«New Kazan» in Foros: How Tatarstan Senior Officials Colonize the Crimean Seashore

PHOTO: Foros Park and «Foros» sanatorium. Screenshot of video YouTube CrimeaDrone

Senior public officials of Russian Tatarstan and related business colonized Crimean Foros. Corrupted clans of «Kazan people» buy lands and destroy the famous park-monument by their buildings. Families of Shaimiev, ex-President of the Republic of Tatarstan, Ravil Muratov, ex-Vice-Prime-Minister and Advisor of the current President of Tatarstan, Asgat Safarov, ex-Minister of Internal Affairs and the head of the Office of the President of Tatarstan and other public officials have luxury dachas in Foros.

The connection with JSC «Tatneft» can be found in the privatization of «Foros» sanatorium stolen from Ukraine as well as in the illegal construction on its territory. Though, «Tatneft» stubbornly denies any relations with these illegal operations as it is afraid of possible Western sanctions.

The Center for Journalist Investigations uncovered connections between Foros land buyers and developers and «Tatneft» company. We tell the story of how Ukrainian corruption laid the ground for the Russian corruption brought in to Crimea by the occupation army. Today Russian corrupted clans implement the colonization policy on the occupied territory.

Foros Park is one of the most beautiful and famous places in Crimea. It has been founded in 1834 at General Raievskii’s estate. In fifty years it has been bought by Alexander Kuznetsov, a Russian «tea king». He re-planned the Park and planted trees and herbs from Europe, America and Asia. More than 200 forms and types of relict trees and bushes grow in the Park with the total area of 70 hectares. However, today the Park is under serious threat. Full-scale reconstruction and destruction of dozens of old, exotic and relict trees caused protests by Foros and Yalta inhabitants.

The historical monument of the landscape gardening is eradicated by corrupted clans of Russian Tatarstan. They have no respect towards the park, as it is their military trophy.

Protesting Foros

«People worry about relict trees being cut down. We are told that new trees will be planted. But there will be no place for them! Places under relict trees will be occupied by buildings. That is why people worry. What will happen with our Park?…», as stated local inhabitant to local video blogger at the public meeting protecting the park.

PHOTO: Constuction in the Foros Park. Screenshot of the video YouTube / Форосский Парк

What new buildings will be constructed on the territory of the Park? Nobody knows. Plan of reconstruction of the Park and «Foros» sanatorium was not published and discussed at the public hearings.

Versions of the Crimean «administration» are contradictory. At the very beginning, Crimean «authorities» told that children’s camp would be built on the territory of Foros Park. Then, they changed their mind: children’s sport base of Kazan hockey club «Ak Bars» would be located in the Park. Facebook page of the project launched by developers informs that the planned object will be «children-youth complex of «Ak Bars» for talented children and students».

Foros inhabitants organize protests and record video address to Vladimir Putin. They hope that the President of Russia is able to protect this piece of the XIXth century Russian landscape gardening preserved by Ukraine from Russian barbarians of the XXIst century.

PHOTO: Marina Rikmen reads an address to Putin. Screenshot of video YouTube / Форосский Парк

«The place we are standing now could be destroyed very soon. Large-scale construction started in Foros Park admired by millions of people. The construction will drastically change the Park. It is planned that hundreds of trees aged more than 100 years will be cut down», according to Marina Rikmen, local teacher and supporter of the preservation of the cultural heritage.

When video address to Putin became popular in social media networks, the Russian authorities of Crimea sent police officers to Marina Rikmen – to conduct preventive conversation about extremism.

Displeased Moscow also forced Sergei Aksenov, the «Crimean gauleiter», to visit Foros Park and persuade people that the reconstruction was legitimate. It is remarkable that protests burst on the eve and during the anniversary of the «Crimean Spring». However, Aksenov and Yanina Pavlenko, the speaker of Yalta authorities, play the losing game: they have to calm down protesters and satisfy powerful developers at the same time.

PHOTO: Sergei Aksenov at the meeting with Foros inhabitants

Ukrainian ground for Russian corruption

Who dared to destroy the Park-monument and build on the territory of «Foros» sanatorium stolen from Ukraine? For the beginning, let us recall the story of the privatization of the state owned sanatorium. We will also look into how the Ukrainian corruption laid the ground for the Russian corruption brought in to Crimea by occupation army.

Dacha «Tesseli» located between «Foros» sanatorium and state dacha # 11 (known also as «Zarya» and Gorbachev’s dacha) was the first privatized object. The former estate of Raievskii and Kuznetsov «Tesseli» («silence» in Greek, and «consolation» in Crimea Tatar language) was state dacha during Soviet period. It was the recreation place for prominent cultural figures and astronauts. It had informal name «Gorki’s dacha» as he wrote there «Vassa Zheleznova» and «The Life of Klim Samgin». Recently it received another informal name – «dacha of Shaimiev».

PHOTO: Tesseli dacha. Photo by shtab.navalny.com

It is known that Leonid Kuchma, the former President of Ukraine, loved recreation in Crimea. Yalta was sometimes called summer or southern capital of Ukraine under his presidency. He spent weeks and met with foreign colleagues there. Mintimer Shaimiev, the President of Tatarstan, was among his regular guests. Oil companies from Tatarstan were very interested in cooperation with Ukraine.

Joint enterprise «Ukrtatnafta» was set up in 1994. Tatarstan became the co-owner of Kremenchuk oil processing factory and had the large stake.

Shaimiev wanted «Tesseli’ dacha and his request was satisfied. In 1997, Sebastopol based LLC «Akar» privatized two buildings of dacha. The Decree of the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea determined their value – 589,4 thousand UAH. This amount was paid by barter – as the mutual settlement for oil products supplied to the peninsula. That is why it is difficult to evaluate the fairness of the price.

PHOTO: Mintimer Shaimiev. Photo by Frhdkazan, wikimedia.org

In 2002, the Cabinet of Ministries of Ukraine merged two Foros sanatoriums into the state enterprise «Foros Sanatorium». It has been transferred to the «State Administration of Affairs» managing state enterprises and property related to the work of the President, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and other top-level governmental bodies. It was then headed by Igor Bakai with dubious corrupted reputation. Consequently, sanatorium buildings and park territory were leased to the aircraft carrier «Aerosvit», co-owned by Viktor Pinchuk, son-in-law of Leonid Kuchma.

In April 2004, buildings of «Foros» sanatorium and ownership rights were transferred to the state enterprise «Ukrinvestbud» – for their reconstruction. However, the «State Administration of Affairs» sold them to «Aerosvit» company. The Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine in Crimea headed after Orange Revolution by Viktor Shemchuk initiated criminal investigation of this deal. But the central office of the Prosecutor General’s Office withdrew the case, and later «Aerosvit» company returned sanatorium objects into its ownership after a series of court appeals. Finally, Privat Group of oligarch Igor Kolomoiski became the owner of Aerosvit and its Foros assets.

Privatization of Foros

Our numerous investigations highlighted the destiny of the most lucrative objects of the Crimean Southern Seashore after the occupation of Crimea. We named the largest war marauders. The property of Privat Group was the first illegally expropriated by occupants. In Foros, five land plots and recreation objects were expropriated.

It was promised that money from sales of expropriated property would be given to clients of «Privatbank». After the second attempt, «Foros sanatorium» was sold in 2016. However, the auction was faked. The Federation of the Trade Unions of Tatarstan became… the lucky winner. Rustem Vakhitov, the lawyer, represented its interests at the auction. The only competitor was LLC «Akar». Rostislav Vakhitov, the father of Rustem Vakhitov, was director and co-owner of this company…

The Federation of the Trade Unions of Tatarstan paid almost 1,5 billion Rubles for ‘Foros» sanatorium. «Sponsor support» was indicated as the source of the money. Then, who was the real sponsor and buyer?

Since its foundation in Sebastopol, «Akar» company was closely connected with «Tatneft». It leased oil terminal of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. Oil products were imported from Tatarstan through this terminal. «Akar» had 70% of shares in the statutory capital of the Trade House «Ukrtatnafta-Krym».

Kazan based LLC «Nira-Eksport» is still indicated by the Ukrainian State Register of Legal Entities as one of the founders of Sebastopol «Akar». Radik Shaimiev, younger son of Mintimer Shaimiev, the former President of Tatarstan, has been the director and founder of the company. In other words, buildings of «Tesseli» dacha were sold to the company of the son of then President of Tatarstan. In 1998, Radik Shaimiev was the member of the Board of Directors of «Tatneft».

PHOTO: Radik Shaimiev, photo by motosport.com

After the occupation of Crimea, «Akar» was re-registered in the Russian State Register of Legal Entities. «Avista» company became the founder of «Akar». One chain of «Avista’s» founders leads to oil traders close to «Tatneft». Another chain lead to JSC «Restor» in 2015. Remember this name – it will regularly appear in our investigation of the illegal construction in Foros park.

Before occupation of Crimea, it was forbidden to sell lands of «Tesseli» dacha and «Foros» sanatorium by the legislation, as these were the lands of natural monument and recreation institutions. It was allowed to lease them. After the occupation of Crimea, the situation drastically changed.

First of all, assets of «Akar» on the territory of «Tesseli» dacha significantly expanded. As the Federal List of Tourist Objects of Russia demonstrates, recreation complex «Dacha «Tesseli» owned by LLC «Akar» has already three buildings (and not two, as it has been before occupation) and three cottages. The complex received the category «four stars», with three apartments and 15 «luxury» rooms.

In 2015, «Akar» started buying lands in Foros and making obscure deals with them. However, their final purpose became clear in a couple of years.

First, «Akar» leases and then buys 22 hectares surrounding «Tesseli» dacha buildings. Then, it buys four land plots to the north – «for servicing dacha objects». Next step – «Akar» combines all plots into the one large land plot and acquires new cadaster number. Finally, it cuts this land plot into 11 plots. For what? For the sale!

«Akar» sells them to close companies and very famous people of Tatarstan. In their turn, they build luxury estates on the territory, collected by «Akar».

In accordance with the Federal List of Tourist Objects, cottages of «Tesseli» Dacha have numbers 16, 17 and 18. It means there should be buildings numbered 1-15. Satellite pictures show more than ten cottages under green roof.

Journalists from Navalny shtab in Kazan managed to make some drone photos of them. Jammers installed on state dachas did not allow making more.

Meanwhile, we managed to find data about recipients of «Akar» lands in court decisions.

PHOTO: Screenshot of video «Штаб Навального у Казані»

The «prosecutors» of occupied Crimea considered all «Akar’s» deals with acquisition, parceling and further sale of Foros lands to be illegal. They also insisted that the land from «Yalta administration» was acquired at the price deliberately reduced by 2 billion UAH. They wanted to recognize all land transactions with the «Yalta administration» invalid and further deals – void.

The last decision of the «Arbitration Court of Appeals of Crimea» is dated March 9, 2021. «Prosecutors» lost their case completely. Then, who are the new owners of lands and estates at Foros seashore?

Elina Asgatovna Safarova is among defendants of the lawsuit. She is the younger daughter of Asgat Safarov, ex-Minister of Internal Affairs and the head of the Office of the President of Tatarstan.

PHOTO: Elina Safarova. Photo by shtab.navalny.com

Ravil Fatikhovich Muratov is another defendant. He acquired the land plot near the cottage neighboring Safarova’s estate.

He is the ex-Vice-Prime-Minister of Tatarstan, Advisor of the current President of Tatarstan, and Deputy Director of the JSC «Tatneftekhiminvest Holding». He headed the Supervising Board of «Ukrtatnafta».

PHOTO: Ravil Muratov. Photo by elitat.ru

Another buyer of Foros lands is Closed Stock Company «Trais». It bought two hectares from «Akar».

JSC «Restor» we mentioned earlier also bought three hectares. This company provides links between developers on the territory of «Foros» sanatorium and «Tatneft».

«Tatneft» stubbornly denies any involvement into the illegal acquisition of Foros Park lands and destruction of its natural monument. Its motivation is clear: the company does not want to become the object of Western sanctions. EU and US introduced them against any buyers of Ukrainian assets stolen by the Russian occupation authorities. «Foros» sanatorium is considered to be the state enterprise of Ukraine whereas the park – the monument of the landscape gardening owned by the Ukrainian state.

Links with «Tatneft»

In February 2016, objects of «Foros» sanatorium were bought at the «auction» for 1,5 billion Rubles by non-governmental organization «The Federation of the Trade Unions of the Republic of Tatarstan». In May 2016, Tatjana Vodopjanova, the head of the Federation, explained that «Tatneft» company became de facto owner of the sanatorium.

«We (the Federation of the Trade Unions of Tatarstan) participated in the auction. We were operator of the transaction as large companies stand behind it. It is «Tatneft» company which acquired the sanatorium», as Mrs Vodopjanova stated. She also said that companies, owners of the sanatorium, were going to start repairing works. «There is a hope that part of sanatorium will be working this year», as she informed Kommersant.

However, «Tatneft» always denied any involvement and connections with the acquisition of the «Foros» sanatorium. We uncover this involvement below.

In 2018, two years after the acquisition of «Foros», Tatjana Vodopjanova has been put under criminal investigation. She was accused of the embezzlement of 3 million Rubles in 2009. The Federation blamed «Tatneft» for persecuting its head.

«It is surprising that claims about the guilt of the head of the Federation were published two weeks after the management of the Federation and «Tatneft» disagreed about the current situation and further development of the «Foros» sanatorium», as the Federation of the Trade Unions pointed out in its official statement.

Two months after this conflict Vodopjanova retired. The list of the Federation’s sanatoriums does not mention the «Foros» sanatorium. On the opposite, it is mentioned many times by the website of the trade union organization of «Tatneft». Its reports about recreation of «Tatnfet» employees also mention «Foros Park» (Republic of Crimea)» as the recreation institution of JSC «Tatneft» (together with «Belokurikha» in Altai region).

It should be also emphasized that Hockey Club «Ak Bars» is fully owned by «Tatneft». As we wrote above, it was initially planned that children’s or youth sports base of the Club would be built in «Foros» Park. But later any reference to the Club or sports profile disappeared from the name of the object in the Park.

The state owned company «Tatinvestgrazhdanproject» is indicated as the «builder» in the passport of the object. It received the construction permission on December 30, 2020. However, the company does not have the building license. Its business profile is the construction design (it won numerous tenders in this sphere).

PHOTO: Passport of the object. Screenshot of video YouTube CrimeaDrone

Karim Shakirov is the responsible person for the construction, in accordance with the passport of the object. He is also the head of «Renovatsia» company involved into the electrical installation.

Investigation of his connections leads us to Revol Ismagilov and then – to Ravil Ziganshyn, the construction monster of Tatarstan.

Developer \ builder of «Foros» Park
State owned company «Tatinvestgrazhdanproject
==== Karim Shakirov, responsible for the construction
Director of LLC «Renovatsia»
Revol Ismagilov
Founder of LLC «Renovatsia»
Indirect founder of LLC «Itil-trans»
«Itil-trans» is 75% shareholder of Joint Stock Company «Tatflot»
Ravil Ziganshyn is indirect founder of JSC «Tatflot»
===== Airat Nailevich Khusainov, chief project engineer
Director of LLC «Varda», Kazan
Director of NAO «Restor», Kazan
NAO «Restor» is related both to LLC «Varda» and LLC «Park Foros»

Ravil Ziganshyn, the former member of Tatarstan parliament, owns production-construction union «Kazan». It has been the general contractor of many large projects (for example, construction of the spaceport «Vostochny» and sports arena in Samara).

Ziganshyn’s companies are chronical tax debtors (the sum of indebtedness is hundreds of millions Rubles). If the youth center in Foros will be built by Ziganshyn’s companies, then, its involvement can be considered as a kind of «redemption».

PHOTO: Ravil Ziganshyn, photo by kazanreporter.ru 

Airat Khusainov is the chief project engineer, in accordance with the passport of the object.

He is the director of Joint Stock Company «Restor». The company is the founder of a number of companies involved into the case.

For example. LLC «Park Foros» founded by «Restor» is the legal entity managing «Foros» sanatorium. Elvira Shrsha is indicated by the site as the director of this LLC and director of the sanatorium.

Joint Stock Company «Restor» has been the owner of the sanatorium since June 2016, in accordance with the documents from the Russian State Property Register published by «Navalny’s Shtab in Kazan». It means that the Tatar Trade Unions possessed the sanatorium only one month.

And here is the link to «Tatneft»: «Restor» and its subsidiary «Park Foros» jointly founded LLC «Resours-A» registered in Sebastopol.

Republic of Tatarstan – 30,44%
JSC «Svjazinvestneftekhim», Kazan – 27,23%
The Bank of New York Mellon (USA) – 22,85%
LLC «Resurs-A»:
LLC «Park Foros», Yalta, Foros
NAO «Restor», Kazan
LLC «Enostor». Yalta, Foros
LLC «Varda», Kazan

This company is the operator of the network of Crimean gas stations. Signboards with «Tatneft» logo could be found in Sebastopol and Crimea until 2017. But then Reuters wrote about violators of Western sanctions, and operator «KONTS» was replaced with LLC «Resurs-A». It has been hectically registered in Sebastopol for the person who is the co-founder of 250 companies (he changed his name and surname several times).

However, it is difficult to hide the supply of oil products and retail trade. In 2019, BBC journalists took a picture of gas station near Yalta with brand colors of «Tatneft» and signboard «T-neft». The gas station is within the network of LLC «Resurs-A». It sells the gasoline of «Tatneft».

PHOTO: Gas station «T~neft» in Crimea. Photo by bbc.com

And here is an explanation of the reasons why «Tatneft» is afraid of Western sanctions and hides its activity in Crimea. Let us remind that the Head of its Board of Directors is Rustam Minnikhanov, the President of Tatarstan.

30,5% shares of «Tatneft» are owned by the Republic of Tatarstan, 27% – by JSC «Svjazinvestneftekhim» and 22,8% – by American The Bank of New York Mellon!

The US sanctions forbid its citizens and companies to invest into occupied Crimea, to buy Crimean assets or conduct transactions with Crimean companies. Thus, having an American bank as the shareholder, «Tatneft» is likely to violate the USA sanction legislation and is involved into illegal acquisition of the Ukrainian sanatorium and construction in Foros Park.