Russian Oligarchs-Winemakers on Massandra Stolen Lands and their European Allies


The will of the Russian oligarchs to own vineyards in Crimea and produce wines under their own trademarks was first implemented even before the occupation of Crimea by Russia. Vagit Alekperov, the owner of “Lukoil”, became the first owner of Crimean vineyards and Crimean wine producer. Ukrainian companies controlled by him leased lands of the state enterprise “Gurzuf”. Andrei Kostin, the head of “Vneshekonombank”, has been the second. He took lands in Bakhchysarai raion. 

The occupation of Crimea opened many opportunities for Russian oligarchs and top-officials to buy agricultural lands and expropriated vineyards and wine production factories. Almost all close friends of Putin, former members of “Ozero” cooperative, participated in stealing “Novy Svet”, “Koktebel” and “Massandra”, the most precious Crimean pearl. It is also worth recalling those marauders who were the first to take precious “Massandra” lands immediately after occupation. It is remarkable that citizens of EU countries help new “owners” to launch their vineyards and factories. It is clear that they violate Western sanctions and the Ukrainian legislation. 

“Alekperov’s” Chateau and the first sale of “Massandra” lands

In February 2016, the land plot (total area 36,4306 hectares) near Gurzuf was sold at the “auction”, in accordance with the “Decree of the Council of Ministries of the Republic of Crimea”. The land plot was owned by the state enterprise “Gurzuf”, part of the “Massandra”. The selling price was 163 million Rubles, i.e. only 576 USD per 100 square meter of precious lands. 

The land plot was bought by Moscow based LLC “Elias” (LLC “Elias”, tax number 7702511376). The name of the LLC was changed to “Grineko” on March 31, 2017. Since October 2019, it has been under liquidation procedure. 

The investigation of the Center for Journalist Investigations established the connection between LLC “Elias” and Vagit Alekperov, the owner of the JSC “Lukoil”. Marina Romanicheva was the founder of “Elias”. She was also the co-founder of LLC “Center for Consulting and Outsourcing “Our Future”. Another co-founder of the Center was “Our Future” Foundation for Regional Social Programs” founded by oligarch Vagit Alekperov. Alekperov calls it “my foundation” in the presentation video. 

PHOTO: Chateau Cotes de Saint Daniel

The connection of the first buyer of “Massandra” lands with the oligarch was not a surprise for those who knows the history of wine producer Château Côtes de Saint-Daniel. Its vineyards are located near Alekperov’s dacha (he told about vacations there in his interview). Before occupation, LLC “Vinogradniki “Medvedi” acquired ownership of “biomaterial” (grape bushes) by court decisions but failed to privatize land plots of state owned enterprise “Gurzuf” where they were planted. The sale of “Gurzuf” lands was forbidden by the moratorium on privatization of agricultural lands whereas the property complex of “Massandra” was protected from privatization by the special legislation. 

The Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea initiated criminal investigation about illegal alienation of “Gurzuf” land plot on December 9, 2015 when the occupation regime of Crimea prepared the decision about the sale of land. The investigation has been about illegal acquisition by public officials of “the Council of Ministries of the Republic of Crimea” of agricultural lands located on the territory of occupied Crimea (part 5 of article 191 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). Though the Center for Journalist Investigations uncovered names of the formal and real beneficiaries of the transaction, the investigation has been never completed and not submitted to the court.



Vagit Alekperov, the President of “Lukoil” company

JSC “Upravlauschaja kompania “Business Investitsii”

LLC “Holding Strategicheskogo Razvitia”

LLC “Navigator 1”

“Verdiks D”

LLC “Vinogradniki Medvedi”


Physical and legal persons involved into this transaction were not included into the sanction list of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine. Alekperov’s assets in Ukraine were not frozen and his managers had the time to secure them. They “sold” “Lukoil” network of 240 gas stations and six oil terminals in Ukraine to unknown Austrian AMIC (the deal was signed in April 2015). They succeeded in changing the final beneficiary of “Karpatnaftokhim” from Russian oligarch Alekperov to Ukrainian citizens Ilkham Mamedov and Igor Schutski. In December 2019, the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine allowed Techinservice Limited (London, UK) acquiring shares of Karpaty Chemical B.V. (Geldermalsen, Netherlands). The latter owned 100% of shares of “Karpatnaftokhim”. 

“Graf’s Chateau” and the first stealing of “Massandra” lands

Before these events, occupants “lost” 13 hectares of vineyards when the stolen property of “Massandra” was transferred to the Office of the President of Russia. Those lands bordered the territory of 5-star hotel complex Mriya Resort & Spa. 

Mykola Boiko, the General Director of “Massandra”, fired by occupation authorities told the Center for Journalist Investigations that he has been at the hospital abroad when Crimea was seized. When he came back, he found out that occupants stole from “Massandra” the vineyard of elite Muscat Blanc located near the hotel complex Mriya Resort & Spa. 

PHOTO: Mykola Boiko, the General Director of “Massandra”. Photo by

“My problems began when 13 hectares of land were stolen in April. It has been the vineyard of Muskat Blanc, very good vineyard. It was leased by Zelenski Nikolai Aleksandrovich. He managed the vineyard very well. Unfortunately, complex Mriya is located nearby.. And Herman Osakrovich is there… (Herman Graf, the Head of the Board of “Sberbank Russia” – ed.).

As I can imagine, once Graf went to his balcony and thought: “Why are here vineyards not belonging to me? I should make them mine!” Those lands were simply given to him. 13 hectares of lands. I tried to resist, I wrote official letters but failed and ran into serious problems. No, I did not fight with Graf. I will tell you the great secret: the future of “Massandra” was determined before this case…”

What is Herman Graf involved into this story? 

“Sberbank Russia” owns hotel complex “Mriya Resort & Spa” through LLC “Garant-SV” (tax number 9103007830) and its founders LLC “Auktsyon” and “Gamma-S”. The Ukrainian subsidiary of “Sberbank Russia” launched its construction before the occupation of Crimea. In August 2014, Vladimir Putin held the meeting of the Security Council of the Russian Federation and met with members of the State Duma in the half-completed complex. He recognized the use of the Russian armed forces during the pseudo-referendum at the meeting. 

The Yalta International Economic Forum (YIEF) is conducted each year in Mriya Resort. It is the largest Crimean investment event with propaganda forums of the “friends of the occupation of Crimea”. In November 2018, the USA imposed sanctions on Mriya Resort & Spa and its direct owner LLC “Garant-SV”. 

PHOTO: Vladimir Putin and German Gref in Mriya Resort & Spa, photo by TASS

It is known that “Sberbank Russia” refused working in occupied Crimea, as it was afraid that the US government would impose more severe sanctions than 2014 restrictions. Herman Graf was criticized by Russian “ultra-patriots” for his “non-patriotic” pragmatism. 

It is surprising that “Sberbank Russia” decided to enter the viticulture and wine production on lands expropriated from “Massandra”, through its hotel assets in Crimea.

The “Council of Ministries of Crimea” and LLC “Gorizont-servise” (its founders are “Garant-SV” and “Auktsyon”) signed an agreement about investment project “Creation of Wine Tourism in the Republic of Crimea” on June 15, 2015. The “project on planning and land management of the territory located to the south of sanatorium-recreation complex “Mriya Resort & Spa” has been developed within the agreement. It was ordered by LLC “SB Development” (Moscow subsidiary of LLC “Gamma-S”) and developed by LLC “Proektny Institut “Genplan” (Simferopol). 

PHOTO: Mriya Resort & Spa

The construction of entertainment complex “Vinnyj Park” [Wine Park] was initiated in 2018. It was planned that the complex would occupy the area of 22 825 square m near Opolznevoe village and would include the wine production, creamery, tasting halls, restaurants and conference halls. The internal yard was supposed to have the artificial lake and the tower 50 meters high. The vineyards would occupy the largest part of the park (yearly harvest was estimated at 46,8 tons of the wine grapes of three types). 

COVID0-19 pandemics postponed the opening of “Wine Park” (from autumn 2010 to spring 2021). It is likely that it will be launched in April. In accordance with the website of the Park, the initial project was significantly changed. Total area of the Park expanded to 30 hectares whereas the area of the vineyard was reduced to 7,5 hectares. 




Diverse and inspiring

Territory of the Park

30 hectares – total area

7,5 hectares – vineyards

15 hectares – interactive locations

Multifunctional space with immersive program will plunge guests into specific atmosphere when the insight into secrets of wine making will turn into free creative dialogue…


Local inhabitants told the Center for Journalist Investigations that two types of red grapes were planted: Cabernet and Mourvèdre. It was reported that another vineyard (with Pinot grapes) was planned in Sebastopol zone as Sebastopol climate was better than Gurzuf one. 

Thus, new owners destroyed 13 hectares of Muscat Blanc and replaced them with 7,5 hectares of the new vineyard. How the rest of the Park was used? As Yalta inhabitants told us, expensive palm trees and 200 years old olive trees were planted on the remaining territory of the Park…

“Westarbaiters” at the service of Russian oligarchs in Crimea

Though “Sberbank Russia” initiated this project in Crimea after Western partners of Ukraine imposed sanction restrictions on Crimea, “SB Development” do not publicize its involvement into the construction of “Wine Park”. Section “Projects” of its website says nothing about it. Luckily, there are web-archives. A number of archived publications of “SB Development” provide an evidence that SB Development is involved into the project. “SB Development” also mentions its project partners – LLC “Podzemproekt” (Moscow) and Italian architectural bureau Archea Associati (Florence, Italy). 

PHOTO: Thomas Doll, Facebook

Happy Thomas Doll is sitting on the barrel of wine amid vineyards. His left hand holds a bottle of white wine whereas his right hand – a glass of Kokur, presumably, produced by “Massandra”. When we look at this photo, we are envious. Almost envious… 

Thomas Doll was born in Schwabenheim, Rhineland-Palatinate. He is the Chief Winemaker in Mriya “Wine Park”, as he calls himself. 

Thomas Doll came to Crimea in 2011 as the invited wine consultant of the wine production “Alma Valley” (Viline village, Bakhchysarai raion). It is owned by another well-known Russian – Andrei Kostin, the Head of the Board of “Vneshekonombank”.  Under the assistance of Thomas Doll, the first wines under “Alma Valley” trademark were produced in 2013. The German consultant did not leave Crimea even after its occupation by Russia. In 2019, Thomas Doll became the member of the jury of “international wine competition” conducted in Yalta on the basis of “Massandra” (already being the object of Western sanctions). 

It seems that in 2019-2020, Thomas Doll left the team of Andrei Kostin’s wine producers (Russian expert Andrei Grigoriev headed it) and started working for Graf’s wine production. 

Russian media “Ludi ROSTa” published an interview with Thomas Doll as the Chief Winemaker of “Wine Park” project on November 30, 2020 (the media is the project of “Partia ROSTa” [Party of Growth] by Boris Titov, Russian business ombudsman and owner of “Abrau Durso” company). Mr. Doll describes the technology of grapes processing and informs that the project of wine production facilities was developed by Italian architect Marco Casamonti whereas another Italian, Alberto Antonini, was invited as consultant-enologist.

PHOTO: Alberto Antonini. Photo of

Marco Casamonti together with Giovanni Polazzi and Laura Andreini founded architectural bureau “Archea Associati”. Since 1988, the bureau implemented numerous large-scale architectural projects – from wine factories in Italy to sports complex in Tirana (Albania) and the Museum of Ceramics in Liling, China. 

Marco Casamonti is the ordinary professor at the department of architectural planning of the architecture faculty of the University of Genoa. He is the editor of the international architectural journal “Area” published by his bureau. He also delivers open lectures. For example, he spoke at the Sankt Petersburg architectural exhibition in 2013. 

Mr. Casamonti seems to be successful architect, scholar and professor. However, he had serious problems with Italian prosecutors, in accordance with the Italian media La Repubblica. In April 2017, the newspaper published detailed article about scandal Casamonti was involved. He violated the law when he combined the work of the university professor with the work of architect and consultant in business projects. University students complained he ignored his duties as professor and did not deliver lectures. As Ermete Bogetti, ex-prosecutor, informed the damage brought by Casamonti’s behavior in 1999-2006 amounted to 689 thousand Euros. He had to pay 976 thousand Euro as the compensation, in accordance with the court decision… 

Alberto Antonini is last but not the least from “Westarbaiters” working for Russian oligarchs in Crimea. He is one of the best world enologists and consultants on wine production. He graduated from the University of Florence and received PhD from the University of Bordeaux and University of California in Davis. Mr. Antonini possesses family wine production near Florence. He has worked as consultant for wine producers from Argentina to Armenia for dozens of years. According to Thomas Doll, Mr. Antonini consulted the personnel of “Wine Park” and his consultancy has been very important for the project. 

Information about participation of foreigners in the “Wine Park” project is fragmented. Even Italian architects and wine producers become smarter. Archea Associati as the project participant is mentioned by “Crimean Architectural Portal”. It refers to online materials published and later deleted by “SB Development”. Marco Casamonti is cited as the project architect in Crimean wine groups in social networks. However, it seems that this fragmented information can be sufficient for making conclusions about the work of citizens of EU countries in Crimea sanctioned by the EU… 

PHOTO: Historical building of “Massandra”. Photo by

Crimean “privatization” or expropriation of stolen property can take on various forms. There are many people willing to participate, especially, when lucrative objects are at stake (like “Massandra”). Architects and wine producers with worldwide reputation, owners of the large Russian business and rank-and-file local officials dreaming about career promotion – they are all involved into illegal transactions. 

The “Wine Park” is the monument of the Russian stupidity, greed and inferiority complex. Elite tourism? Elite wine and craft cheese? Artificial lakes, towers, wine cellars and 100 thousand visitors per year?! Everything seems to be possible for Russian marauders, despite global pandemics, critical deficit of the fresh water and international isolation… 

BORYS PETRUNOK, PhD in philosophy