Redistribution on Ai-Petri plateau: demolition of facilities worth 1 billion, no compensation, and arm of Sberbank 

Redistribution on Ai-Petri plateau: demolition of facilities worth 1 billion, no compensation, and arm of Sberbank
Sberbank is making plans for the mountain Photo: The CrimeRussia

One and a half years after the demolition of Tatar cafes on the Ai-Petri plateau, their owners are trying to sue the promised compensation from the Crimean government, but to no avail: the courts make decisions not in favor of them. They did not get the promised new land for business either. And all because in May 2017 a banal replotting and destruction of a cluster of small and medium-sized businesses was carried out on Ai-Petri. But cafes and retail outlets still function there: also with a national flavor, but different already. The CrimeRussia tried to figure out who and why demolished some joints for the sake of building by others, and how in the near future they plan to use the mountain pearl.

The plateau is not the same

The consequences of a large-scale sweep of the high-mountainous “trading oasis” on Ai-Petri catch the eye of all who arrives on the famous tourist route of the Crimea. Garbage, untidyness, primitive dry closets, desolation and emptiness. The set of services provided, though remained the same, but lost its quality and diversity. 

Ai-Petri plateau

90% of the Ai-Petri plateau territory near the cable car are overgrown with weeds

Ai-Petri plateau

These are toilets installed instead of a serious complex Biotal, which was liquidated during the stripping

Ai-Petri plateau

Shabby shops, crooked tile, and poor installation

In 2002, OOO Sharm, which belonged to the Yalta businessman, Ossetian Chermen Lolaev, received on Ai-Petri for 49 years an area of 2.8 hectares, where cafes and shopping malls soon appeared. Some of the objects belonged to Lolaev himself, and some he rented to the Crimean Tatars. All objects had legal addresses in the village of Okhotnichye on Ai-Petrinskaya Street, they regularly paid taxes. On the basis of the Federal Constitutional Law 6-FKZ “On the Admission of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol to the Russian Federation,” Russia recognized these documents. In general, about a thousand people were employed on the plateau. The business passed to Chermen Lolaev’s son Ibrahim Lolaev, who on January 5, 2015 re-registered Sharm to himself, based on all the requirements of the legislation of the Russian Federation. 


Ai-Petri was constantly supervised by environmentalists and the sanitary epidemiological station, the identified inconsistencies were quickly eliminated, violators were fined. Over the years of its operation, the high-altitude marketplace has become an attractive point of the tourist routes of the peninsula.

In December 2016, the administration of Yalta and the Council of Ministers of Crimea filed a lawsuit to forcibly terminate the lease agreement for the land plot with OOO Sharm and recover the alleged debt of rent in the amount of several million rubles. The court sided with the authorities, ignoring the arguments and evidence of OOO Sharm. Then the Ai-Petri plateau was declared a nature reserve, as a result of which they first raised the issue of violation of environmental standards, and then the demolition of shopping facilities. 

The source of The CrimeRussia from Yalta is convinced that Sergey Aksyonov and his team represented by the ex-head of the State Committee of the Republic of Crimea on interethnic issues Zaur Smirnov and Russian State Duma deputy Ruslan Balbek tritely extorted the plateau, having earned cash on its replotting. According to the source, this, in particular, was promoted by a powerful media campaign, which included federal media.

“According to my calculations, around 10 million rubles ($151,000) was spent to create public opinion on several false positions: the Tatars illegally seized a piece of the reserve; there are only Asians, fraud and generally terrible conditions; Tatars dump garbage directly from the mountain; Tatars foul water sources. This is all nonsense. Tatars are not perfect, of course, like any entrepreneurs, they have screwed up sometimes, said the source.

So, having organized a large-scale media campaign, the society was led to believe in three myths. The first is that the Tatars illegally captured and littered part of the reserve; the second – that all entrepreneurs were paid compensation for the demolition of cafes and lost business; the third is that all of them had land plots allocated for them in Simeiz and Bakhchisarai, and that they construct something there.

But all this is not true, say our sources. 

Crimean Tatar officials deceived their countrymen

The source of The CrimeRussia from the Crimean Tatars reported that the cafe demolition was conceived and implemented by the then head of the Crimean State Committee on Interethnic Issues Zaur Smirnov, who was called the first Russian curator of the Crimean Tatars appointed by Sergei Aksyonov.

“The Russian curator” is said loudly: Zaur Smirnov is a Crimean Tatar, a native of Tajikistan, a former member of the Mejlis (banned in the territory of the Russian Federation) and, in the recent past, the closest ally of the Islamist radicals Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov. In February 2014, on the day of the massacre at the building of the Supreme Council of Crimea, he brought his militants to Simferopol. Two months later, he received the chair of the State Committee Chairman. In the same 2014, Smirnov was expelled from the Mejlis. In connection with the events surrounding the arrests of a group of supporters of the Hizb ut-Tahrir movement (also banned in the Russian Federation), Aksyonov was forced to play it safe by dismissing Smirnov in October 2017.

Zaur Smirnov

Busted businessmen connect all their troubles with Zaur Smirnov   

“It was Smirnov who set Aksyonov for the demolition, realizing that he could hardly afford to take this mountain business for himself: the expectation was that Aksyonov would give it to someone influential, but it would be possible to get a whole lot from the process itself. It is logical to assume that the replotting of the plateau, taking into account the interethnic color of the issue, the strength of the parties to the conflict and the sluggishness of the system, is a long process and can take five years. What, in fact, could have been foreseen in 2014, but then, apparently, the Crimean leadership had no time for Ai-Petri. My acquaintances, the affected Tatars, say that Smirnov convinced Aksyonov that all the old tenants would be demolished completely and during the “reset” period he would work on his own, getting the maximum profit from this,” the source said. 


Head of Crimea Sergei Aksyonov and Zaur Smirnov

According to the source, State Duma Deputy Ruslan Balbek, who used to be the Vice-Speaker of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea and oversaw the direction of tourism, actively participates in the process. They say Balbek got into power because in multinational regions, it is customary to keep representatives of local nationalities in the leadership, namely the Crimean Tatars.


Formally, Balbek is considered a State Duma deputy from the Crimean Tatars   

“Looks like the interests of some Tatar internal influence groups have come together and the absence of claims to this figure by Aksyonov. Ruslan Balbek began to "steer" the processes with the national coloring, stealing money on an industrial scale. Apparently, Balbek has a good immunity to the attention of security officials. For example, in May 2017, Balbek’s sister, Elvina Yakubova, with his participation made a raider seizure of the Massandra boarding house in Yalta, located near the Yalta-Intourist hotel, where the cost of an acre of land varies between $50,000. This story was hushed up. And the same Balbek actively participated in the intrigues and organization of psychological pressure on the Crimean Tatars, the source said.

The CrimeRussia took an interest and found out that getting a Massandra boarding house to a close relative of Balbek was easier than ever. July 11, 2016, Elvina Yakubova registers OOO Kryminvest, the sole founder of which is her husband Enver Yakubov. The next day, July 12, 2016, by a resolution of the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea, the boarding house is transferred from the State Unitary Enterprise “Solnechnaya Tavrika” to the Administrative Directorate of the Property of the Republic of Crimea, announcing a competition for the right to manage the property of the boarding house, the Yakubovs family-owned company Kryminvest becomes the only participant and winner. Then it takes little: just throw out the previous management, tenants and employees.


Pro-administration protection, sleight of hand, and no fraud   

They deceived everyone 

But let us go back to Ai-Petri. Yalta OOO Firm Vagant-2, engaged in the disposal of construction waste, received the contract for the demolition of all objects. The firm estimated the amount of work in the sum of about 80 million rubles ($1.2 mln). We emphasize that the demolition was made illegally, in violation of Art. 35 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation – without payment of compensation and without a court decision. 





This is how the plateau was cleared in June 2017

“One of the old cafes over the cliff escaped demolition. Cafe Verkhneye, which is owned by the owner of the cable car Nadezhda Olefir, ex-spouse of Yalta deputy Leri Svanidze, is now located in the building of the cable car. Part of the tables of spontaneous trade belong to the “Governor Shark”, another part – to people from the demolished cafes who sell jams for a small penny,” the source explained. 

When asked who the “Governor Shark” was, we were explained that this was a certain Eldar, an informal leader of Ai-Petri, who “put out” the protest from the inside for which he received bonuses from the authorities.

“Aksyonov and Balbek did it extremely unattractive with the Tatars. In the spring of 2014, Balbek personally visited them with promises that they would live better with Russia than with Ukraine. He promised them the golden mountains, while he cruelly deceived everyone, playing on the gullibility of his compatriots and oriental flavor, that, they say, the authorities can be trusted. Now they are trying to achieve the promised compensation in the courts, but to no avail. Aksyonov, Balbek and the Council of Ministers of the Crimea had no legal documents for clearing Ai-Petri,” the source said.

So, the head of the Crimea was the guarantor of the payment of funds and the issuance of land to people who owned land on Ai-Petri. But Sergei Aksyonov left the ravaged Crimean-Tatar businessmen with nothing, after which the authorities completely abandoned the dialogue with them.


Sergei Aksyonov

“Now cases are in the courts. They decide that the contracts are invalid, everything is decided against us! We did not get anything in return. Not a single centimeter of land was shown to us! Wherever we go, the answer is: there is no money and there is no land,” entrepreneur Ibrahim Suleymanov complains to local journalists.

“It was demolished with all my documents without trial!” Now I am trying to defend my rights. I was not paid a single penny of compensation,” says Ibrahim Lolaev, the head of OOO Sharm, who demolished a hotel and six cafes. By the way, the total value of all objects liquidated on the plateau was more than a billion rubles ($15.1 mln). 

Is Sberbank coming? 

The question arises: what could be the purpose of that and what immediate prospects should Ai-Petri expect? Crimean sources of The CrimeRussia report that Sergei Aksyonov (by verbal agreement) granted the plateau to Sberbank head German Gref, who was interested in the idea of opening a serious mountain tourist site near his sanatorium Mriya Resort&Spa located nearby. By the way, in November of this year, this complex, where the Yalta International Economic Forum is held annually, came under US sanctions, but, according to Gref, he does not plan to sell it. 





In 2010, Sberbank invested $300 million in the construction of the Mriya Resort&Spa hotel   

The source noted that meanwhile in Sberbank they are waiting for the screwed over on Ai-Petri to calm down, and the situation to settle down. That's when a large shopping and entertainment complex will be built on the plateau. It is worth noting that at this stage, neither German Gref nor the top manager of the hotel Mriya Resort&Spa Samvel Sarukhanyan do not say anything on the subject of future investments in Ai-Petri. Rather, they do not confirm, but they also do not refute the version of Sberbank’s involvement in such a large-scale project. Where, by the way, they also plan to build a casino, because the Crimea has been chosen as one of the regions in which the placement of gambling zones is possible. 


The source of The CrimeRussia does not exclude that after a major player, represented by the head of Sberbank, arrives on the plateau, they will invite the same Tatars, former owners of demolished joints, as tenants or simply employees who can be allocated with retail outlets for a high rent. But so far, the Crimean authorities have no official position on the future of Ai-Petri. On the public cadastral map, the land continues to be listed with the purpose of "shops." And according to the draft general plan, the map of which has now disappeared from public access, it has the purpose of “transport safety zone” and “green plantings”, which does not correspond to large-scale development.  

According to sources, 150 million rubles ($2.3 mln) were allocated for cleaning the plateau. 

One thing is clear: money loves silence. A lot of money – complete silence. It is known that Sberbank is not functioning as a banking structure on the peninsula: it left the Crimea after the introduction of US and EU sanctions against Russia in 2014. According to German Gref, Crimea is Ukraine and Sberbank will not enter the Crimea market. 



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