Feast in Time of Plague. Whose money does Head of Khakassia Viktor Zimin spend nourishing his VIP-friends?
The flow of VIP tourists has not excised for almost 20 years in Khakassia. Federal ministers, State Duma deputies, governors come to rest in the taiga silence, and shoot marals and roe deer. Trying not to disappoint the VIP guests, Head of Khakassia Viktor Zimin built a magnificent hunting base on the previously protected lands. Officials from the capitals dubbed it Zimin's small settlement, and locals called it Disneyland. Who visited Kharatas River? And who pays for elite holidays?
Head of Khakassia Viktor Zimin finds himself in the crosshairs. Journalists from the Supporting Investigative Journalism (SCOOP) published photos from a hunting base near the village of Ust-Bures, Khakassia. As it turned out, three governors came to visit Zimin for the New Year holidays: Head of the Moscow region Andrey Vorobyev, Head of the Tula region Alexey Dyumin and Governor of the Yaroslavl region Dmitry Mironov. On the published shots, officials posed with killed young maral, standing by the fire, and then grilling the bag on a spit.
All four governors are considered to be the part of influential clan of billionaire Gennady Timchenko. It is not surprising that Zimin asked friends in a friendly way whether he retained the goodwill of the Kremlin. The hospitable owner is concerned: Khakassia’s life goes so badly that in January of this year the republic became one of two regions where external financial management of the Federal Treasury was introduced. Large debts, which exceeded the annual budget of Khakassia, became the ground. According to the Ministry of Finance, in 2012, the state debt of Khakassia to the federal budget was 600 million rubles ($10.3m), and by February 2018 it had grown to 24.6 billion rubles ($425m), which exceeded the republic's own revenues for 130%.
"Gentlemen, Kremlin does not believe me anymore? Such a shame with this external management..." Zimin directly asked his guests. Mironov reassured the Head of Khakassia with laughter: "Come on, Mikhalych. You are in good standing there, you know how to organize everything correctly, you do not have traffic fines." Dyumin asked: "Why are you so scared?" and then offered to drink for the hospitable owner. The authors of the publication did not specify whether they have audio recording of the conversation. They referred to the fact that they learned about the Zimin's small settlement from the stories of his staff.
The guests were serviced by 19 people, excluding traffic police, drivers, cooks, waiters and bath attendants. SCOOP sent official requests to Dyumin, Vorobyov and Mironov, so that they could explain who paid for their visit to Khakassia and how much the hunting and all the feast had cost. But the journalists did not get answers.
The issue "with what money" is discussed not only by journalists, but all residents of Khakassia. The idea to build an elite recreation center on the bank of the picturesque Kharatas River crossed Zimin’s mind back in the late 90s. At that time, the future Head of Khakassia held a modest position as deputy chief of the construction of the Abakan branch of the Krasnoyarsk Railway (KZhD). However, he had a trump card - a friendly relationship with Sergey Shoigu, who always loved to rest in his native places. Therefore, Zimin managed to convince both the Abakan and Krasnoyarsk leadership that it was necessary to allocate money for the construction of a hunting base. The Minister of Emergencies would invite metropolitan friends to rest; it would do good for the KZhD
By early 2000, the hunting base was built in protected areas - on the territory of the state natural zoological reserve Karatosh. Due to the status of the protected area, whole herds of marals and roe deer have been preserved in these places. Now they had to become a target for high-ranking guests of Khakassia. The current legislation prohibites to hunt in the reserve, but who pays attention to such trifles. After all, Zimin managed to make friends with one more person - Head of hunting administration of Khakassia Sergey Mashukov. He willingly agreed to close his eyes to hunting in exchange for an invitation to take part in it.
Zimin managed to convince the leadership of the Krasnoyarsk railway: there should be no evidence that the recreation center on Kharatas was somehow connected with the state corporation. Otherwise journalists would ask questions. Everything was registered on LLC, owned by Zimin. The Los' LLC became the formal owner of the base, where Oleg Zimin, the nephew of the current Head of Khakassia, owns 25%, and Tatyana Zimina, the wife of the Head of the republic, 75%.
Everyone commits errors. Therefore, one mistake was made. Zimin ordered the decoration of the VIP-base interior at Krasnoyarsk firm Jini Backen, specializing in the manufacture of furniture. The management of the company, apparently, did not realize the confidentiality of order fulfilled. Therefore, it posted photographs of the interiors of Zimin's small settlement on its website and with the inscription "For a small settlement on the Karatash River (Khakassia)". It is difficult to believe that such luxury could be found in the middle of the deaf Khakass taiga.
Once the base was completed, Zimin's reckonings were fully justified. A few years later, this place became fashionable. ‘The right people’ from Moscow came here to the hunt. Officials from the capitals dubbed it Zimin's small settlement, and locals called it Disneyland. This is really a different world for them.
Natives from the closest to the small settlement of Khakassia village Ust-Bures could only dream of living in small houses in the style of Swiss chalets and trips by jeeps Tiger. They could not hunt marals and roe deers in their native taiga:
no one gives permits to ordinary people. They could not even descry Disneyland: the taiga road is cordoned off.
By 2004, many federal officials visited Kharatas. Boris Gryzlov came to relax in the silence of the Khakass taiga - then he was Minister of Internal Affairs.
In Khakassia Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov celebrated his appointment. Like Gryzlov, he is a big fan of snuggles and wandering songs.
Among the most belted guests of Zimin those years, there are Nikolay Patrushev, who headed the FSB, Sergey Ivanov, who then held the post of Head of the Presidential Administration, Vyacheslav Volodin, then Vice-Speaker of the State Duma.
Zimin also welcomed many officials below their rank. So, Yuri Vorobyev, who was the first Deputy Minister of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergencies and Elimination of Consequences of Natural Disasters, used to chill there.
Vorobyev often relaxed with Sergey Kudinov, the manager of the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Russian Federation.
Following the officials, Zimin welcomed intellectuals. The most titled of the guests is film director Nikita Mikhalkov, who joined the hunting games at Disneyland with his son Stepan.
Zimin opened a hunting store in Abakan, so any hunter could purchase the missing equipment locally. There is everything. The range of products will be appreciated by anyone who understands luxury models of hunting rifles and sights. The formal owner of the trading house Abakan is his beloved nephew Oleg Zimin.
By 2009, the friendship with the high guests gave the owner of the small settlement posts of Khakassia Head and the chairman of the government of the republic. And in May 2012 the natural reserve Karatosh was liquidated. Just one month after that, Hunting and Fishing Industry Sibirskie Prostory LLC was registered. Soon this company got the right for 50 years lease of hunting grounds, where capital guests are resting.
Sibirskie Prostory LLC is owned by a man who has nothing to do with the Head of Khakassia, a certain Sergey Zakurdaev. But the fact that an unknown businessman managed to lease almost 100 thousand hectares of a protected taiga around Zimin's small settlement already speaks volumes. And last year Zakurdaev's ties with the Head of the republic became obvious: in August last year the businessman sold 90% of the property to the youngest daughter of Zimin Tatyana. At that time, the 22-year-old girl is a student of the Abakan University and stashes away maintenance allowance to buy Sibirskie Prostory LLC and the lands of the abandoned wildlife sanctuary.
Perhaps, student Tatyana Zimina is so thrifty that she could afford to pay for the New Year's holiday of three governors. After all, they obviously can not afford this feast in time of plague.
Tatyana Zimina (Sobesednik)
The Tula region, like Khakassia, is in the hole: according to the Ministry of Finance, it owes 19.67 billion rubles ($340m). Moscow region faces financial fore-meltdown for several years: as of March 1, 2018, the debt to the federal center is 96.76 billion rubles ($1.6bn), with a budget deficit of 44.7 billion rubles ($773m). And the Yaroslavl region’s debt as of February 1, 2018 is 36.17 billion rubles (70% of budget revenues). At the same time, Governor of the region Dmitry Mironov regularly calls on residents of the region to live off scraps: "I insist on deficit-free budget. Living within our means, without getting into debt, we will be able to level the financial system." Mironov, apparently, saves and rests at someone else's expense.
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