Sergey Fridinsky, ‘The hero of our times’
Chief military prosecutor Sergey Fridinsky has many talents, including performing exploits on the regular basis with mandatory awarding afterwards, making friends – from Ministry of Defense superiors to ‘criminals-in-law’, and even being a strategic genius. At least, Fridinsky’s own career strategy is just perfect.
In 1980, Moscow Military Institute graduate Sergey Fridinsky started his service as a military investigator in Krasnoyarsk. He quickly realized that this ‘domain’ is too small for his ambitions and started steady career growth. Within 10 years only, Fridinsky advanced to a military prosecutor of Krasnoyarsk garrison of the Siberian Military District. Not a single shadow marred his reputation. Determined, principled, incorruptible – this is how colleagues appreciated him. His glory hour came in 1997: Sergey Nikolaevich was appointed as a Military Prosecutor of the North Caucasus Military District with relocation to Rostov-on-Don.
Soon Fridinsky began demonstrating his abilities. In 1998, Sergey Nikolaevich was in charge of investigation of an assault on a Russian military convoy on the border between North Ossetia and Ingushetia. Two years later the mastermind behind this crime was arrested, and Fridinsky was promoted to a Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor and moved to Moscow. Past service in North Caucasus and tough position of Fridinsky towards insurgents made a good turn to him. He handled most high-profile terrorism cases: prosecution of Salman Raduev, extradition of Akhmet Zaraev, terrorist attacks in Kaspiysk and Grozny (2002 and 2004 respectively), hostage taking in Beslan school. It turned out, however, that it’s premature to declare Fridinsky a hero.
The image of a knight without fear and reproach began fading as early as back in Rostov-on-Don. In spring 1999, well-known Rostov-on-Don journalist Alexander Tolmachev made public on the air of local Echo Rostova radio the fact of illegal acquisition by Fridinsky of two apartments in a newly-built home in 1998. The total footage of the units exceeded 160 square meters, while their value was close to 1.5 million rubles in prices of 1998. Of course, the apartments had been allocated to the Military Prosecutor of North Caucasus Military District out of turn and without any waiting time. The radio broadcast resulted in court hearings on the journalist’s materials. Major-general Oleg Snegirev, Chair of the Housing Commission of Rostov garrison, stated that he had nothing to do with the decision to provide housing to Fridinsky. By whose mercy Fridinsky instantly improved his living conditions, still remains a mystery. During the court hearings, Fridinsky was not confused at all and presented a Honorable Prosecution Officer sign, which allowed him to easily bypass the line of 4 thousand military officers. Furthermore, Sergey Nikolaevich was not an ordinary social beneficiary: he paid for the apartments as much as 161 thousand rubles! “Regardless, no one in our Prosecutor’s Office has such money,” – said Fridinsky with discreet charm of the bourgeoisie.
A chest of medals
By the way, the Honorable Prosecution Officer sign is not the only protection writ of Fridinsky. His collection includes orders “Of Military Merit” and “Of Merit for the Motherland”, medals "For Military Valor" of two classes, and some others. Some media report that the Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor has even procured a special allowance for working with radioactive materials. By any measure, the desk job is hard: either bullets whistle past your ears, or gamma rays irradiate you. The prosecutor’s passion for awards could be a subject for jokes – but thanks to his cool pragmatism, Fridinsky gains real benefits from his regalia. For example, should the ‘apartments case’ result in sentencing of Sergey Nikolaevich, the Order “Of Military Merit” would instantly grant amnesty to him. Furthermore, every award brings a considerable increase of salary.
In addition to the salary, Fridinsky receives a good military pension – although receiving two types of remuneration at once is forbidden by a ruling of the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation #187-O from May 11, 2006. It’s unlikely that Sergey Nikolaevich is not aware of this. Apparently, being an experienced lawyer, he has taken advantage of one of numerous ‘holes’ in the legislation. However, the prosecutor’s portfolio includes direct breaches of law as well. Wek.ru refers to an audit conducted by the Auditing Chamber in 2012 and reports that more than once Fridinsky paid bonuses to himself and his close circle based on the Order of the Minster of Defense #1010 from July 26, 2010 “Additional measures to improve effectiveness of funds for monetary allowance of military and remuneration of civil staff of the Military Forces of the Russian Federation”. The issue is that military prosecution staff are not considered military servicemen. Still, Fridinsky and his fellows enjoyed giving bonuses to themselves so much, that spent several million rubles.
The official annual income of Fridinsky consists mainly of various bonuses, extra allowances and social benefits and exceeds 5 million rubles. By the way, a car plainly named Audi in his tax statement is an Audi A8 whose basic cost is comparable with the brave prosecutor’s annual income.
His spouse’s car is worth half of his annual income. The Fridinskys family are picky when it comes to accommodation: by 2010 the spouses acquired a home of 320 square meters and a ‘gardening’ lot of 1.5 thousand square meters. These assets officially belong to Madame Fridinskaya which is very wise: where could our decorated prosecutor get such wealth?
Upon arrival to Moscow, the newly-appointed Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor Fridinsky maintained the image of a fierce crime fighter by all means. In addition to investigating terrorist attacks, he launched a large-scale audit of schools and orphanages. In 2006, the Minister of Education and Minister of Health and Social Development received from Fridinsky notes to remedy breaches of the legislation. However, it’s hard to overcome your own nature, plus the air of Moscow besots. And the military prosecutor cast prudence to the winds.
Kommersant reports that in 2008, during an audit of economic activities of the Ministry of Defense, a military prosecution investigator Oleg Zub discovered that 34 ha of land in Nahabino township of the Krasnogorsk District of the Moscow Region simply disappeared. At that time, this land was worth some 100 million USD. The land could not vanish into thin air, and soon Zub found that the huge lot has been just given away by the Ministry of Defense to respected persons, many of whom worked in military prosecution. These lands, with well-rewarded assistance of Boris Rasskazov, Head of the Krasnogorsk District, have been transferred to Ivushka ('Willow') gardening cooperative and used for cottage construction, while the talented prosecution officials became members of the cooperative. Similarly, superior officials of the military prosecution populated Zvezda ('Star'), Novaya Zvezda ('New Star') and Voennosluzhashy ('Serviceman') gardening cooperatives, BFM.ru reports. The point is that military servicemen lost the right to acquire a land lot from the state for free back in 2005. Zub identified the following accomplices to the scam: Mikhail Kislitsin, former Chief Military Prosecutor; Evgeny Ildyuganov, ex-head of the Human Resources Department of the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office; and the current Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor Sergey Devyatko, who was Fridinsky’s senior assistant in 2008.
The investigation carried-out by Zub resulted not in a criminal case against his colleagues, but in his promotion to Deputy Head of Interior Security Department of the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office. Beyond any doubt, the promotion decision was made by Fridinsky personally in exchange for Zub’s silence. Now, when a criminal case is initiated against Zub, who is charged based on part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation ('Fraud at especially large scale'), he opened his mouth.
However, things changed since 2008: corrupt officials are afraid of revelation no more. For example, the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office hasn’t yet initiated an audit of Ivushka members. Fridinsky’s awareness of this story is not even mentioned. After all, the military prosecution was surprisingly ‘blind’ in the case of larceny in Oboronservice Open Joint Stock Company. After all the searches, terminations, and home arrests, no one asked a simple question: why the case was handled by the General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) and not by the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office? On the other hand, there must be a reason why Anatoly Serdyukov awarded two medals "For Military Valor" to the Deputy Chief Military Prosecutor. He knows exactly how Fridinsky earned the awards.
Still, Fridinsky has provided certain input to the Oboronservice case by helping his, probably, main friend – Alexander Bezverhny, colonel general of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Bezverhny was in charge of the Military Counterintelligence Department of FSB until the end of 2015. Guidelines for administrations (departments) of FSB in the Military Forces of the Russian Federation, armies, regiments, and services (security services in the military) instruct FSB officers to establish confidential relations with persons who agree to it, to ensure security of the Military Forces of Russia. Therefore, the friendship between Bezverhny and Fridinsky can’t be called altruistic: the first one needed info, while the other one needed loyalty to the things happening in the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office. Bezverhny personally reported the Oboronservice case to Sergey Ivanov, so he had something substantial to present. Apparently, Fridinsky knew about Oboronservice suspects not less than investigators of the General Administration for Economic Security and Combatting the Corruption of MIA. At some point, he shared this information with Bezverhny. The colonel general remembered the favor, therefore the FSB is still closing eyes on Fridinsky’s ‘mischief’.
The same year the country heard of larceny in the Ministry of Defense, the press learned of other friends of Sergey Fridinsky. In spring of 2012, the talented prosecutor made an ‘inspection trip’ to the Far East. The trip was partially paid by the Ministry of Defense. The official part finished soon (if ever started). The point is that Fridinsky was never seen on military objects. Upon arriving to the Far East, he stepped into a civil car and left ‘from shipboard straight into a ball’.
The pictures show Sergey Nikolaevich in someone’s cottage or resort.
The hosts met the prosecutors with pots full of black and red caviar, premium alcohol, and Kamchatka king crab
A nice company welcomed Fridinsky! Guests included Denis Gerasimov, Prosecutor of the Military Prosecutor’s Office #318 of Sakhalin Island and even a ‘thief-in-law’ specializing in caviar smuggling.
Far-Eastern criminal authority
A criminal case has been later initiated against Gerasimov. And only the Chief Military Prosecutor is still as clean as a whistle.
Speaking of having criminal friends, it seems to be a new trend among Prosecutor General’s deputies. Wife of Gennady Lopatin, another deputy of Yury Chaika, was recently condemned for running joint business with the Tsapoks thugs. If the trend continues, ‘Chaika’ movie released by the Anti-corruption Foundation may turn into ‘Octopus’ documentary series. We all know the plot, but the characters and events are real.
The story with the arrest of Igor Vainshtok, creator of famous bifidok, in absentia and his escape is pretty confusing. The company founded by him still remains the largest probiotics producer in Russia and generates multimillion profits – however, somehow it was declared bankrupt. An international warrant has been issued against Vainshtok for non-payment of salaries – while the businessman calls his prosecution an element of the raiding takeover of his company that was already recognized a raidership victim in the past. Concurrently, employees of Partner Joint Stock Company created by Vainshtok claim that he has stolen not only millions of rubles from the base bank of Roscosmos – but, more importantly, the bifidok inventorship. So, whom has Vainshtok fled from?
According to the head of the state-owned company, the Russian business “rebuilt the country,” “restored the collapsed Soviet enterprises,” “returned the salary to the people,” “filled the budget with money.”