Murder of taiga slaver Vladimir Teplov in Yugra: Local people breathe a sigh of relief 

Murder of taiga slaver Vladimir Teplov in Yugra: Local people breathe a sigh of relief
Teplov had openly practiced poaching, felled and sold timber, and terrorized local residents Photo: The CrimeRussia

Businessman Vladimir Teplov was recently killed in Vanzevat township, Beloyarsky district, Khanty-Mansi autonomous region (Yugra). His body with gunshot wounds in the stomach was found in the yard of a private home on Naberezhnaya street. The law enforcement authorities of the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region confirmed the fact of the murder. Later, it became known that a person suspected of this crime has been detained. It turned out that the victim was earlier accused of slavery and cruel treatment of his workers. He had even attracted the attention of the local police – but all probes ended in nothing. Vanzevat residents confirm the inhumane attitude of Teplov to his forcibly held laborers and believe that he was killed because of this. The investigation is veiled in secrecy: no comments were received from the law enforcement structures yet. The CrimeRussia performed its own inquest into the taiga tragedy, its background, and circumstances.

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Early in the morning, it became known that 61-year-old Vladimir Teplov was killed. Six police officers arrived on snowmobiles to distant Vanzevat township only in the evening. The Berezovo Interdistrict Investigations Department of the Investigations Directorate in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region (Yugra) of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation (ICR) instituted a criminal case under part 1 of Article 105 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (intentional murder). The conclusions of the operatives were based on the statements received from local people who claimed that Teplov could be killed by one of his workers.

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The body of Vladimir Teplov was discovered in Vanzevat   

Shortly after that, the Administration for the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region (Yugra) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation announced that a person suspected in this murder has been detained. It was a 35-year-old resident of the Beloyarsky district employed at a production base belonging to the victim. No motives or versions of the crime were disclosed. The Press Service of the Investigations Directorate in the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region (Yugra) declines to provide any comments for the duration of the investigation. However, operatives claim that they don’t possess any information about slavery labor conditions in Vanzevat. In response to an inquiry submitted by Kommersant-Ural newspaper, the ICR has stated that no complaints against Teplov were received from local people; the Regional MIA Administration also abstains from comments.

"I am not going to explain anything! Nor will I provide any comments. Please address the official sources; they may publish some information," – Dmitry Kryuchkin, Deputy Head of the MIA Department for the Beloyarsky District, told the Kommersant-Ural journalist.

It also became known that, in late 2018, Nina Brusentseva, a public aide to the Human Rights Commissioner in Yugra, had communicated with Vanzevat residents. She also confirmed the absence of any complaints. 

But all this information turned out to be, to put it politely, false. In February 2017, Teplov had already attracted the attention of the law enforcement authorities. At that time, the MIA had checked his enterprise because of complaints received from local people. An entire assault team consisting of 10 operatives armed with submachine guns had arrived from Khanty-Mansiysk by a helicopter – but surprisingly, no grounds to arrest Teplov were identified. Local people claim that nobody had really searched for him. The question is: what had the operatives come for and what happened in the taiga township?

‘Occupation’ of Vanzevat 

So, who was Vladimir Teplov? According to the local residents and Yugra media, he was a native of the adjacent Berezovo district and relocated to Vanzevat in the ‘turbulent 1990s’. Reportedly, he had a criminal record. Somehow, Teplov failed to establish good relations with the Berezovo district – based on the rumors, in 2005, bros from the Berezovo district gunned down Teplov’s bros during a ‘meeting’. Local people claim that he had never visited his native village because some ‘friend Tolyan’ – who had served a prison term with Teplov – was waiting for him there. 

Therefore, Teplov has settled in the Beloyarsky district and purchased land shares there, thus, acquiring ascendancy over the people. In 2000, he managed to receive agroindustrial complex development subsidies; as a result, a private cooperative association specializing in illegal moose, sable, etc. hunt, fishing, and felling of Siberian pine has emerged.    

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Teplov was a notorious poacher   

Initially, Teplov had tried to exploit local residents but then understood that migrant workers bring higher profits. He started luring 20–25-year-old men to Vanzevat from other Russian regions (mostly, from the Leningrad region). Normally, some twenty people were working for him at a time – he had seized their documents, held in slavery conditions, and mercilessly exploited without paying salaries. Cold and hungry, the workers had to live in tents on the river fishing or felling trees. Local sources, who are still afraid to disclose their names, claim that Teplov had abused the rightless laborers, beaten them, and even prohibited to take any goods in the local store on account (the workers had no money, but the vendors had provided the hungry and ragged slaves with some essentials out of pity). 

Teplov had openly practiced poaching, felled and sold timber, and terrorized the local population. He claimed that the lands were his private property and hadn’t allowed the people to pick berries and mushrooms in the forest. His kilometers-long nets set in all water bodies had prevented other residents from fishing.

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Teplov considered forests and water bodies his private   

Such a situation had lasted for years. Sometimes, local conflicts and brawls had occurred – and henchmen of Teplov set on fire hunting cabins belonging to local people... Vanzevat, with its population of some 300 residents, was under the control of ‘master' Vladimir Teplov. He had eight firearms, three motor boats, and several snowmobiles – and, together with some Trishkin and Pavperov, was the absolute sovereign of this small area terrorizing both the locals and slaves.

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Teplov liked to pose with his arsenal   

It was risky to seek help: the people understood that Teplov had a powerful ‘patron’ in the district and were afraid to take any steps. The peripheral township was completely intimidated.

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Vanzevat residents were intimidated by the gang led by Vladimir Teplov

Collective complaint was useless 

The departure of the above-mentioned assault team from Vanzevat in February 2017 without any result became the final straw for the residents. Forty local people have submitted a collective complaint to Natalia Komarova, Governor of the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Region (Yugra), Evgeny Botvinkin, Prosecutor of Yugra, Sergei Manenkov, Head of the Beloyarsky District, and Natalia Strebkova, Human Rights Commissioner in Yugra. 

The authors claimed that, after the visit of the SWAT team, Vladimir Teplov, using his connections in the Beloyarsky District Police, started harassing not only adult persons – but also their children questioned by intoxicated operatives in the absence of their parents with regards to some offenses against Teplov. 

Ugrapro.ru news portal has published a copy of the complaint submitted by the local people and specially noted that the document is publicized without signatures – because, otherwise, Vladimir Teplov, supported by the police and district authorities, would intimidate the signers even more harshly.

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«Nothing has changed, everything is the same. Teplov does whatever he wants. Do you remember a criminal case instituted for felling more than forty trees? It was closed! They still fell forest, built a hut in the taiga and hunt there – shooting moose, trapping sables. Nobody can order them anything. Currently, some eight people work for Teplov. One of their bosses, Trishkin, married a local teacher, and they have a daughter. The electric station principal, a former criminal convicted long ago for a murder committed when he was a minor, also assists them. The police never appear in the township. Local people keep silence – they have submitted a complaint once and were punished for that. Each of them was summoned – literally, at gunpoint – and asked: "Why have you signed this?" The water tower in the village does not operate. There is nothing in the store. People survive as they can. And these bandits are there! Teplov hunts wherever he wants; he even enters the wildlife refuge on the motor boat to shoot animals and fish. They fell trees and load on the barge. The occupation of the township continues,» – a Vanzevat resident told Ugrapro.ru.

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Nobody has reacted to the complaint submitted by the local people. The slaves still remained in the ‘cooperative association’; some of them tried to escape from there on a regular basis. The locals had assisted them to the best of their ability – without documents and money, it was literally impossible to flee the ‘occupied’ township. But the laborers still attempted to run away... One of them, a native of this district, apparently could not endure the slavery anymore and killed the bloodsucker – because he had no place to run from the district. 

By the way, the residents of the Beloyarsky district, where the medieval horrors had occurred, speak badly of district head Sergei Manenkov controlling the police and the local authorities – representatives of family clans Khulankhov and Moldanov. The people consider them bandits “having relatives throughout the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region and dividing the subsidies between members of their families” and hope that the conflict finally escalates to a level sufficient to launch secret probes against these persons.    

Yugra is the leader in unemployment, while Russia is the leader in slavery 

The CrimeRussia hopes that, after the murder of Vladimir Teplov, the slaves were liberated from his ‘domain’ and returned home. Similarly with Ugrapro.ru, the leading regional news portal closely monitoring the developments in Vanzevat, we have no information on the investigation progress and whether it is still ongoing. It can’t be ruled out that, after the arrest of the suspected killer, the law enforcement structures have reported the solution of the crime, classified it as a “mundane murder”, and closed their file. The detained suspect is awaiting the trial in a pretrial detention facility. No one can say whether victims of slain Teplov were questioned and their statements attached to the case file or not. 

The key to this mystery likely lies in big politics. Back in the end of 2015 – i.e. more than a year before the visit of the SWAT troopers to Vanzevat, the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection of the Russian Federation has reviewed the quality and availability of governmental employment promotion services to the population. Yugra became the leader by "the share of unemployed citizens who have launched their own businesses in the total number of unemployed people". According to the report published by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection, in the Khanty-Mansi autonomous region, this parameter was 7 times higher than its median value in Russia. In other words, the region was recognized the best in the provision of employment. The following factors were taken into consideration in the course of the study: assistance to job seekers in finding suitable jobs, assistance to employers in personnel selection, social adaptation of unemployed people, assistance to unemployed people in self-employment, etc.

“...Small business is the basis, foundation of a successful economy... If a region – in this particular case, Yugra – has taken the entrepreneurship revival path, supports it in these difficult times, including struggle against unemployment, this is an absolutely correct direction,” – Dmitry Kravchenko, Chairman of the Presidium of the Association of Young Entrepreneurs, told Pravda.ru portal. 

“The state support system for unemployed people is effectively working in Yugra... The Khanty-Mansi autonomous region is among the leaders in virtually all spheres of activity. The parameters are impressive. The region has been achieving high results for years; it is known that the stability is a sign of mastery and formula for success for the long-term perspective,” – federal officials have reported. 

The key words here are “parameters” and “perspective”. Who would dare after that to put in jeopardy “the impressive parameters for the long-term perspective” and investigate the “personnel selection” practices of a local businessman who turned out to be a slaver? Vladimir Teplov had to be prosecuted under Article 127.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (use of slave labor) stipulating a punishment of 8 to 15 years behind bars. 

According to the Global Slavery Index published in July 2018 by Walk Free Foundation, an Australian human rights organization, Russia is among the top 10 countries where slavery is flourishing. The other ‘slavery leaders’ are North Korea (the top position in the anti-rating), India, China, Pakistan, Nigeria, Iran, Indonesia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Philippines. The number of slaves in these states amounts to 40 million, including 794 thousand enslaved people in Russia, – which translates into 60% of their total number in the world. Russia is on the 64th position by the ratio between slaves and free citizens and inside the top 10 by the quantitative parameter.

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Oleg Mel’nikov, Head of Alternative Public Movement Against Slavery, was attacked   

Does that mean that the number of slavers in Russia is high, too? In December 2018, an unknown person had tried to kill Oleg Mel'nikov, founder of Alternative Public Movement Against Slavery, in the town of Dolgoprudny. The assassin stabbed the activist three times with a knife and fled without being caught on security cameras. Mel'nikov survived, and Alternative volunteers continue liberating people from all forms of modern slavery...

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