The Crimean Gangland Leaders Now In Power

How did the leaders of the organized crime group "Salem" come to power in Crimea?
28.07.2017
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Russia received more than the vineyards of Massandra, the Swallow's nest and Yalta state “dachas” when it acquired Crimea. Russia also inherited its criminal past. Anastasia Khlopkova looked into the business history of one of the wealthiest Crimean crime groups called "Salem.”


Strike on Poklonskaya

"The Crimea was completely corrupted. Bandit informants worked in the police and prosecutors office. Everywhere there were bugs, everything was listened to," Col. Boris Babyuk, who supervised the police of Simferopol, Yalta, and was a deputy chief of the Crimean Chief Directorate, said in 2008.

In 2008, Babyuk conducted a 1990’s gang tour for a Ukranian journalist. He took the reporter to Simferopol cemetery Abdal, where criminals from days past had been buried. Today, the survivors have become respected businessmen, officials and trainers.

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Alexander Danilchenko, leader of the organized crime group "Bashmaks" and vice-president of the Boxing Federation of the Republic of Crimea

One such is Alexander Danilchenko, leader of the organized crime group "Bashmaks" and vice-president of the Boxing Federation of the Republic of Crimea, where his picture still hangs. In 2006, Danilchenko was placed on Interpol’s most wanted list in 2006.

In February 2016, Danilchenko was arrested along with the first vice-president of the federation of wrestling Nikolai Kozhukharya (Moldavan)(the organization is headed by the head of the Crimea Sergey Aksenov - editor's note).

Bashmaks was created in 1990, but distinguished themselves in 2011, when, according to Novaya Gazeta data, they attacked acting Crimean prosecutor Natalia Poklonskaya in Evpatoria during the trial of gang leader Ruvim Aronov. Additionally, Vladimir Maslov from the FBRK's Board of Trustees has been linked to business relations with Salem.

Salem’s members total about a thousand people, have connections to Russia and Israel and have been charged with 50 murders. In 1998, a Salem branch (Bashmaks according to another version) blew up the Tavria tourist center. Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of Crimea Alexander Safoncev died in the explosion. Only seven years later, in 2005, did Ukrainian police solve this case. There were 20 defendants in the case and only three of them were convicted.


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President of the FBRK and leader of the Salem criminal group Sergei Voronkov

Deputy of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea from political party United Russia Igor Lukashev (member of the board of the Crimea kickboxing federation), Minister of Industry of Crimea Andrei Vasyuta and the President of the Boxing Federation Sergey Voronkov (the nickname Voronok) all have connection to Sale, as well   as the head of the Crimea Sergey Aksenov (Goblin)

“Nothing to be ashamed of”

Salem was the name of the restaurant where the criminal gang met in the 1990’s. The institution belonged to Sergei Voronkov, who borrowed the name from the American brand of cigarettes. Now the place of the famous restaurant is occupied by the Investigative Committee, the citizens of Simferopol wrote. Igor Lukashev, who was listed as the leader of Salem, was in charge of finance. Now he is responsible for the budget of the peninsula. In 2014, Lukashev joined the first convocation of the State Council of Crimea from the party United Russia. In 2016, he headed the Committee on Economic, Budgetary and Taxation Policies.

"Nothing confuses me in life - I have nothing to be ashamed of. In the nineties everywhere were tough, not only in the Crimea, just here this period was popularized by the press. There was lawlessness throughout the country, weak power, weak law enforcement agencies," said Igor Lukashev in 2009, when he headed the permanent commission of the Supreme Council of Crimea on economic, budgetary-finance and taxation policy.

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A Salem meeting with Sergey Voronkov in the center, and in the striped shirt is ex-deputy of the Crimean parliament Alexander Melnik

Boxer-businessman Sergei Voronkov spent seven years in jail, but before that managed to be the vice-president of the Crimean Union of Entrepreneurs, a deputy of the City Council, an adviser to the vice speaker of the Crimean parliament and a member of the Party of Economic Revival of the Crimea.

"At first the court sentenced [Voronkov, - author.] to two years of imprisonment for illegal possession of weapons. After that, a criminal case was opened against him and three other co-defendants for extortion. The victim, who also served time for extortion, was found hanged in his cell after the court announced the verdict to Voronok, seven years of imprisonment," recalled Police Col. Boris Babyuk.


"We were hostages to the old authorities, but now we can be the backbone of a new country," reasoned Sergei Voronkov in 2006, a year after he was  released. He became the “backbone” in a business with his brother, Viktor Yushchenko’s partners and his former friends from Salem, who are now officials.

Friends from the nineties

Now Sergei Voronkov is in business with a longtime partner, Vladimir Maslov. Since 2016, they have owned Simferopol LLC Krymtransitenergo (engaged in the transmission of electricity) and LLC Vostok (mining operations).

Minister of Industry of Crimea Andrey Vasyuta is among Voronkov’s business partners. In his official's biography it is said: from 1997 to 1998 he was a deputy minister of economy of the Crimea, then he managed private organizations. In 2015 he led the state enterprise Crimean Seaports. Before entering into power, Vasyuta transferred his assets to his wife Irina and her old companions. In 2014 OOO Sever transferred to Sergei Voronkov, Vladimir Maslov and Yakov Weisman. LLC Quarry Marble (founded in 1996) went to Irina Vasyuta, Maslova and Voronkov. The companies are engaged in mining.

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Voronkov and Vasyuta’s sons are friends. On the left - Alexander Vasyuta, on the right - Alexander Voronkov

Imports of sand and rubble from Ukraine have been halted, meaning now Vasyuta and Voronkov’s enterprises have no competitors. The Crimean portal in 2016 wrote: companies of an official and a businessman are developing careers for licenses and lease contracts for land plots issued by the Ukrainian authorities. For this the prosecutor's office fined LLC Crimean Career Management" for 830,000 rubles. Until recently, the company belonged to Vasyuta’s family, and now it belongs to Sergei Voronkov and Vladimir Maslov.

In February 2016, the head of the Crimea Sergei Aksenov appointed Andrei Vasyuta as the Minister of Industrial Policy of the Crimea. "Life in business suited me, and the ‘call’ to the ministry is not accidental, I would not say so," said Andrei Vasyuta in an interview in 2016.

Sergei Voronkov’s can also be found among the owners of Moscow Automated Parking Ltd. The co-owner of this company is the former adviser to the Minister of Transport of Russia (from 2006 to 2010) Oleg Badera.

Operation “Moscow”

On the website of the Federation of Boxing of the Republic of Crimea, headed by Sergei Voronkov, has its partners as Simferopol hotels "Moscow," "Ukraine" and "Sportivnaya." They belong to Sergei Voronkov and the family of Yakov and Elena Weisman.

Little is known about Yakov Weisman. The Ukrainian edition wrote “Weisman in 1994 headed the CJSC Crimean Commonwealth, established by Vladimir Karpov (Elena corporation), the leader of the Dzyuba criminal group Oleg Dzyuba and V. Goncharenko, Sergey Voronkov's business partner.”

The Sportivnaya Hotel is located on Zhelyabova Street and is owned by LLC Sport-Hotel, the owners of which since May 2017 have been Sergei Voronkov and Elena Weisman. The company was founded in October 2014 by Natalia Marchenko, who manages hotel "Ukraine."

"Ukraine" is connected with “Sport-Hotel” not only through Marchenko, but also by a common telephone number. The elite hotel "Ukraine" is located in the center of Simferopol on Alexander Nevsky Street, 7 (Rosa Luxemburg street). It was built in 1955 on the site of the Pontifical metochion destroyed in the war. Since the nineties, "Ukraine" has belonged to the joint-stock company "Hotel Complex" Crimea "(founded in 1997). Information about shareholders is not disclosed anywhere.

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The descendants of the Romanovs stayed at the hotel “Ukraine”

In the restaurant of the hotel "Ukraine" Voronkov’s family  celebrated Sergei Jr.’s birthday, which his friend Alexander Vasyuta attended.

The hotel "Moscow" is located on Kievskaya street. The partners of Petr Yushchenko (the brother of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko) are involved, who in 2003 founded the Moscow company. September 21, 2004, in the midst of the presidential election race, ownership of the Simferopol hotel "Moscow" transferred to Jacob Weisman and Christina Rukovichnikova, Sergei Voronkov’s wife. Since 2015 LLC Hotel Moscow has been registered to Elena Weisman and Kristina Rukovichnikova.

VIP guests stay in hotel Ukraine, and  hotel Moscow is popular with the media representatives. In March 2014, Russian and foreign journalists who came to cover the referendum in the Crimea stayed in  hotel Moscow. On the night of March 15, armed men in masks, “two groups of 6-7 people," blocked  hotel Moscow. All the guests were taken to lobby. The journalists’ flash cards were taken.

"According to preliminary information, this was on the 4th floor. When the law enforcement officials broke in, a ‘General Kuznetsov’ appeared in the lobby of the hotel, who introduced himself as the head of the Defense Ministry of Crimea. He said that the armed people were the armed forces of Crimea, they had appeared here because of misinformation ‘from a false call’ and nothing really happened," journalists reported.

"General Kuznetsov" is a superannuated Major-General Valery Kuznetsov. In 1994 he was an adviser to the President of Crimea, Minister of Internal Affairs of the Republic. In March 2014, Kuznetsov acted as Minister of Defense of the Crimea and "took part in activities to return the Crimea to Russia." On the website of the Defense Ministry there is no information about Valery Kuznetsov.

The last news about the General-Major appeared in September 2014 when Valery Kuznetsov presented a letter of gratitude from the head of Crimea Sergey Aksenov to the leader of the movement Novorossia” Igor Strelkov. The organization was engaged in deliveries of humanitarian aid and uniforms for the military personnel of the People's Democratic Republic of Germany.

Now instead of special operations in the hotel Moscow, the winners of the "Journalist of the Year" contest are awarded.


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