Safe, Grenades, and Two Smoking Barrels. Former City of Yelets Mayor and Che Guevara’s shadow
Passions ran high in the patriarchal City founded in the XII century when the police searched former Mayor Viktor Sokovikh’s mansion in the historic center. Officers confiscated a battle-ready AK assault rifle fitted with a scope, 2 F-1 hand grenades, and several ammunition boxes containing 3600 (!) cartridges. It is worth mentioning the police suspected Mr Sokovikh of running a drug laboratory. Below are results of the CrimeRussia’s investigation into who the 68 y. o. pensioner was going to fight a war against and his relation to Moscow synthetic cannabinoids and cathinones trade.
Viktor Sokovikh has single-handedly ruled ancient Yelets for 17 years. He ‘voluntarily’ retired in 2010. However, City residents did not forget the communist Mayor who would promote healthy lifestyle by democratically riding his bicycle wearing red ‘revolutionary’ underwear in public places at the weekend. The Mayor managed to avoid getting in trouble with the police for years despite local opposition newspaper Fakti I Argumenti publishing articles about the FSB arresting Viktor Sokovikh red-handed when taking a bribe in 2005; officers found several millions hidden in a bucket in his office. He claimed it was a janitor’s money, not his. He even managed to win a defamation lawsuit against the newspaper and get a 10 000 ruble compensation for “lying and libeling” about the bribe
Bicycle as a prove of honesty
The said bicycle has grown to be Mr Sokovikh’s ‘business card’. In 2010, he was accused of appropriating a large land lot in the Yelets historical center. Lipetsk Region Governor and former Yelets Mayor’s patron Oleg Korolev used it as the main argument for his crony’s innocence when defending him.
“Honestly speaking, one could not open a criminal case against Mr Sokovikh even if they tried. He is an honest man; he has got his bicycle hanging on his balcony. Entrepreneurs tell him: “You do not steal yourself and do not let us do it,” Mr Korolev said while emotionally flapping his hands on TV.
Lipetsk Region Governor Oleg Korolev
However, the Governor did not tell the whole truth. The Office of Investigation of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation opened a criminal case against Yelets City Hall employees for abusing and exceeding their official power in March 2010. The investigators claimed they broke the article 285 (Abuse of Official Powers) and 286 (Exceeding Official Powers) of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation when leasing 2 000 m2 of land to a construction company wishing to build a cottage in the City Center. Yelets prosecutor and the main Mr Sokovikh’s opponent over many years Sergey Fedoseev was the one to open the criminal case. The auction for the land was deemed “illicit, violating the municipality’s interests, and out of line with the land’s designation” as the result of his inspection. Mr Sokovikh could end up being the main suspect; he was the one to move in the house. The house was built by the Svoy Dom Construction Company after the City authorities illicitly permitted it the construction, according to the investigators.
Cursed old house
The scandal surrounding the yellow brick house on the Gorkogo (formerly Rozhdestvenskaya) Street 55 built in place of an old merchant’s house began in 2006.
The house was expropriated after the October Revolution. It changed many hands over the years. Authorities used it in many ways. However, it has never been a living house before, according to local media outlet Gorod48. It used to be a kindergarten in 1990s (Kindergarten №13); it was closed for renovation to never open again. The City Hall put it to good use once it was renovated. 3 families were relocated there in early 2000s; the relocation was not documented. There were many people interested in building a private house in the City center. Entrepreneur Valentin Kravtsov even went as far as to offer buying the 3 families new housing if given the land. However, the City Hall and Mr Sokovikh were not going to give way.
Merchant’s house on the Rozhdestvenskaya Street, Yelets
All of a sudden, the City Hall decided the house was an “unfit housing”; a claim that is absurd in and of itself. What is more, the former Major passed the Decree № 648-p “On Holding an Auction for the Right to Lease the Land on the Gorkogo Street 55” on May 12.
Mr Sokovikh broke the article 30, item 3 of the Land Code of the Russian Federation by passing the Decree, according to journalist and Yelets MP Pavel Sokolov. The article regulates how authorities allocate land for construction purposes. It was violated since it provides for allocation of land based on application of a potential real estate developer.
Remarkably generous auction
However, it gets even more interesting. The auction was held secretly; the Yelets Vestnik Newspaper circulation containing information about the auction for the sought after land vanished into thin air. Employees of the Department for Economic Crimes of the Administration of Internal Affairs in the Lipetsk Region and Yelets Public Prosecutor’s Office later discovered the ‘secret’ issue was never shipped to shops, subscribers, and libraries. Only 500 copies were forethoughtfully printed instead of usual 4 300, too.
Yelets Vestnik Newspaper
However, everyone who had interest in seeing it did exactly that. Only Svoy Dom applied for the auction as the result. The company leased out the land – more than 2 000 m2 - for 5 years for 342 390 rubles, the starting price. Such a decision directly violated the City Government Decree “On Allocation of Land for Private Housing Construction within the City” that allows for allocation of only 300 to 1 000 m2 of land for construction a single house. Moreover, allocation of land to legal entities (such as Svoy Dom) violates the Land Code. One may say there is one too many coincidences with the city authority allocating land for private housing construction in the city center. But it turned out ‘it is all good’ when the communist Mayor who pretended to be a man of principle moved in the newly built house.
However, this was not the only ‘curious’ thing about the construction project, as it turned out later. The Mayor signed a co-investment agreement with the construction company; he owned 100% of the shares under the agreement. The company began building on the land where there used to be the merchant’s house in October 2008; the Mayor only published a decree permitting the construction to commence 2 months later on December 31.
House built on the 2 000 m2 land parcel
Mr Sokovikh paid the company once the construction was over. The mansion cost the company 3.5 million rubles to build, according to official documents. The Mayor paid them exactly…3.5 million rubles. It is worth mentioning that the company was founded by the City authorities using public money and was meant to earn money for the budget. Another thing that is worth mentioning is that the Mayor was ‘lucky’ enough to sell his 3-room apartment where he lived at the time to the city authorities for 2.8 million rubles; that is 2 times the apartment’s market price.
My police protect me
Police was not interested at all when MP and publisher of the Fakti S Argumentami Independent Newspaper Nikolay Sokolov (died in end-2016) – the one who found out about the majority of the violations – presented the evidence to them. His complaint about corruption was accepted and registered in the crime register book of the police control rooms of the Administration of Internal Affairs in the Lipetsk Region supervised by the Deputy Head of the Field Investigation Unit-4 of the Department for Economic Crimes. However, it has never been transferred to Investigative Department for ‘some’ reason.
The local police was later proved to be biased. For example, the former Mayor once called local police officers and ‘asked’ them to release his nephew who had ridden his car along footpaths near a local nightclub. The local police also ‘forgot’ about his brother who virtually had a bootleg alcohol monopoly when alcohol trade was banned. However, it did not stop them for punishing his competitors. Locals say the former Mayor would often leave his bike hanging on the wall and go ride expensive cars in the night going well over the speed limit. He would wear big sun-glasses covering his face when doing so. However, there was no point in doing it, since traffic officers were not going to do anything.
The local police found yet another way to prove its loyalty to the former Mayor when they arrested Grigory Kudryavtsev, a handicapped man who went to a brick fence on the Gorkogo Street 55 with a picket sign.
Grigory Kudryavtsev on his lonely picket
Mr Kudryavtsev lived with his family in an unfit barrack. He couldn’t sign his child up for a kindergarten and went out with a sign. The lone picketer wanted the City authorities to reopen the Kindergarten № 13 where it used to be.
First, the property owner grabbed him by the lapels, called him a ‘dog’, and threatened to hang him head down. Then, 2 police cars arrived; officers arrested him despite Mr Kudryavtsev not having done anything illegal. Later police officers told him they will incarcerate him for 15 days if he tried picketing again despite not having any reason for prosecuting him.
Unlike the MIA of the Russian Federation, the City prosecutor Sergey Fedoseev has been against the former Mayor for as long as in the office. He was involved with all the scandals surrounding the Mr Sokovikh. The prosecutor filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr Kudryavtsev demanding the City authorities allocated housing to the orphan and handicapped man.
It was he who filled a lawsuit accusing the City authorities of illicit land allocation. However, court did almost nothing about the case that City residents remember to this day. The Office of Investigation of the Prosecutor General’s Office of the Russian Federation deems the allocation illicit but did not found the public servants involved guilty. Mr Fedoseev was reminded who was the ‘the man in the house’. Unknown people fired pump-action shotguns at the prosecutor’s house outside Yelets 2 weeks after the trial. Mr Fedoseev was not home at the time. His wife was there, but she was not wounded, luckily. Of course, the perpetrators were not caught; no one really tried to.
Chekov-style* AK assault-rifle
(*reference to Anton Chekov who once said “if there is a shotgun on the wall when a play beings it will inevitably fire by the end” - Ed.)
The Chekov’s shotgun fired when it was supposed to – at the end of a play. It has not yet, but the police did find a gun in the former Mayor’s house. However, it was not some hunting pump-action shotgun; police officers confiscated an AK with a folding stock, scope, and suppressor. They also confiscated 2 F-1 hand grenades, an unclassified firearm, TT pistol magazine, and more than 3 500 cartridges.
The police searched Mr Sokovikh’s house on the Gorkogo Street 55 in the framework of a special operation for elimination of an illegal drug laboratory, according to CrimeRussia’s police source. The operation is being conducted by the Main Directorate for Drugs Control of the MIA and Moscow Administration of Internal Affairs in cooperation with other law enforcement agencies and regional police departments.
A criminal case had been opened against a Yelets resident for breaking the article 234 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation prior to the police searching the house, according to the source. The police searched the house because the resident would often visit Mr Sokovikh there.
The arrested resident, also known as “Abas”, was an acquaintance of Mr Sokovikh’s daughter Yuliya, according to Regional Council MP Pavel Efgrafov. City residents say Abas’s real name is Elvin, he is native to Yelets, and is half Azerbaijani. However, the former mayor began insulting officers and wrested the warrant from one of them when they arrested Abas in his house; he was taken to a MIA department for further investigation, while his house was kept under observation.
Police officers watching the house saw Mr Sokovikh return home from the department, leave it after a while carrying something, and bury it in snow near his home. The police found attesting witnesses and proceeded to unearthing the thing Mr Sokovikh hid in snow. It turned out to be the assault rifle and grenades. They later found a lot of ammunition in his home safe. The police is conducting a pre-trial investigation into the found firearms. Court imposed travel restrictions on Mr Sokovikh.
The incident disturbed City residents. They are actively discussign it on social media, speculating why Viktor Sokovikh, also known as Vitya (short of Victor) Sinitsa (Great tit, a bird), who has fought in many XX century local conflicts, would need the legendary assault rifle and so much ammunition. Some joked the communist Mayor was going to “stage a coup of libel embezzlers of public funds and to go to war with the Kremlin”. Mr Sokovikh offered a more peaceful explanation; a rival to “janitor’s millions”. The former Mayor claimed he “was going to use the assault rifle and hand grenades when hunting and fishing”.
One way or another, Mr Sokovikh is likely to get prosecuted for a criminal offence this time around; his long-time patron Oleg Korolev who have been the Lipetsk Region Governor for one too many years given his age and number of corruption accusations may very well no longer be able to support his crony.