Temple-on-Blood: What Happened to Activists of Environmental Watch?
At the very end of the Russian Year of Environment in Krasnodar, unknown individuals attacked the activists of the Ekovakhta (Ecowatch) for the North Caucasus. Its head, Andrei Rudomakha, suffered serious injuries. The environmentalists are sure that the attack was initiated to hide the construction of the VIP facility near Gelendzhik. Russiangate tells who could illegally cut down the forest on the Black Sea coast.
Activists of the Ecowatch for the North Caucasus film the illegal construction in the village of Krinitsa near Gelendzhik in the Krasnodar Territory. On the same day, they are beaten and their backpacks are stolen. In the backpacks, they had the photo materials of illegally built real estate items.
The land was leased by the company Axis Investments, which was founded by Nikolai Yegorov, a classmate of Putin, who once recommended the President to mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak (this is how Vladimir Putin began his political career).
Putin’s Palace on Cape Idokopas is located in the neighboring village. The management company of the palace, Complex LLC, was managed by Alexei Veselyuk. In 2014, he was CEO of Apex South LLC, a company owned by Nikolai Yegorov.
On a nearby plot, too, the forest is illegally cut down and buildings are being built. The tenant of this land is Hunting Estate Perspective. A share in this company belongs to Pavel Yezubov – cousin of Oleg Deripaska, the son of the State Duma deputy from the Krasnodar Territory, Alexei Yezubov.
ENVIRONMENTALISTS WORSHIPING SATAN
The attack on the Ecowatch took place late in the evening on December 28, 2017. From the recordings from the surveillance cameras, it is clear that three men were waiting for the activists in advance. They arrived at the house an hour and a half before the arrival of the victims. When the environmentalists got out of the car, the men ran up to Andrei Rudomakh, sprayed a pepper spray in his face, pinned him down to the ground and began to kick his head. Rudomakh fainted. Meanwhile, the criminals took their backpacks with equipment and documents out of the car and fled.
According to the activists themselves, the main goal of the attackers was the photographs taken that day. The rest is an imitation of domestic robbery and hooliganism. Andrei Rudomakh paid for the pictures with severe injuries – a fracture of the skull base bones, concussion and a broken nose.
After the attack, the environmentalists were not left alone. On January 9, Andrei Rudomakh and his deputy Dmitry Shevchenko received emails with threats. A text was added to Rudomakh's photo with a bleeding nose: “Kuban is not a place for people secretly professing satanic dogmas, using foreign money to destroy Russia under the cover of environmental protection. It's safer for you to leave...”.
CHURCH IN THE BUSHES
The next day, the Ecowatch told its version of what happened on the day of the attack: the activists returned from the environmental inspectorate in the vicinity of Krinitsa – a village near Gelendzhik in the Krasnodar Territory. In the stolen backpacks, the activists had photo equipment with pictures of the mutilated forest. Environmentalists visited protected areas and found illegal construction taking place there. In their opinion, the builders construct a wine- chateau – a manor near the vineyards.
The environmentalists inspected the territory near Krinitsa twice. On December 3, they saw how they cut down the forest and built fences. At the end of the month, they returned to document the violations. When the workers had a day off, they made their way past the fence. It turned out that roads were laid there and ditches for construction were dug. Here and there, the foundations have already been filled; in the forest, there was an excavator.
The most unexpected discovery of the Ecowatch was the church, the first capital structure erected in a protected area. The church is built on the lands of the forest fund. According to the law, it is prohibited to cut down trees and build capital facilities.
Grape fields are visible on the photograph of the church made by the activists. They appeared here legally – this is the land for agricultural purposes. However, the area with the cut down forest and vineyards is surrounded by the same fence. The protection for both them is also the same. According to the activists, the church, vineyards and the future estate have the same owners.
The land plot where the church is built and construction machinery works is 20.05 hectares of the Kuban forest right on the beach. According to Rosreestr, this is the land of the forest fund of general use. The site is allowed to use only for “cultural and recreational, tourist and sports purposes.” So it should be on paper, in reality – everything is different.
In September 2015, an unknown company from St. Petersburg – JSC Axis Investments – took the site for rent for 40 years. A year later, in August 2016, the Prosecutor's Office found that the company violated the terms of the lease agreement and environmental legislation. As follows from the materials of the case, the company “uses the site in protected forests without a forest development project that has passed a state evaluation.”
The court granted the claim of the environmental prosecutor, but the representatives of Axis Investments did not appear in court and did not react to his decision. This is indicated by the decision to collect a fine for non-enforcement of a court decision from the company in Gelendzhik from February 2017. Instead, in 2016, Axis Investment leased two neighboring agricultural sites and turned them into vineyards.
MR. ONE AND ONLY
The authorized capital of JSC Axis Investments is only 10 thousand rubles. This is the minimum amount necessary to establish a company – this amount is usually spent on fly-by-night entities. The sole founder and head of JSC Axis Investments is a man named Alex Tot. Little is known about him: he is 35 years old, he studied economics, and then at the law faculty of St. Petersburg State University.
While still a student, Tot worked in Sberbank, and in the graduation year, became director of the Cyprus offshore Laterium Commercial Limited. The work place of the graduate of the law faculty turned out to be an asset of his former teacher – a well-known lawyer in Russia Nikolai Yegorov, classmate of President Vladimir Putin. The media call Yegorov the true owner of the offshore company, through which he controlled the Murmansk Sea Commercial Port (the fourth largest in terms of cargo turnover in Russia).
Alexei Tot could not but attend the lectures of Nikolai Yegorov. He graduated in 2007, and Nikolai Yegorov was a professor at the Civil Law Department for 35 years (until 2013). The faculty students confirmed the Russiangate that before that time Yegorov had lectured at St. Petersburg State University, and then “had a conflict with the management” and left.
Over the years, Alex Tot became the head of many of his teacher's companies. Now, he was listed as the director of Nikolai Yegorov’s several assets: he acts as the head of his law firm Lex. Among its major clients are Rosgosstrakh, Uralmashzavod and Sibur.
At the same time, Tot is the director of Energetika. Sodruzhestvo. Uspekh (Energy. Union. Success) LLC. Success and Apex South, owned by Nikolai Yegorov. The activities of the second company give an answer to the question of why the entourage of the well-known lawyer builds a chateau by the Black Sea.
Nikolai Yegorov established Apex South LLC in 2014, having registered the company in Gelendzhik. Two years later, the company, according its official documents, moved to St. Petersburg. Then, a new CEO was appointed - Alexei Tot. The company's specialization – growing grapes – has not changed.
Axis Investments, an illegal forest developer, has a common address with other companies in which Putin's classmate owns shares: on the 8th line of the Vasilievsky Island, 33A and in the room 4-Н, Partner LLC (also closed on December 28, 2017) 77.5% of which belongs to Nikolai Ygorov is registered as well. Northern Route LLC, which is also fully owned by Yegorov, as follows from the data of the counterparty checking base Kontur.Focus, is also registered there.
So, Axis Investments and Apex South have a common address and CEO; both companies specialize in the field of alcohol. Is there enough evidence that the company that organized the illegal construction in Krinitsy belongs to Putin's classmate?
Here is one more thing: Axis Investments acted as the mortgagee of trademarks Kalinka, Old Moscow, Winter Road, and Old Mark. They belong to Rusinvest LLC, a company in which 13% belongs to Nikolai Yegorov through Tatyana Zelentsova and OFK Bank.
On the fact that Nikolai Yegorov was associated with the largest seller of cheap vodka Vedomosti reported back in 2016. Now, he is known as a high-profile lawyer, founder of the largest Russian law firm Yegorov, Puginsky, Afanasiev and Partners.
Yegorov studied on the same program at the Faculty of Law of Leningrad State University with President Vladimir Putin, and also taught law to Dmitry Medvedev. Yegorov was an advisor to ex-mayor of St. Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. He became famous for launching the political career of young Putin, offering him to Sobchak for a work in the committee on foreign relations.
Last year, the name of Yegorov surfaced in an international scandal: he was found in the Paradise Papers – documents leaked from the offshore company Appleby. It turned out that, in 2015, Yegorov turned to Appleby for help with the acquisition of a 20% stake in the Antipinsky refinery, the largest private refinery in Russia.
The tenants are illegally building on another plot adjacent to the vineyards. This is also the land of the forest fund: its purpose is the placement of hunting facilities. By law, it is also impossible to build here. It is a huge plot of 6,291 hectares – three Gelendzhiks would fit there.
Rosreestr does not say who rented this site. However, during the inspection, the activists of the Ecowatch noticed a sign saying “Hunting estate Perspective” at the fence. This company is connected with relatives of businessman Oleg Deripaska. His cousin Pavel Yezubov, who is also the son of the State Duma deputy from the Krasnodar Territory Alexei Yezubov is among the owners of the company. Pavel Yezubov is Oleg Deripaska's longtime partner, the owner of Rospechat and a member of the Board of Directors of Ingosstrakh. Another share in Perspective LLC belongs to the mother of the oligarch, Valentine Deripaska.
Oleg Deripaska’s close friends systematically develop the Black Sea coast. Perspective acts as the founder of yet another company – Betta LLC, which is registered in the village of Krinitsy – that very village, where they conduct illegal construction. At the company’s registration address, the recreation center Betta is located. In 2011, Betta LLC concluded a water use agreement with the Black Sea area in the beach area for recreational purposes.
The activists of Ecowatch managed to find contractors of the illegal construction. On one of the shots they published on the Internet, an excavator of a construction company called SK-Yug-X can be seen. It is registered in Sochi and belongs to the Serbian businessman Adil Hamzich. The company built a residential block for the Olympics in Sochi in the village of Krayevsko-Greek. The contract for the construction of houses worth 57.8 million rubles was signed by the company with the Federal Road Agency. According to court materials, the company worked on the construction of the Cultural and Ethnographic Center “My Russia” in the resort of Rosa Khutor in Krasnaya Polyana.
The company participated in yet another notable competition. SK-Yug-X tried to win the tender of the Presidential Administration for the construction of the “judicial district” in St. Petersburg – the buildings of the Supreme Court, the Judicial Department and the Eifman Dance Palace. The participants of this competition were required to have a license from the FSB to work in conditions of classified regime. SK-Yug-X filed an application, but did not confirm the existence of the license.
The company also worked in Gelendzhik. This is evidenced by the feedback about the employer, left on the Internet in July 2016. The worker complains about the salary delays, living conditions, absence of days off and marks his complaint geographically – Gelendzhik.
WHO IS NOT HAPPY WITH ECOWATCH
Is the attack connected with what the environmentalists found behind the fence near Krinitsa? The activists of the Ecowatch have two versions of what happened. According to one of them, the attack could be carried out by security officers of JSC Axis Investments. They note that during the inspection they had a conflict: security detained the activists by the church and forced them to delete the photos of the construction site.
According to the second version, the attack was organized by officers of the FSB Directorate for the Krasnodar Territory. This version is supported by the fact that the environmentalists were under surveillance and their phones were wired. After the attack on the environmentalists, newspaper Novaya Gazeta described the documents proving the involvement of FSB officers in the attack.
The activists believe that their environmental activities prevent officials from “seizing the coast, forests and rivers” of the country. The illegal church in Krinitsa is not their first finding in the Kuban forests. Prior to this, the Ecowatch for the North Caucasus was engaged in investigating poaching with the participation of high-ranking officials in Gelendzhik.
Among the hunters, there were Bolat Zakaryanov, who is the head of the Main Department of Public Nutrition of the Presidential Administration of the Russian Federation, Roman Moldovanov from the Rosprirodnadzor Department for the Krasnodar Territory, and Andrei Koloskov, the head of the Federal State Department for the Protection, Supervision and Regulation of the Use of Wildlife and their Environment for the Kranodar Territory.
RESIDENCE IN PRASKOVEEVKA
One of them – Bolat Zakaryanov is associated with the residence on Cape Idokopas, which is called “Putin's Palace”. He is known as the former head of MC Investstroy LLC – the managing company of Complex LLC. The land with the residence is registered on Complex.
But even here Nikolai Yegorov and his pupil are involved. Prior to Alexei Tot, the company Apex South was headed by Alexei Veselyuk – the former head of the management company Complex LLC. By the way, the President’s Palace and vineyards with an illegal church are divided only by mountains and the forest. The palace stands on the same coast as Krinitsa, in the neighboring village of Praskoveevka.