Friends in high places
Evgeny Kuyvashev, the Sverdlovsk Governor, denies any claims of his alleged friendship or even kinship with Sergei Sobyanin. Meanwhile, his actions seem to prove the opposite.
The Sverdlovsk Governor’s biography is self-contradictory. What he denies most vigorously is that he went to Yale and was either friends or relatives with Sergei Sobyanin. One would think both the facts are actually something to be proud of, so why does Evgeny Kuyvashev seem so embarrassed? Yale became a sensitive issue once President Putin called the University a ‘spy forge’, and Sobyanin had been ‘unfriended’ even before that. What are the invisible threads between the capital's mayor and the Urals governor anyway?
Kuyvashev has been known as Sergei Sobyanin’s protégé ever since he became Tobolsk mayor in November 2005. Evgeny Kuyvashev had been Deputy Head of Moscow Bailiffs and had every chance to establish partnership with Sergei Sobyanin, who had moved from the Tyumen Administration to the Presidential one shortly before that. According to a different version, Evgeny Kuyvashev’s wife Natalia even made him Sobyanin’s relative. Whatever it was, wherever Kuyvashev goes there is great success for the companies that are associated with the name of Sergei Sobyanin in any way.
Evgeny Kuyvashev and Sergei Sobyanin
First time it got suspicious in 2008, when Evgeny Kuyvashev was in the seat of Tyumen Governor. It was then that Tyumen Transport Administration held an open tender #76/08 to develop Tyumen transportation for 2010-2015 and plans up until 2020. The winner was Nuachno-Tekhnologichesky I Proektny Institut Transportnoi Infrastruktuty ("Science, Technology and Design Institute of Transport Infrastructure"), abbreviated NTPI TI. What is so curious about the company is its founder Aerodromstroy JSC. Yes, THE Aerodromstroy that is forever associated with Sergei Sobyanin but in fact has nothing to do with him whatsoever, according to the company’s founders. While being Tyumen Governor Sobyanin could cope with Aerodromstroy tenders quite well by himself, but having moved to Moscow he needed some help, which was the tender.
According to 2008 register of Tyumen municipal contracts, a 48.6-million-ruble contract was signed. This is when the whole ulterior motive behind the tender started to show itself. First, the NTPI TI Tyumen address mentioned in the tender documentation (17 Dzerzhinskogo Street, Tyumen) turns into a Moscow address in the contract (3/2 Marshala Maretskogo Street). The Period for Performance is December 2009. However, on December 31, 2009 the contract became invalid not upon proper execution but upon termination by mutual agreement of the parties. NTPI TI got 29.1 million rubles for allegedly performed work. What kind of work was meant there no one can be sure, as there has never been any development project for Tyumen roads.
Duty before friendship
When the scope of friendly support becomes truly undeniable is the time when Evgeny Kuyvashev comes to the Sverdlovsk Government. When taking the office, he said his top priority was improving the living standards of the people. Just two weeks after, we saw what people he meant. That's how much time it took to hold the tender for the reconstruction of two sections of Perm-Yekaterinburg highway.
The newly appointed governor did not spare money on the roads, and the initial tender price was 3.79 billion rubles. The winner was Stroitelnoye Upravleniye #1 CJSC ("#1 Construction management”) that made the maximum starting price just 38 million rubles lower. The secret of SU#1 success is quite simple: it is a part of MDS GRUPP holding that used to be called Aerodromstroy in 2008. We must admit that subsequently the contract price was reduced to 3.74 billion rubles, but the overall impression of a billion siphon-off remained.
Then followed MDS GRUPP’s triumphant march through the region Kuyvashev was in charge of. That September, SU#1 won a 488-million-ruble tender for renovation of Yekaterinburg city entrance from M5 Ural highway. It was followed by an auction for a major overhaul of Yekaterinburg-Tyumen highway, won again by MDS GRUPP with 275 million rubles. Whenever SU#1 participated in an auction, there was a company named Trest Uraltransspetsstroy that always came second. The other companies seemed to be merely for a show.
SU#1 really had its moment when they got to reconstruct a runway at Koltsovo airport for 3 billion rubles. As in the other cases, the initial contract price remained virtually unchanged, yet what happened next was somewhat at odds with the general trend. The performance was extremely poor, and then stopped completely. A criminal case on suspicion of fraud was initiated against the company’s CEO Sergei Solodovnikov, who is referred to as Sobyanin’s empire guardian. His implicit position played in his hands and Solodovnikov was released from custody after just a couple of days, and soon the criminal case was completely forgotten. Currently, Sergei Solodovnikov holds the same MDS GRUPP’s CEO post, and SU#1 is among Koltsovo general contractors.
MDS GRUPP has other companies, such as Aerodromstroy JSC that enjoys some good state contracts. There is one state contract Aerodromstroy won among many others that stands out: the one for the reconstruction of parts of Yekaterinburg-Tyumen highway 11.5 thousand km long. The tender was also one of the first Kuyvashev’s achievements as governor and was marked by an unprecedented contract price of 1.67 billion rubles. Aerodromstroy’s competition was Sverdlovskavtodor that then undertook to perform works as a subcontractor for less than 1 billion rubles. Thus, Aerodromstroy got over 700 million rubles for nothing.
Aerodromstroy was in no hurry to part with the billion almost bringing Sverdlovskavtodor to bankruptcy and forcing its employees to go to strikes. Sverdlovsk Office of the Federal Antimonopoly Service saw signs of conspiracy in Aerodromstroy and Sverdlovskavtodor story, but an attempt to call the companies to account was to no avail when the arbitral tribunal sided with the contractors.
If we compare the tenders’ amounts and dates, we can clearly see that MDS GRUPP became much more prominent in the Sverdlovsk region when Evgeny Kuyvashev came. Just two years into his governorship, the holding made about 10 billion rubles. As we can see now, duty may be before friendship, but friendship can come in handy at times.
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