Port Rats. Who help Russian occupants plunder Ukraine?

Pavlo Shvatsky (left) and Volodymyr Stelmachenko, occupation «heads» of Mariupol and Berdyansk ports. Photo: social media

The Ministry of Infrastructure of Ukraine ordered the closure of sea ports «Berdyansk», «Mariupol», «Skadovsk» and «Kherson» on April 30, 2022. Ports will stay closed until their liberation from Russian occupation.

At the same time, Russian occupants use infrastructure of occupied ports to steal grain and metal from occupied territory of the Ukrainian South. Their assistants are Ukrainian traitors who agreed to re-launch the work of ports after military fighting was over.

 «Collaborator-combatant» of Berdyansk 

Russian occupants appointed local resident Volodymyr Stelmachenko to manage Berdyansk Trade Sea Port. He told Russian propagandists from occupied Crimea at the beginning of June that Berdyansk port prepared to accept ships and handle cargo.

«There is a lot of work. There are people willing to work. Some things should be renewed. We conduct demining and disposal of ammunition left by the Armed Forces of Ukraine on the territory of port. It will allow us accepting ships and processing cargo. The port will work as the main enterprise supporting the city», as Stelmachenko said. At that time Russian propagandists titled him as «the temporarily acting head of the Berdyansk Sea Port».

Pavlo Shvatsky (left) and Volodymyr Stelmachenko, occupation «heads» of Mariupol and Berdyansk ports. Photo: social media

Russian information agency TASS reported on June 21 that grain from the temporarily occupied part of Zaporizhzhia oblast was brought to the Berdyansk port. In order to avoid accusations of robbery, Russians informed about willingness of local farmers to export their grain to countries in the Middle East, Turkey and Africa. Earlier Yevhen Balytsky, who agreed to head occupation administration of oblast, told that an amount of the last year crop was about 1.5 million tons on the occupied territory of oblast. Occupants were planning to sell these reserves to countries in the Middle East.

Local inhabitants published the video in telegram channel «Запоріжжя.інфо» on June 25 with pictures of large cargo ship in the Berdyansk port, accompanied by four military vessels.

Photo: telegram / Запоріжжя.інфо

Russian propagandists reported on June 30 that the grain was loaded on the ship of the country-aggressor in the port. Their video tried to cover the name of the ship but it was revealed soon.

Arrival of Zhibek Zholy ship to the port of occupied Berdyansk. Photo: propaganda source

This photo clearly shows the name of the ship. It is Zhibek Zholy. Local occupation media inform that the ship was accompanied by military cutters from Novorossiisk Naval Base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko also commented on the robbery of the Ukrainian grain (he called it «Russian» grain).

«The Berdyansk Trade Sea Port is ready to process up to three ships simultaneously. We chartered more ships for the Russian grain. We should not lose the grain», as collaborator said.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko, occupation «head» of the Berdyansk Sea Port. Photo: propaganda source

Russian propagandists wrote about plans to load 7 thousand tons of grain. In accordance with data from marinetraffic online services, the ship Zhibek Zholy (IMO: 9598880, owner — company from Kazakhstan KTZ Express Shipping TOO) came to Turkish port Karasu. It is remarkable that Russian Novorossiisk and not Berdyansk is indicated as its port of departure.

Turkish customs officers detained the ship Zhibek Zholy on July 3. Upon receipt of the letter from the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine, the Embassy of Ukraine to Turkey asked Turkish authorities to take urgent measures to prevent the stealing of the Ukrainian grain. The ship with deadweight of 7 146 tons was loaded with around 4 500 tons of stolen Ukrainian grain, in accordance with information from Vasyl Bodnar, the Ukrainian Ambassador.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko, «the head» of the port, is directly responsible for stealing of the Ukrainian grain. Who is he?

52 years old man lives on Korolenko street in Berdyansk. Before Russian occupation, he worked in the port as the Deputy Head of the Service on Shipping and Ecological Security.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko, occupation «head» of Berdyansk Sea Port, photo: «Одноклассники»

In accordance with his last public asset declaration, Stemalchenko earned around 15 thousands UAH per month in 2020. He lived with his wife and two children in the house of his mother in law. He owned two land plots in Novopetrivka village. He leased his land to agricultural enterprise «Landfort Azov» for 20 thousands UAH per year.

His wife Iryna Stelmachenko worked in the executive committee of Berdyansk City Council as the leading specialist of transport and communication department.

Let us look into his social media. Volodymyr Stelmachenko loves weapons. His page in Russian social media «Vkontakte» demonstrates a lot of his photos with various weapons.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko, occupation «head» of Berdyansk Sea Port. Photo: «Вконтакте»

He is an adept of Kadochnikov’s melee system. He is proud to show the picture with its author – Aleksei Kadochnikov.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko, occupation «head» of Berdyansk Sea Port. Photo: «Вконтакте»Владимир Стельмаченко, оккупационный «руководитель» Бердянского морского порта. Фото: «Вконтакте»

Five years ago, Stelmachenko wrote at recruiting website that he was involved into military and patriotic education of youth and pre-conscription training; he assisted the Armed Forces of Ukraine and law enforcement bodies in special training. He pretended he was founder of public organization «Society to Promote Defense of Ukraine «Kolovrat», though, CJI’s journalists failed to find any information about it in the state register of legal entities.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko was proud to demonstrate his fighting skills at various patriotic events in Berdyansk.

Однако на разных патриотических акциях в Бердянске и области Владимир Стельмаченко кичился своими умениями борьбы.

Volodymyr Stelmachenko, occupation «head» of Berdyansk Sea Port. Photo: «Вконтакте»

It is interesting that FB page «News of Berdyansk« informed in May that before Russian full scale invasion, Stelmachenko trained soldiers of «Azov» on sniper shooting at proven grounds in Berdyansk and Urzuf. He was involved into volunteer activity and supplied bulletproof vests and ammunition to «Azov» soldiers.

«For the knowledge of partisans: he lives in Kolonia and goes to work by feet through Gorbaty bridge», as «News of Berdyansk» concluded its publication about Stelmachenko.

Here is the question: how did the person, «contributor to the Armed Forces of Ukraine» and «Azov» hated by Russians, manage to get appointment by Russian occupants? We decided to ask Stelmachenko himself. The Center for Journalist Investigations tried to contact «head of the port» by Ukrainian mobile number. Somebody picked up the phone but then dropped after our journalist introduced himself. The voice sounded very similar to the voice of Stelmachenko.

He did not answer any further calls. We sent him sms with a request to answer. We did not receive any feedback from him by the time of our publication.

We succeeded in reaching his wife Iryna. CJI’s journalist told her he would like to talk with her husband about the work of the Berdyansk port. She promised to tell her husband about journalist questions but never called back.

Thus, Volodymyr Stelmachenko helps Russian invaders plunder Ukraine. As the occupation «head» of the port, he assists in stealing the Ukrainian grain from occupied part of Zaporizhzhia oblast. Under his «management», occupants prepared water area of the port for cargo ships. The stolen grain is being loaded on them. If local social media is correct, Stelmachenko created the image of Ukrainian patriot before joining Russian occupation authorities. His behavior reminds us Dmytro Kuzmenko, the commander of unit # A7360 of Kherson territorial defense. After occupation of the city, he was one of the first to receive the Russian passport and to call Ukrainian soldiers to surrender.

Port of ruined Mariupol

Pavlo Oleksiyovych Shvatsky, the Russian citizen, became «colleague» of Stelmachenko in Mariupol. He is the head of occupation «administration» of Mariupol Sea Port. He calls Ukrainian soldiers «Nazi» and «bandits».

Pavlo Shvatsky, occupation «head» of Mariupol Sea Port. Photo: Russian propaganda source

«Six days ago there was fierce fighting over this territory. Marines of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and Nazi from «Azov» regiment fought desperately but assault squads of «DNR» forced them to flee. When leaving, Ukrainian bandits broke everything: they shot with grenade launchers port loaders, cranes, electric transformer substations», as Shvatsky said to Russian governmental newspaper «Russian Gazette« at the beginning of May.

Nowadays Shvatsky, as the «head» of the port appointed by occupants, declare about the launch of passenger transportation in 2023 and participates in the plunder of Ukraine.

As of June 20, the third ship with stolen metal products left the port of Mariupol and moved to Rostov-na-Donu. According to Shvatsky, around 80 trips of ships are needed, in order to take away all metal from Mariupol port.


Unloading ship RM 3 with rolled metal stolen from Mariupol – in Rostov-na-Dony. Photo: TASS.

The lion’s share of stolen rolled metal belongs to «Metinvest» company of Ukrainian oligarchs Rinat Akhmetov and Vadym Novynsky. Igor Barsky, the director of State Enterprise «Mariupol Trade Port», told «Ekonomichna Pravda« that around 200 thousand tons of rolled metal and cast iron were left on the territory of port. Its value was over 170 millions USD.

It is likely that relative proximity is not the only reason why ships with Mariupol metal move to Rostov. Now it is time to tell the biography of Shvatsky.

As general director, Pavlo Shvatsky headed joint stock company «Rostov Port» from 2014 till August 2021. Later he was promoted to the position of the Deputy Head of the Board of Directors of the Group of Companies «Rostov Port». Now, as the manager of the port of occupied Mariupol, he dispatches stolen cargo to his home.

Pavlo Shvatsky, occupation «head» of Mariupol Sea Port. Photo: rostovport.ru

The Center for Journalist Investigations found the phone number of Shvatsky. Unfortunately, we failed to talk with him. He does not answer usual phone calls and calls in telegram and whatsapp. We sent him request in messengers but did not get any answer.

For Ukrainian law enforcement bodies: Pavlo Shvatsky’s date of birth – May 14, 1958. Russian taxpayer’s code: 616705187432, passport: 6005296068; СНИЛС: 02880123540.

His family lives in Rostov: his wife Yulia Sedochenkova and 17 years old son Kostyantyn.

Kherson Port

Referring to its sources of occupation administration, Russian propaganda media reported on June 15 about the beginning of work of Kherson Trade Sea Port. Andrii Mykolayovych Kharytonov agreed to cooperate with invaders as the «head» of port. Russian and local occupants’ media present Kharytonov as an experienced manager who «worked in the sphere of river and sea transportation for more than twenty years».

The Center for Journalist Investigations collected more information about Kharytonov. He was the head of watercraft unit of «Kherson Shipbuilding Factory», part of Smart Maritime Group owned by Ukrainian oligarch Vadym Novynsky. In 2015, he ran for Kherson City Council from «Nash Krai» political party but failed. Besides that, he was a member of the council of Dniprovska, Novotroitska, Gornostaivska, Vysokopilska and Velykooleksandrivska raion branches of «Nash Krai» party.

Executive enforcement was launched against new «head of the port» on August 20, 2021. The reason was failure to pay for mortgage in the amount of 62 921 USD to «MTB-bank». He was a guarantor in the credit agreement between the bank and Valentyna Kharytonova (supposedly, his relative).

Kherson Sea Port. Photo: Marion Golsteijn / Wikipedia

There were already stories about collaborators-debtors who decided to work for occupants after Russian occupation. For example, Oleksandr Kobets, former officer of the State Security Service of Ukraine and «mayor» of Kherson appointed by Russian occupants, has the indebtedness under the loan over 2.36 million UAH.

Occupation administration of Kherson oblast informs that «infrastructure of the port is renewed», «there are repairs», «preparatory works are underway to renew the full scale work of the port».

Marat Khusnullin, the Vice Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, also called the renewal of work of the port and supply of agricultural products to Russia as priority task during his trip to occupied Kherson in May 2022. It means Russian are in a hurry to grab stolen products from Kherson region.

However, as information agency «IPC-Kherson« noted, Russians will not be able to renew the work of the Kherson Sea Port in the short run as the enterprise was looted by the Russian military whereas majority of personnel refused cooperating with occupation administration.