky, Minister of Fuel and Energy of the DPR – was assassinated in Donetsk. In the LPR, Nefteprodukt (Oil Product) Trade House Limited Liability Company co-owned by Kurchenko (51% of its shares belong to the LPR) became the monopolist supplying fuel and lubricant materials to the republic without even having the respective license. In addition, Nefteprodukt Trade House supplies electricity to the LPR. In June 2018, the LPR Council of Ministers has renamed Nefteprodukt Trade House into Lugansk Electrical Grids.
Oil products and electricity are two of a kind?
Since March, Gaz Al’yans (Gas Alliance) company controlled by Kurchenko became the monopolist shipping coal to Russia from the DPR and LPR. According to the sources, the coal business brings the ‘neooligarch’ profits totaling 300%.
According to the Consolidated State Register of Legal Entities, the company belonging to Kurchenko is incorporated in Nizhny Novgorod; its charter capital is 70 thousand rubles ($1,067)
“Kurchenko takes coal from mines below the cost via Ugol Donbassa (Donbass Coal) State Enterprise and conceals the revenues from taxation in Russia. No, I am not surprised – this is capitalism! I am not even surprised that soldiers on the frontline have miserable monetary allowances, have no antihemorrhagics at all, have 30% of the required amount of constrictors, repair tanks at their own expense, and outfit and equip themselves. I am surprised with another thing: dear moneybags, aren’t you afraid that people may leave the frontline and your acquisitions are seized without a fight?” – Donbass blogger Natan Donetsky asks.
According to the sources, the ‘high patron’ of Sergei Kurchenko in Moscow is Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Prime Minister of Russia, while his business partner is Suleyman Kerimov, member of the Council of the Federation from the Republic of Dagestan.
It is known that Kurchenko became the owner of Donbass assets earlier belonging to Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov and Industrial Union of Donbass. Ukrainian billionaire Oleg Mkrtchan used to be a co-owner of the Industrial Union of Donbass; since February 2018, he remains in a pretrial detention facility in Moscow. Mkrtchan has been charged under part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (swindling committed by an organized group or on an especially large scale). According to the investigation, in 2009–2013, Mkrtchan had embezzled credit funds from Vnesheconombank via a foreign offshore company under a disguise of legitimate financial operations. The sustained damages exceed 1 billion rubles ($15.3 million).
Fugitive Ukrainian oligarch of Armenian descent has been arrested in Moscow for swindling
In 2014, Mkrtchan left Ukraine and obtained Russian citizenship. A portion of his assets remained in Ukraine. After his arrest, these assets have been transferred to Gaz Al’yans for trust management. On October 5, 2018, the Basmanny District Court of Moscow seized Russian assets of Mkrtchan worth 8 billion rubles ($122 million), including assets of Russian Mining-Metallurgical Company (RGMK).
It is necessary to note that the Ukrainian authorities stand clear of assets of Sergei Kurchenko, including his VETEK Group operating in Ukraine.
It can’t be ruled out that Kurchenko has certain arrangements with the current authorities of the country he is smuggling oil products to.
The operations of the ‘neooligarch’ don’t attract the attention of the Russian law enforcement authorities thanks to his ‘high patrons’. Apparently, the presence of such a business intermediary is very convenient taking the tense relations between Ukraine and Russia and uncertain status of the DPR and LPR. After the death of Zakharchenko, Kurchenko may pull off his schemes in the DPR in full swing. Therefore, the bright future won’t come at war-torn Donbass any time soon.
Oleg Zaytsev had wide connections within the criminal world and law enforcement agencies. This is being related to an organized crime group headed by Ruslan Kilievich that had allegedly been patronized by a former Federal Security Service Directorate officer Oleg Natalchenko. The crime group had also been a core driver for almost disbanding the criminal investigation department of the police.