This is no heaven: Real estate developers destroy natural reserve, Public Prosecutors’ Office defends them 

This is no heaven: Real estate developers destroy natural reserve, Public Prosecutors’ Office defends them
Photo: The CrimeRussia

Money cannot buy happiness. The Moscow Region Public Prosecutors’ Office proved it to Pavlovo-2 (Moscow region) residents; it sided with entrepreneurs who not only destroyed the village’s recreational area but 8 hectares of a nature reserve in the Istrinsky district as well.

Who Is Happy in the Moscow region?

The construction of Pavlovo-2 began in 2008; the OPIN Group implemented the project. Mikhail Prokhorov and Vladimir Potanin’s companies were parts of OPIN at the time. The two men’s names made future buyers feel safe and upper class. The Lesa Okresnostey ABS Pavlovskaya Sloboda Y Ozerno-Bolotny Kompleks U D. Novinki Natural Reserve was another advantage of the soon-to-be-built village.

Fast forward several years later, Pavlovo-2 was no longer a bunch of project drafts but a village with cottages, townhouses, and apartments houses. Construction is prohibited at the nearby lakeside. That is why Pavlovo-2 residents were promised the 6.1 hectares lakeside would be turned into a beautiful promenade area. OPIN made good on the promise. However, the elite village residents did not get to enjoy their neat embankment blooming with roses for long. The oligarchs decided the village was of no use to them anymore and their minds to more profitable business areas. However, even a real estate development project can be revised; OPIN managers Andrey Kobzarenko and Sergey Bachin did exactly that. The latter managed to get his hands on the construction business and implement the Yaroslavskoe Vzmorie Resort project. Bachin is the Roza Khutor Resort CEO, too.   

Sergey Bachin

Sergey Bachin

The lakeside area was to be transferred to the Blagoustroystvo Kottedzhnogo Poselka Pavlovo-2 Partnership that would have been responsible for its territory. Andrey Kobzarenko, one of the company owners, had plans for the land. The land began changing hands in 2013. It ended up under Sergey Bachin’s Agranta (ownership of unsold land was transferred to Andrey Kobzarenko’s RegionIndustriya in 2016). The land was divided into small chunks and put up for sale as land for private housing construction. Reclassifying the natural reserve as land for private housing construction would have been absolutely illegal and taken a lot of time. That is why the former OPIN managers were down with good old consumer fraud. 

Pavlovo-2 Residential Complex Pavlovo-2 Residential Complex Pavlovo-2 Residential Complex
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Several areas of the natural reserve are still up for sale. Their price ranges from 13.8 to 77.2 million rubles ($237 thousand to $1.32 million). Bachin and Kobzarenko placed bets on Pavlovo-2 residents’ demands being outweighed by those of the land buyers who would surely be influential people. They would have spent dozens of millions of rubles on land near a lake, after all! The entrepreneurs had a new development plan for the land that Istrinsky District Head Anna Shcherba approved back in 2014, too. It is no surprise Shcherba allowed construction in the nature reserve. The police got interested in the Istrinsky District Head’s municipal farmland administration practices. Shcherba was later convicted of exceeding official powers. However, she was then pardoned.

Anna Shcherba

Anna Shcherba

Pavlovo-2 residents were quite disturbed by the ever growing activity near the lake. Piles of construction waste suggested there would no longer be any roses. Pavlovo-2 residents began complaining to various agencies. The majority of public officials would comfort them by saying the lakeside near the Novinki village is protected under the law and no one has the right to build there. 

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This is what the once well-designed recreational area looks like now

Only Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment Sergey Gildenskiold surprised them by saying the land (the one that was divided into chunks and being successfully sold for private housing construction by then) is not a part of the natural reserve and only borders it. This could mean Bachin’s Agranta had already had cronies in the local Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment by 2014.

Meanwhile, Governor Vorobyev upset Bachin and Kobzarenko’s plans; he decided to audit the Moscow Region natural reserves and add them all to the cadaster register. The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Moscow Region Department ordered Greenlife Сadastral Office to outline borders of the nature reserve near Pavlovo-2 in 2015. The company specialists’ conclusions differed significantly from those of Gildenskiold. They concluded the land in question is an integral part of the natural reserve; that is what they wrote in their report specifying the natural reserve borders. The entrepreneurial developers understood they ran into problems and took action.

Team blue vs team green

It is easy to guess what they did looking at results of their actions. The Ministry Department stopped the company’s geodetic survey that was almost complete by this point and ordered an additional survey in the summer of 2016. Unsurprisingly, results of the additional survey made ecologists change their mind. The land Agranta had sold was left outside the nature reserve. The additional survey was ordered due to the Moscow Region Public Prosecutors’ Office decision to protect rights of the land owners. Its warning named cadaster numbers of land lots that had been a part of the nature reserve just the day before. It is worth mentioning that Russian Federal Service for State Registration, Cadastre and Cartography is advised not to change the nature reserve’s borders. It was Moscow Region Public Prosecutors’ Office First Deputy Chief Prosecutor Valery Voynov who signed the office’s warning.

As for Pavlovo-2 residents’ rights, Voynov cannot even be bothered to sign responses to their complaints. It is Ecological Oversight and Law Enforcement Department Head Roman Sergeevich Lashch who deals with them. He has written multiple responses to the outraged elite village residents’ complaints, saying the developers did not violate any laws. Lashch advised them to file a lawsuit to the Moscow Region Court. It is worth mentioning that Sergey Lashch – his father – is the Court’s Chief Justice.

Why did the Moscow Region Public Prosecutors’ Office ignore one case and go after another? It may have to do with the land it is desperately defending. For example, Kaliningrad resident Aleksandr Paramonov owns the 85 000 m2 land lot 50:08:0050231:704. Voynov used to work in the Kaliningrad Region prior to coming to Moscow. There are other similarly questionable owners among those who bought land from Agranta. It is possible Roman Lashch will get his cut, too.

Local Minister of Ecology Aleksandr Kogan did a lot to aid the developers, too. He decided the land in question was not a part of the nature reserve after the additional inspection due to “loss of its legal status of a nature reserve” despite there not being such an item not only in the “Law on Particularly Protected Land” but in the whole of Russian legislate. We are willing to go as far as to suggest Aleksandr Kogan’s creative efforts were not in vain. It is about time we recall the Yaroslavskoe Vzmorie Resort project implemented by Bachin back in the day. Whether it was due the developer making it up to Yaroslavl residents or special 'gubernatorial' prices for OPIN, but the fact of the matter is Yaroslavl Region Governor at the time Sergey Yastrebov’s daughter ended up with a three-storey apartment in Pavlovo-2. 

On a related note, Governor Yastrebov is the current Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment. He uses his position to continue helping Bachin. For example, Pavlovo-2 residents’ complaint to the Russian Minister of Natural Resources and Environment was turned down and sent to the Russian Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare for revision that sent it back to the Moscow Region Public Prosecutors’ Office. Wealthy and famous Pavlovo-2 residents got tired of spending money on the best Moscow attorneys and understood they cannot buy justice. They have turned to complaining straight to Russian President Vladimir Putin and are putting their houses up for sale.   

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