From Gosht to Akhedzhak. Preplanned assault or just visiting robbers?
Overnight into May 9, 2018, a dreadful attack has been committed against parents of late Murat Akhedzhak, ex-Vice Governor of the Krasnodar Krai. Unknown masked persons burst into their home in Pseituk village located in the Takhtamukaisky district, Republic of Adygea. Why did the robbers come to the home of respected people? Have the elderly parents become victims accidentally?
According to sources in the law enforcement structures, there were four masked assailants. Apparently, they have come from the Kuban River located 1 km from the home of the Akhedzhak family. It is possible to covertly approach the building from that side via the forest belt without being spotted by local residents or security cameras. The unknown brigands have tied the victims and likely tortured them. After turning the home upside down, the assailants have fled.
Elder daughter Saida residing in Krasnodar was the first to ring the alarm bell. She could not get their relatives on the phone for the entire evening and arrived at their home in Pseituk on the next day. She was shocked to discover in different rooms Kazbek and Luiza Akhedzhak, as well as their younger daughter Zarema, cruelly beaten and tied. The housefather and his daughter were admitted to the Krasnodar Krai Clinical Hospital in serious condition. Burn injuries were found on the body of 81-year-old Kazbek Akhedzhak; his hands were severely traumatized by a plastic cable. The elderly man remained tied for almost 24 hours and gangrene invaded one of his hands. 79-year-old Luiza Akhedzhak succumbed to her wounds. On May 12, she was buried on a local cemetery next to her son – Murat Akhedzhak.
The Akhedzhak family
Murat Akhedzhak was in charge of the Krasnodar Branch of the Russian United Democratic Party "Yabloko" since 1999. In early 2001, became a plenipotentiary representative of the Regional Administration in the local Legislative Assembly and General Director of the Department of the Media, Publishing, TV and Radio Broadcasting, and Mass Communications. In April 2002, was appointed the Deputy Head of the Krasnodar Krai Administration for Liaison with the Legislative Assembly. In August 2003, became the Deputy Head of the Krasnodar Krai Administration for Internal Policy. A Candidate of Technical Sciences. His name was repeatedly mentioned in relation to the tragedy in Kushchevka – allegedly, the Vice Governor for Internal Policy had heard about the bloody deeds committed by the Tsapok family from local residents, but ignored all such signals. In December 2010, Murat Akhedzhak has died following a long illness.
The home belonging to the parents of the former official is located on the outskirts of Pseituk village. A neighbor's house is on one side, two other sides of their lot face the street, while the rear of the backyard borders a wasteland. A forest belt along the Kuban River bank is located beyond the wasteland. The intruders have supposedly approached the home from that side.
The Akhedzhak family lives in the largest and most comfortable home in the village. It is clearly visible on satellite images. In addition to the vegetable garden, late son Murad has laid out for his parents a park with pathways, street lamps, and other luxuries. Everybody knows whose home it is – therefore, local people believe that none of the villagers could commit such a brazen attack.
Not only Pseituk residents are aware of the wealth of the late official’s parents. In 2011, Vedomosti newspaper found out that Kazbek Akhedzhak owns 76 apartments in Chistye Prudy (Clear Ponds) Residential Complex located on the Lake Karasun shore. The properties were likely acquired at the construction stage. Akhedzhak is a project co-investor – he owns all apartments from 129 to 201 in a row. Their total living space is some 6 thousand square meters, while the total value – some 236 million rubles ($3.8 million).
It is necessary to note that Kazbek Akhedzhak was a math teacher, while his wife Luiza Akhedzhak – a Russian language teacher.
Chistye Prudy Residential Complex
When their son Murat Akhedzhak was alive and held a Vice Gubernatorial post, a scandal has broken out in Krasnodar. Somebody started building a luxury private mansion in the very center of the city – in the middle of the 30th Victory Anniversary Park on the Kuban River bank. The total area of the estate was 1.65 ha, a large section of the park was cut down to clear the construction site. The cost of the mansion was estimated at 450 million rubles ($7.3 million). According to the Consolidated State Register of Immovable Property, the unfinished three-story home and several lesser structures belong to Kazbek Akhedzhak.
The official’s father became the owner of the mansion as a result of a sophisticated scheme exposed by the Accounts Chamber in October 2009. The lot was leased to Invest-Yug (Invest-South) Limited Liability Company belonging to Kazbek Ismailovich Akhedzhak. Its Executive Director was Galina Aleksandrovna Kolontaevskaya, daughter of Aleksander Kolontaevsky, then-Deputy Mayor of Krasnodar. In 2007, Invest-Yug Limited Liability Company addressed the Krasnodar Krai Administration requesting a preliminary permit “to build office and administrative facilities with access routes” in the 30th Victory Anniversary Park. The project was dubbed Bereg (Shore) Hotel and Administrative Complex. Its authors had never explained why would the city dwellers need a business center in the middle of the park. Contrary to the regulations, they haven’t even provided a proper application and independent expert assessment of the project. According to the audit results, the business plan had defects as well. However, on November 12, 2007, the ‘investment project’ has been approved by the Expert Inter-Departmental Investment Council of the Krasnodar Krai chaired by Vice Governor Aleksander Remezkov – who has also built a mansion in this park.
The Krasnodar Department of Architecture and Urban Planning has supported the initiative. On November 16, 2007, Aleksander Remezkov has ordered to lease the publicly-owned lot to Invest-Yug Limited Liability Company without a tender. On November 27, 2007, Aleksander Tkachev, Governor of the Krasnodar Krai, has issued Order № 1023-r approving the land lot selection and authorizing the construction of “office and administrative premises” by Invest-Yug. An additional Order № 100-r of March 3, 2008, has set a 49-year lease term for that lot. Then the Department of Property Relations of the Krasnodar Krai has signed a lease agreement with Invest-Yug Limited Liability Company.
A year later, the Krasnodar officials have changed the status of the leased lot following a request from Invest-Yug Limited Liability Company. Instead of building a hotel and administrative complex, the lot has been re-zoned for residential construction. The lease payment was reduced from 10 million rubles ($162.4 thousand) to 30 thousand rubles ($487) per year.
The Accounts Chamber has identified the fraud when the Akhedzhak’s mansion was already under construction. The information was provided to the relevant Krasnodar authorities. The officials, however, disagreed with the auditors’ findings – according to their response, the investor has the right to change the permitted construction category and, therefore, ditch the original plan to build an administrative center.
The original project of Bereg (Shore) Hotel and Administrative
In March 2011, a criminal case was instituted against Elena Serdyukova, Deputy Head of the Department of Property Relations of the Krasnodar Krai, under Article 286 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (exceeding official powers). She disagreed with the arguments brought by the investigation and appealed the order to institute criminal proceedings in court. The Oktyabrsky District Court of Krasnodar has declared the order ungrounded and illegal.
The unfinished home in the park was put up for sale in 2015. According to the ad, it was "a unique estate located in the park zone on the right bank of the Kuban River. The manor is truly unique – built in a secluded area, it is located 10 minutes away from the popular historical center of the city! The area of 1.65 ha makes it possible to implement the most ambitious projects! There is a possibility to sever the lot into three parts". However, no one was interested in buying the mansion.
According to the local media, Kazbek Akhedzhak has recently got rid of some real property. The malefactors allegedly became aware of this and came to his home to steal the sale proceeds. But why were the elderly people so stubborn that the assailants had to torture them? Why did they prefer death and torment instead of surrendering the money? Could the reason behind this attack be different?
The investigators do not rush to disclose any information. It remains unknown what has Kazbek Akhedzhak told the operatives after regaining consciousness in the hospital. A criminal case has been instituted for murder and robbery. Governor Veniamin Kondratiev has taken the investigation under personal control.
A few days later, it became known that the first suspects have been arrested in nearby Yablonovsky township. According to the media, 50-year-old Sergei Ponomarev and 34-year-old Ivan Kononenko were remanded in custody. Both of them have criminal records and reside in Krasnodar.
Kononenko claims that he was at home for the entire day. He has witnesses – neighbors who saw him. In addition, he was arrested not in nearby Yablonovsky – but in Medvedkovskaya cossack village where he lives with his wife and little son. Medvedkovskaya is located some 100 km from Pseituk. He could not disappear from home for several hours unnoticed.
According to the defense attorney, neighbors saw that Ivan Kononenko was at home on the day of the crime. He helped neighbors to drill a borehole. However, their testimonies were not attached to the case file.
“In the evening, we were going to have a picnic. Everybody saw us making barbecue and drinking a little bit in celebration of the holiday. Vanya had never taken the wheel after drinking alcohol. In the evening, he was bathing the child. In the night, he has got up to make porridge for us," – Olga, wife of Ivan Kononenko, told. With regards to his past criminal record, it allegedly pertains to drug use as a juvenile.
The wife of Sergei Ponomarev claims that their son had an allergy attack overnight into May 9, and the both parents had awakened frequently. The husband could not get away in the middle of the night unnoticed. In the morning, the entire family has attended the Immortal Regiment March.
It turned out however that Sergei Ponomarev, known to many people as Vyacheslav, was familiar with the Akhedzhak family. He was a construction supervisor and visited the home belonging to the ex-Vice Governor’s parents. With regards to the past criminal record – according to his friends, Ponomarev has mended his ways back in the penal colony – quit drinking and smoking and started attending church.
Sergei Ponomarev and Ivan Kononenko have been remanded in custody for two months. Their fingerprints were found on the piano in the home of the Akhedzhak family. But the both men insist on their innocence and deny any allegations. In addition, the suspects claim that the operatives force them to criminate themselves.
Local residents don’t really believe that the true criminals have been caught. A similar story occurred in Ivashevka village near Syzran. On April 24, 2016, masked men have broken into the home of parents of colonel Andrei Gosht, Deputy Chief of Staff of the General Administration for the Samara Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation. Later it became known that the robbers were not aware who was the home owner and picked it based on the exterior appearance. Their loot was pretty small – belongings worth in total some 200 thousand rubles ($3.2 thousand). The criminals have bludgeoned their victims – father, mother, wife, brother’s wife, and high-ranked police officer – to death with sticks and metal rods. Only a 7-year-old girl survived in the massacre. She was admitted to a hospital and remained in coma for a long time.
The first version checked by the investigators was linking the crime with professional activities of Andrei Gosht. After the capture of Roman Fataliev, Islam Babaev, Orkhan Zakhrabov, and Makhmadali Akhmadov, the local people had hardly believed that these persons could commit such an assault. Even three jurors, out of the twelve, had doubts about their guilt. However, the crime was proven, and the four men have been sentenced to prison terms varying from 25 years to life.
Some experts still have doubts about the ‘robbery version’ provided by the investigation. The assault had been in preparation for several months. Dogs of the home owners and their neighbors were poisoned in advance. Some valuable items were left intact. And the cruelty of the murder was inconsistent with the loot gained by the assailants. The criminals could possibly be tipped off by some people willing to settle old scores with Andrei Gosht.
Outcomes of the inquest into the robbery of the home belonging to the Akhedzhak family remain unknown yet. Neither the damages nor lists of stolen items were disclosed. But the most important is that some victims have survived and can tell the investigators about the tragedy. Was this a contract crime?
For several days now, the minds of the public in St. Petersburg are occupied with one piece of news – Lieutenant-General Umnov, head of the Main Directorate of the MIA for St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region, leaves his post and sets off for a promotion to Moscow. Sergey Umnov is allegedly designated for the position of deputy minister of the MIA Vladimir Kolokoltsev. However, on the sidelines of the ministry they expect not a promotion for the Petersburg general, but an honorable resignation with the consequent loss of political weight.