Police wars on the Quiet Don: An alternative view
Sergey Morgachev, the former Head of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region, has been charged with abuse of official powers; his case is currently being examined by the Sovetsky District Court of Rostov-on-Don. The criminal prosecution against him, as well as recent tragic events in his life, create an impression that an honest police officer is a victim of powers who had failed to kill him and are now trying to put behind bars on the basis of framed-up charges. Is that true?
On May 25, 2016, Moskovsky Komsomolets newspaper has published an article by a famous journalist and Deputy Aleksander Khinshtein entitled Police wars on the Quiet Don.
The publication addressed in detail the attempted assassination of Sergey Morgachev, the Head of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region, and events preceding the attack. The author personally blames Andrei Larionov, the Head of the General Administration of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation in the Rostov Region, for the tragedy.
After the initiation of a criminal case against Sergey Morgachev in September 2015 and his subsequent suspension, many officers of the Regional State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration and territorial State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorates agreed to share their observations and opinions.
Legacy inherited by Larionov
In February 2013, Andrei Larionov has been appointed the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration in the Rostov Region; at that time, Igor Bezotosny was the Head of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region.
His actions raised numerous questions among law enforcement and watchdog structures, including the regional authorities, and caused a very negative public reaction.
However, despite numerous complaints against the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration as a whole and against Bezotosny personally, he felt himself pretty comfortable in the region prior to the appointment of Larionov. The General Aleksey Lapin, the former Head of the Russian MIA General Administration in the Rostov Region, favored Bezotosny and even allowed the Head of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration to substitute him as the chairman at command conferences – which was obviously too high for his rank.
Photo: Igor Bezotosny, the Head of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration, during the rule of Aleksey Lapin
“Under the command of Bezotosny, the regional State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration was, in fact, a commercial structure,” – a veteran of the Rostov Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate told in a private conversation. – “It was a smoothly running industry: police harassment of drivers was a normal thing; there were widespread sales of license plates and drivers’ licenses; counterfeit alcohol, smuggled goods, petroleum products without proper documentation, etc. used to be freely transported in the region…”
“Lapin favored Bezotosny and his Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration and did not allow anyone to touch them, including the Administration of Internal Security,” – another source, who used to serve in one of the divisions of the MIA General Administration in the Rostov Region during the rule of general Lapin, recalls. – “Road Traffic Safety Inspectors were caught in crimes rarely; only small fry were sometimes caught red-handed. High-ranked officials were invincible because an approval from the Head of the General Administration was required to start an investigation against such suspects, but alas…”
“Larionov has launched an unprecedented war on corruption; the region had never seen anything like this with other heads of the MIA General Administration,” – an acting officer of a regional anti-corruption structure tells. – “In the past, the regional roads were true pipelines for hundreds of thousands liters of counterfeit alcohol from the Northern Caucasus. To prove my words, I can suggest you to visit any Inter-District Registration and Examination Office and try to buy a priority license plate number. I doubt that you can do this – no such numbers are available. Regular numbers, according to the law, – no problem, but no priority numbers. These are not being ordered anymore to minimize corruption risks. The same situation is with driver’s licenses – just try to buy one in an Inter-District Registration and Examination Office. There is a chance that you manage to give the money, but no guarantee that you won’t be immediately arrested for bribing a police officer. The systematic prosecution of bribe-givers has started with Andrei Larionov. Of course, this can’t be verified, but I can say for sure that currently, there is no more large-scale flow of counterfeit alcohol in the region, while individual incidents of its transportation are being identified”.
In the first months of his command, Andrei Larionov has disbanded all superior officers of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration, including Bezotosny – who was dismissed from the MIA for being unfit for the position.
Vitaly Derevyanko was appointed a temporary Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region, but he failed to perform his duties properly. The next acting Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration was Igor Konstantinov – a disfavored human resource manager of the Inspectorate. Bezotosny tried to get rid of him, but in vain – because Konstantinov was hiding and obtaining sick leave certificates to avoid coming to work.
Photo: Vitaly Derevyanko and Igor Konstantinov, temporary Heads of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration
Both of them have made the same mistake – instead of sorting out the mess and normalizing the work, they rushed to appoint their confidants and trusted friends to senior positions in the Registration and Examination Offices and patrolling subdivisions. And their candidates have not demonstrated much honesty and professionalism.
Ultimately, Vitaly Derevyanko has been downgraded from the Deputy Head of the Regional Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration to an Inspector of an Inter-District Registration and Examination Office, while his successor Igor Konstantinov was transferred to a position not related to the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate and later dismissed.
The third interim commander – a new deputy
Aleksander Otsimik became the third appointee of Larionov. Otsimik was a Road Patrol Service Regiment Commander; he has been recently transferred to this post from Astrakhan where he used to hold a superior position in the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate. He also used to serve in the General Administration for Traffic Safety of the MIA.
It is necessary to note that, while being a Road Patrol Service Regiment Commander, Otsimik had shown himself very well; in a short span of time, not only has he gained respect of the personnel, but also demonstrated his professionalism and ambitions.
These traits and absence of links with the corrupt command of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region made Aleksander Otsimik an ideal candidate for the Head of the Regional Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration. In August 2013, he was appointed the acting Head of the Administration.
“Otsimik was not a bad commander,” – an officer who used to serve under his authority tells. – “He cared about the personnel, tried not to punish people without a strong reason, communicated with subordinates gently and politely, never raised his voice, and never insulted subordinates – who respected him for this”.
Photo: Aleksander Otsimik, the former Deputy Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration
Otsimik was considered the main candidate for the post of the Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration. Furthermore, a full package of documents for his appointment had been produced and submitted to the MIA for approval. However, Viktor Nilov, the Head of the MIA General Administration for Traffic Safety, did not support the candidacy of Otsimik – as a result, he was appointed the Deputy Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region.
Sergey Morgachev has become the Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region in the end of November 2013. Earlier he was the Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Ul’yanovsk Region; general Larionov also used to serve there – so Morgachev was considered a creature of the Head of the MIA General Administration in the Rostov Region.
“After the departure of Morgachev we felt really sorry for the Rostov colleagues, but were happy for ourselves,” – an officer of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration for the Ul’yanovsk Region told. – “He was a hardline boss, he never tolerated any opinion different from his own and renounced any authority. He encouraged whistleblowing and intrigues; sometimes he provoked those himself – perhaps, it was an amusement for him, I don’t know. I can’t say that Morgachev was close to Larionov – at least, we had never seen anything like this. I know that he renounced all authorities – at least, those in Ul’yanovsk; he always had conflicts with commanders of other services and agencies, he did not shun to report his opponents to the Head of the Administration. As far as I know, Morgachev was close to Viktor Kir’yanov, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, – but I can’t tell what was the reason behind this closeness”.
“Nikolai Sheyukhin, the Head of the Special Center for Traffic Safety of the MIA and a close friend of Morgachev, had assigned him to the Rostov region,” – a former officer of the Department of Civil Service and Personnel of the MIA advised. – “Morgachev became familiar with Kir’yanov, the Deputy Minister of Internal Affairs, via Sheyukhin. Kir’yanov played the key role in the transfer of Morgachev to the Rostov region from Ul’yanovsk; Larionov agreed to accept Morgachev following a request–order from the Deputy Minister, with full understanding of inevitability of conflicts between Morgachev and Andrei Lobintsev, the Deputy Head of the Police, who arrived to the region after Larionov and had a long-term personal enmity with Morgachev.
After his appointment, Morgachev has dismissed the majority of mid-level officers using draconian measures. Not only the people were offered positions considerably lower than the current ones, but also located far from their homes. In fact, the unwanted officers were put under conditions making impossible for them to continue further service in the MIA.
Photo: Sergey Morgachev, the former Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region
Those who refused to resign voluntarily were facing numerous audits and disciplinary charges that ultimately resulted in dismissals for being unfit for the position.
“Pereverzev and Shemyakin, heads of the technical management division, were among the first victims of Morgachev after his appointment,” – a former officer of the above-mentioned division explains. – “Only because they had been appointed in the period when Otsimik was the Acting Head of the Administration, a wave of audits and reprimands has been unleashed on them. Officers of the control department were spying on Shemyakin when he was out of service, engaged the Road Patrol Service crews into this, submitted administrative protocols against him, imposed reprimands, and ultimately managed to dismiss. Due to such repressions and stress, the health of Shemyakin has deteriorated, he almost lost his sight. Pereverzev, after numerous unreasoned reprimands, had to agree to a position of the Head of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate in one of the most distant districts of the region – more than 200 km from his home. However, even after his transfer, Pereverzev still had been subjected to checks as per Morgachev’s directions and ultimately was dismissed for being unfit for the position.
According to the official statistics, before the transfer of Morgachev to the Rostov region, the undermanning in the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate was less than a hundred persons; in the end of 2014, a year after his appointment, the undermanning was two hundred people.
“From the very beginning, Morgachev has shown himself not only as a hardline boss, but as a tyrant and despot,” – a former officer of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region remembers. – “I had never seen such an inhuman attitude towards the subordinates for more than 23 years of my service. Insults of the personnel, permanent screaming, threats to dismiss have become a daily reality in the Administration.
On March 25, 2014, there was a vicious attack on Morgachev in the lobby of the house where he lived; he sustained severe injuries.
After being in coma for several days, Morgachev has regained consciousness, and a few weeks later, still staying in the hospital with serious injuries, he resumed the management of the Administration through visiting subordinates and by phone. In September 2014, he returned to work.
The attack on the Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration has caused a public outcry and numerous discussions about the reasons behind this incident. The media emphasized his adherence to principles and intolerance to any illegal activity and concluded that the tragedy occurred due to his hardline position.
The investigation of the assault on Morgachev (which had been carried out really fast by the Administration of Internal Security) has brought shocking results. Less than in a month after the incident, Aleksander Otsimik has been arrested on suspicion of organizing this crime.
According to the investigation, it was the deputy of Morgachev and main candidate for his post who had contracted the attack.
The investigation has uncovered some interesting facts from the biography of Otsimik in the period when he was the acting Head of the Regional State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration. It turned out that he had adapted very quickly to the new conditions, established close friendly relations with the corrupt officials, and quickly gained material wealth. The pace of his enrichment was unbelievable. Being in charge of the Administration for three months, Otsimik managed to save enough money to acquire several apartments and a luxury home in Rostov.
Taking this circumstances and refusal of Otsimik to testify, the version that Morgachev had suffered for a noble cause seemed more and more trustworthy.
But it turned out that his signature intolerance to violations of the law was nothing more than a sham to cover a trivial redistribution of spheres of influence and redirection of corruption flows under his control.
Photo: Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration in the Rostov Region
Pretty soon, under the disguise of demonstrative struggle against illegal transportation of loose heavyweight cargoes – sand, gravel, grain, etc. – widely covered in media, Morgachev has gained control over the majority of transport operators – who had to accept his patronage under the threat of administrative repressions.
“The superior command was providing to us lists with numbers of heavy trucks that must not be checked,” – a former squad commander in the First Don Road Patrol Service Battalion responsible for the M4 Don Federal Highway tells. – “The trucks from that list, transporting grain, gravel, sand, and other loads, were untouchable – a whole shift could be dismissed for pulling those over. Battalion superior officers provided these lists to squad commanders and specifically noted that this was an order from the Head of the Administration. Of course, no one had doubts that the lists had been given to us with knowledge of Morgachev; our commanders were in horror of him and would never make a step without his approval. I noticed many times that these lists included tanker trucks transporting both petroleum products and liquid foodstuff. I would suppose that these liquids contained alcohol”.
Morgachev has quickly established friendship with businessmen of Rostov-on-Don whose profits were directly linked with operations of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate. For instance, he has seized control over the towing business.
“All the towing service in Rostov had been assigned to a special Road Patrol Service battalion – a pocket guard of Morgachev,” – an officer of the special battalion tells. – “Every day our task was to tow away as many cars as possible”.
In addition to the requirement to tow away as many vehicles as possible, Morgachev ordered to tow the cars to certain impoundment lots and mercilessly punished inspectors for violations of this order. All these lots belonged to businessman Gleb Fomin.
“Fomin was close to Morgachev and often dared to criticize us for poor results in towing cars away and required to bring more vehicles to him,” – the inspector of the special battalion recalls. – “The officers repeatedly saw Fomin together with Morgachev; they both acted like friends. Also many people knew that Morgachev likes to host guests and spend time in Visoky Bereg (High Coast) entertainment complex belonging to the family of Fomin.
The statistics show that the number of vehicles towed to the impoundment lot located on Tyumensky lane (owned by Fomin at that time) was much higher in comparison with other impoundment lots of the city. And the cost of car storage there was higher than on other lots.
Photo: Impoundment lot of Fomin is well-known among truck drivers on the M4 Don Federal Highway
Another impoundment lot of Fomin was located in Aksaisky district, close to the M4 Don Federal Highway. As per order by Morgachev, overloaded trucks had been towed there. To retrieve back their vehicles, the drivers had to pay huge amounts of money charged by Fomin – who included the cut of the Head of the Regional State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration into these sums.
“It was difficult to bring heavy trucks to the impoundment lot of Fomin,” – remembers the officer of the First Don Road Patrol Service Battalion. – “The drivers knew that they are, in fact, being robbed there and tried to avoid this by all means – imitated breakdowns, dumped cargo on the road, etc. We understood this but could do nothing. It was a personal order by Morgachev to put the vehicles on this lot – and non-observance of his orders resulted in dismissals. Still, it is good that the numerous complaints have brought the result, and this establishment was shut down”.
Morgachev has also established friendly relations with Gryzlov brothers, co-owners of the Rostov Port. As a result, overloaded trucks transporting goods to the port have been relieved from any administrative obstacles.
Due to the good fellowship of Gryzlov brothers and Morgachev, an accommodation had been provided to the Head of the Regional State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration within the enclosed household of the brothers–businessmen located on the lakeshore in a prestigious park zone of the city.
In the period of friendship between Morgachev and Gryzlov brothers, the Inter-District Registration and Examination Office of the Regional State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration had repeatedly provided most prestigious license plate numbers with the 001 combination to vehicles belonging to the Rostov Port.
At the same time, the personnel of the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration had been suffering from the stern measures. Morgachev treated his subordinates as servants, humiliated them, and insulted in foul language.
This resulted in a mass exodus of professionals, huge number of resignations, the largest undermanning for the whole history of the Regional State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate, and widespread growth of violations in patrolling subdivisions. People were coming to work as if it was for the last time.
“For a slightest fault, including a wrong intonation, he could demand a resignation; should the subordinate refuse, he had initiated numerous service audits, following which, he could dismiss the person due to disciplinary reasons,” – an acting officer of State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration, who used to serve under the command of Morgachev, recalls.
“After the six months spent in the hospital, he behaved not fully adequately, to say the least,” – an acting female officer of the Administration tells. – “Morgachev, in fact, stopped talking with subordinates in a normal professional manner; he was yelling all the time. He had hysterics, nervous breakdowns, and panic attacks on the regular basis, and, taking that he always had a firearm with him, many employees feared him. Once Anna Germanovna (secretary of Morgachev) complained to me that she is afraid of the chief, and at some point he went berserk due to her fault, screamed at her, insulted, and even grasped his pistol in the holster several times – although did not pull it out”.
“Over time, the issue with the mental health of Morgachev has become increasingly actual; many his actions indicated his inadequacy,” – an officer of the Regional Administration says. – “However, any references to a medical examination had been outraging him; he was spraying spit and yelling that he had passed an examination in Moscow. But many people knew that this was a lie; he never passed any examinations.
Obviously, Andrei Larionov, the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration in the Rostov Region, was aware of not fully adequate behavior of his subordinate Sergey Morgachev, but, feeling himself partially responsible for the tragedy that had occurred with Morgachev, he did not take any drastic actions to reprimand the arrogant colonel and only had sententious talks with him.
Photo: Andrei Larionov, the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration in the Rostov Region
Morgachev exploited the patronage of the commander and continuously flaunted the past attack, positioning himself a victim suffering for upholding of the duty.
“Virtually at all conference meetings, he had mentioned the assault in his reports. Initially, this resulted in compassion and understanding from others. Questions had been rarely asked to him after his reports,” – the head of a subdivision in the Regional MIA Administration tells. – “But a few months after his return to work, his continuous references to the attack at every opportunity started looking like a self-promotion and did not invoke any feelings or emotions in the audience anymore”.
Over time, the public interest to the incident has faded. In addition, certain circumstances and actions by Morgachev implied that he had suffered not for a just cause, but rather for a gravy train.
A year and two months after the attack on the Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration for the Rostov Region, Aleksander Khinshtein has published an article entitled “Police wars on the Quiet Don”. The author has reminded of the long-forgotten events and refreshed the version that Morgachev had suffered for a noble cause, while Andrei Larionov, the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration in the Rostov Region, is responsible for the incident.
The regional media have taken up this idea again and started actively discussing it – positioning Morgachev a victim and martyr.
It is unclear, however, why were the regional media demonstrating such a passionate love to the Head of the Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration?
“Morgachev is very self-affected and likes self-promotion; one of his first actions as the Head of the Administration was a meeting with local journalists; he was paying much attention to them. Following his order, some journalists received prestigious license plate numbers for their personal cars for free – the governmental fees for this service had been covered at the expense of the Inter-District Registration and Examination Office,” – one of the officers of the Administration recalls.
Still, all the love and loyalty of the press could not stop an audit against Morgachev initiated by the Administration of Internal Security who had lots of questions to the colonel. In September 2015, his wrongdoings have been uncovered, and he was suspended. The criminal case against him is currently being examined in court.
It is necessary to note that, prior to the criminal case initiation, Morgachev, using the loyal attitude of Larionov, had been consistently attempting to discredit the Administration of Internal Security. He was regularly reporting negative and false information to the Head of the Russian MIA General Administration, claimed that officers of the Administration of Internal Security provide patronage to operators transporting grain and alcohol and are involved into the illegal trade of drivers’ licenses, governmental license plate numbers, etc.
Viktor Zozulya, a former Head of the Administration of Internal Security, feared Morgachev and never reacted to his actions. Instead, he was reporting his own achievements and operational successes to Andrei Larionov – although those existed only on paper, not in reality. This has ultimately resulted in the dismissal of Zozulya by Larionov.
Nikolai Germashev, who succeeded Zozulya, has taken a different stance: he was not willing to tolerate the situation in the State Road Traffic Safety Inspectorate Administration and started collecting incriminatory evidence against Morgachev – which has finally led to the initiation of the criminal case.
Interestingly, since the beginning of the audit against Morgachev, there was an influx of signals from watchful citizens – who reported crimes allegedly committed by Germashev during his service in the MIA and in early youth. But none of these signals provided reliable information about their authors – i.e. they were all anonymous.
The law enforcement services have verified the information provided in the above-mentioned reports but could not find any proof for the accusations contained there. Apparently, this is the reason why the authors are hiding their names – to avoid being held liable for the slander and prosecuted in accordance with the law.