The Town of Paradise: Russia’s PM and Other Top Officials Living in Ples
Ples is a beautiful place, where one gets wonderful neighbors! Only the name of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev makes you want to buy a dacha there. Also, the mayor is the son-in-law of head of Rosneft Igor Sechin. Russiangate found out who among the high-ranking officials decided to settle in the town, which was chosen by the head of the Russian Government. Among the “summer residents” of the town, there are governor of St. Petersburg and Senator Vasilyev, who probably seized expensive and specially protected lands and hid several non-residential buildings on them. Svetlana Zobova studied the map of Ples.
A FRIEND OF PLES FROM BAKU
After the investigation of the property owned by the family of the St. Petersburg governor was published, the readers of Russiangate indicated: in addition to land in Greater Moscow and apartments in the northern capital, Georgy Poltavchenko has a real estate in Ples. They were almost right: the land is most likely registered in the name of the governor’s son.
In October 2006, twenty-year-old Alexei Poltavchenko – presumably, a student at the Moscow Law Academy named after Kutafin – bought a plot of land with a house in the Ivanovo Region right opposite to the so called Pisa Tower of Ples – the Church of St. Varvara. On Yandex.Money it is stated that Alexei Poltavchenko, the son of the governor of St. Petersburg, has debts for property in the Ivanovo Region. Penalties in the amount of 0,29 rubles have been in the billionaire’s register for two years already.
A small tax debt showed us the way to another house of the Poltavchenko family
In the Ples Bulletin, Poltavchenko's house is described as follows: “neatly repainted and carefully decorated building of the 1980s.” The land plot owned by Alexei Poltavchenko occupies nine acres; its cadastral value is estimated at 167.7 thousand rubles. It has a building with an area of 58.6 sq. m. on it, the cadastral value of which is 734 thousand rubles.
In the secondary market, the cost of such facilities on the Varvarinskaya Street varies from 5 to 20 million rubles. Officially declared annual income of Georgy Poltavchenko for the last 10 years did not exceed 6 million rubles, and Alexei Poltavchenko began to enter the ratings of billionaires much later than the date the house in Ples had been purchased.
Georgy Poltavchenko is called one of the “Orthodox Chekists”. And it's not about decorating Smolny: according to Russiangate, that's what the Russian President's entourage, people who are deeply religious and used to work for the KGB, is called.
Governor Poltavchenko likes to buy real estate near churches. Another house near a church, he bought in Gorki-8, the Moscow Region, in 2008. This Russiangate reported about that in detail.
Poltavchenko’s wooden country house was sold by Alexey Shevtsov, full namesake of the former head of Ples and deputy, and now – a businessman. Now, Shevtsov heads the Society of Friends of Ples. Georgy Poltavchenko, according to media reports, is in the same public organization since 2013.
Almost two years ago, on February 15, 2013, the first meeting of the Society of Friends of Ples was held. Initiator of its creation А.В. Shevtsov, having gathered the upper crust of Ples in a coffee shop, announced his initiative.
Somewhat later, other people and summer residents joined the core crew of the Society. The second meeting also took place in a coffee shop and was perhaps the most massive in the history of the Society. It took place within the framework of the Levitan Festival Winter Evenings, fueling great enthusiasm in the artists and guests of the festival.
The first membership cards of the Society were printed with the names of the most influential summer residents, the first persons of the state. It is known that the governor of St. Petersburg Poltavchenko received a membership card from the hands of the Society’s chairman. We do not know about the fate of other membership cards for prominent politicians.
The noble cause, as outlined in the Charter, reads: “... cultural and educational activities aimed at achieving collective interests and public benefit in the field of conservation, improvement, enhancement of attractiveness and development of Ples.”
Currently, little is known about the Society’s activities.
The Society was designed to turn Ples into an “exemplary Russian town”, preserving the Levitan landscapes, increasing the well-being of its inhabitants and developing responsible tourism. From 2011 to 2016, regional officials proposed to spend more than 7.5 billion rubles on the creation of the Ples tourist cluster, of which 2.3 billion rubles are budgetary funds, the website of Rosturizm says.
AN EXTRACT FROM THE REGISTER
Georgy Poltavchenko looked out the plot in Ples after an unsuccessful fishing trip with Mikhail Men, who in September 2006 was governor of the Ivanovo Region. On the private visit, then the plenipotentiary representative of the president of the Central Federal District with his wife paid to the “little Russian paradise”, reported portal Chastnik. According to journalists, he spent three days in September in Ples and “tried to fish in the area of the Asafov Islands,” but ran into a gale. Also, journalists claimed that in the summer of 2006, Georgy Poltavchenko stayed at the house of merchant Novozhilov on the Sovetskaya Street.
After that, Georgy Poltavchenko had regular made the headlines. In 2012, AIF told that “Poltavchenko’s house was immortalized in oil.” The governor was pleasantly surprised by the work of artist Vitaly Panchenko. Mikhail Men in an interview with TVRain said that “Yuri Poltavchenko, a private guest of Ples, also helps one church.” Perhaps, the former governor of the Ivanovo Region, and now the federal minister, was incorrectly quoted, or he was mistaken in the name of his old friend.
LEVIATHAN AND THE WAR WITH THE PROSECUTOR
To help Georgy Poltavchenko feel not so lonely in Ples, Russiangate studied his neighbors.
Shevtsov, who sold Poltavchenko’s house, did not end up being a homeless. For example, the state register indicated that in 2006, the former head of the city of Plesk bought a plot of 185 sq. m. on the Kirova Street, nearby. On the site, there is a non-residential building with an area of 98.4 sq. m. and cadastral value of 1.68 million rubles. This house, apparently, was bought for commercial purposes, and Georgy Poltavchenko can buy smoked fish there. Also, on the façade, there is an advertising poster Levitan & Leviathan, written in Slavic ornamental script.
Natalia Shevtsova, the namesake of Alexei Shevtsov's wife, owns a plot of land on the Varvarinskaya Street. The plot area is 4.86 hundred sq.m. There is a house with an area of 32.6 sq. m. on it; the property was purchased in early 2003.
The house was built in 1865 and is an architectural monument. In 2013, the district prosecutor demanded that Shevtsova gets the house a facelift. This is not the first time an accusation of carelessness towards architectural monuments was brought against the namesake of the wife of the Ples’ ex-head: the environmental legislation was ignored when operating buildings on the Soviet and Yuryevskaya streets.
Regarding the one Varvarinsky Street, the court ordered the restoration of the building to the faced it had until April 2014. If we compare archival photographs of the Uritsky Street (formerly called the Varvarinskaya Street), then we can assume that Shevtsova tried to execute the court's decision.
Julia Portnova, presumably the wife of Senator Valery Vasilyev and the director of the Ivanovo Parachute Factory, stands out among the inhabitants of the Varvarinskaya Street.
Russiangate discovered that Julia Portnova systematically bought up six plots of land on this street. The bulk of the real estate items was acquired in 2014-2015. The total area of the property, which she owns in this area, is 117 hundred sq. m. All six sites match what the senator’s spouse indicated in her declaration. In this whole territory there are four buildings with the cadastral value worth more than 10.7 million rubles, the analogues of which are indicated in the income statement for 2016. Before 2016, Portnova owned two more houses.
Senator Valery Vasiliev and his wife declared 13 land plots and 42 real estate objects, including a two-level parking lot, a heating main and an artesian well. At the best of times, the number of the family’s real estate items would exceed 60.
Russiangate has found the plots owned by Yulia Portnova and Valery Vasiliev, and also found out how some items were obtained and what they did not like about the assessment of the cadastral chamber.
The estates are located in the villages of Nagornovo and Lomy, the Ivanovo Region; the title to them was received between 2008 and 2014. Portnova and Vasiliev own 10.3 hectares in total. The cadastral value of the land plots is more than 9.5 million rubles.
In 2014, both owners sued the cadastral chamber, whose engineers allegedly incorrectly determined the value of the land. The plaintiffs demanded to reassess the real estate item making it equal to the market value. For example, some of Yulia Portnova’s property in the village of Lomy was originally estimated by specialists as 592 thousand (3397 sq. m.), 2.5 million (10,822 sq. m.) and 16.8 million rubles (72,324 sq. m.). The owner argued that the land was worth nine times less – 114.9 thousand, 287.4 thousand and 1.8 million, respectively. As a result, the Arbitration Court of the Ivanovo Region took the side of the owner. Rosreestr indicated that the property has a cadastral value of 7.7 million rubles, that is, the owner transferred much less land tax to the regional budget than she was supposed to.
As for Vasiliev, the initial assessment of cadastral engineers has never been disclosed: the Chamber preferred to correct the “inaccuracy” before the court's decision. But in the documents, there is one interesting detail. Before passing the land plot of 6897 sq. m. in the village of Nagornovo in private ownership, officials changed the type of permitted use from the “land of specially protected areas” to the type “for individual residential development.”
In 2012, this site was intended for the recreation center The Hunter and Fisherman's House, as specified in the documents of the regional government. Changes to the general plan were made as a matter of priority; the organizers of the initiative are the administration of the settlement and the Ivanovo Region government. When the land had specially protected status, it cost 1.8 million rubles, and under Vasiliev, cadastral value fell to 663 thousand rubles.
The status of the land plot with the area of 3397 sq. m. owned by Portnova was changed as well. Previously, the territory was designed for a health camp.
Moreover, there are two non-residential buildings located on the plot in the village of Lomy, the Ivanovo Region, which the editorial board did not find in the declaration of the member of the Federation Council for 2016. A building of 90.1 sq. m. and non-residential facility of 64.4 sq. m. were missing. The cadastral value of these facilities is almost 1.2 million rubles. In the extracts of Rosreestr, the owner of the buildings is Yulia Portnova, who bought them in 2008.
The editorial board of Russiangate did not find in the declaration of member of the Federation Council Valery Vasiliev two real estate items that are listed in his possession: a building (90.1 sq. m..) and non-residential facility (64.4 sq. m.)
Thus, if the owners of the property described are indeed a senator with his spouse, and not their clone-namesakes, then the anti-corruption committee of the Federation Council should take a closer look at the information specified in the declarations.
First, it is possible that these two buildings are not included in the real estate registry, which is a violation. Secondly, it is unclear why Portnova and Vasiliev personally corrected the cadastral value of the facilities, significantly reducing it, thereby impoverishing the budget of the Ivanovo Region. Thirdly, how was the specially protected land allocated for development?
The source of income, which has made it possible to acquire such large land tenure, remains unclear. In the years of purchase of objects the family of the senator earned an average of 10-40 million rubles, for four years (from 2011 to 2014) accumulated about 98 million rubles. The market value of land in the villages of the Ivanovo Region of this area ranges from 90 to 260 million rubles. Plus six plots of land in the Ples. Items of this area in the city could cost from 20 to 150 million rubles. So, to buy all 13 plots one would need from 110 to 410 million rubles. To buy this, the senator would need not only to starve and walk to his meetings, but also to sell himself for eternal slavery of a credit organization.
Yulia Portnova is regularly included in the rating of the richest senator wives. In 2016, she declared 128 million rubles of income, and her husband – 5.4 million rubles. Valery Vasilyev was delegated to the Federation Council in 2011.
WORKSHOP FROM NEIGHBOR
Let's return back to the Varvarinskaya Street, which is so dear to Poltavchenko. If the Governor of St. Petersburg, during his next visit to Ples, wants to discuss the subordinates over a cup of tea, then there will find a company for that. Not far from the church, 600 sq. m. are owned by Anatoly Yablonsky, the namesake of a Kostroma businessman. On the site, there is a house with an area of 34.8 sq. m. The total cadastral value of the property is 665 thousand rubles, it was purchased in 2010.
Anatoly Yablonsky, perhaps, is familiar with Igor Slyunyaev: he headed the Kostroma Region from 2007 to 2012. And the latter, since 2014, having changed his name to Albin, works in the government of St. Petersburg as the vice-governor. So, hypothetically, they can even talk about a common acquaintance. How, a future one: now, on the plot one doesn’t see anything except the toilet and the transformer booth.
Yablonsky can also be interesting to Alexei Poltavchenko. For example, he can tell how to successfully earn state contracts. In the Unified State Register of Legal Entities, his full namesake is listed as the owner of several dozen companies, many of which win tenders of federal and Kostroma state companies. The website Goszatraty says that in total, the enterprises controlled by businessman Yablonsky have signed hundreds of contracts for almost 1.2 billion rubles.