Who and how repairs shelters in Kherson?


Residents of Kherson have lived under daily Russian shelling for almost one year. Bomb shelters and simple hiding places should have protected residents from Russian missiles and shells but there are a few of them in the city. Protective cement modules at stops of public transport have been constructed in liberated Kherson during winter 2023. Repairing works have been launched in hideout places in basements of multi-floor buildings during the summer 2023. 

Waves of contracts on repairing works can be monitored at Ukrainian public procurement system Prozorro. The procuring entity is the department of civil protection of population of the Kherson City Military Administration. The last wave of contracts has been concluded at the end of August 2023. The department signed 19 contracts with eight legal entities and physical persons-entrepreneurs for around 30 million UAH. All contracts have been concluded without open competitive bidding. The order of the Cabinet of Ministries of Ukraine allows non-competitive bidding for the procurement of shelters. It means that procurement entities may sign the contract with anybody, even without previous experience of construction works. The risk is high that public bodies will misuse this opportunity and conclude contracts for personal enrichment or with entities without necessary experience and resources.

Acting governmental Order # 1178 allows direct non-competitive contracts when the subject of procurement is about civil protection, construction, repairing works, installment of protective places, including double use buildings and simplest hideouts. 

Authors of the Order introduced this exemption to allow honest procurement entities to find experienced suppliers quickly under war times. 

Our monitoring of above mentioned Kherson contracts casts into doubt the capacity of suppliers to perform their duties. Four out of eight suppliers were registered in 2023. Some of them were registered several weeks or one month before signing contracts. Majority of them do not have an experience in public procurement and never conducted repairing or construction works. 

How did Kherson City Military Administration select those suppliers?

Construction worker repairing shelter in Kherson, September 2023. Screenshot of the video by investigator.org.ua

We decided to monitor the work of suppliers in practice and to visit places of their work. However, addresses of repaired places were hidden in contracts. We failed to find the list of shelters and their online map at official web resources of Kherson city authorities. 

It means that city authorities violated the Order of the President of Ukraine. In June 2023, President Zelensky enacted by his Order the decision of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine about shelters for civilians. The Order stipulated that governmental authorities should have secured online access to the information about shelters, including online maps and chat bots, by the 25th of July. 

The Center for Journalist Investigations submitted public information request about shelters in Kherson to Oleksandr Gorin, the head of the department of civil protection of population of Kherson City Military Administration. As an outcome, we received the list of shelters, the simplest hideout places and even cement modules installed at stops of public transport with their addresses. An updated online map of protective constructions has been posted on the website of Kherson City Council.  

стан сховищ

We greet these measures of the Kherson Military Administration to improve public access to information about shelters and publish documents, received as response to our information request. 

However, this story has another side, related to the procurement of works to repair shelters and hideout places. Below we analyze most dubious contractors selected for this purpose by the department of the civil protection of population. 

Physical person-entrepreneur Yurchenko, her sister and mysterious “Armenian” 

Yurchenko Natalia Pavlivna, the resident of Brovary in Kyiv region, is among three physical persons-entrepreneurs who won contracts to repair shelters in Kherson. On August 27, head of the department of civil protection of population Oleksandr Gorin signed with her three contracts for 5 million 745,8 thousand UAH. Yurchenko must repair hideout places in basements of three buildings by the end of October 2023 (their addresses are: prospect Ushakova, 79, prospect Ushakova 73 and vul.Luhova, 24). 

Repairing works have already started in two basements. However, workers know nothing about Yurchenko from Brovary. All of them are residents of Kherson. They were hired through online job announcements by a man whose name workers refuse to disclose: “Our boss is an Armenian. We solve all problems with him”. 

Natalia Yurchenko registered her business on July 15, 2023, i.e. almost one month before she signed contracts in Kherson. We called Natalia Yurchenko and were perplexed by her answer. She said that she did not perform any repairing works and that she transferred Kherson contracts to her sister. 

“My sister is doing this. She lives in Kharkiv. Let me ask her. If she will allow, I will give you her phone number and you will call her”, as promised us Natalia Yurchenko. 

But she never called back. 

We succeeded in finding her sister. She is indicated as Anastasia Galytska (Tsybulia) in social media. She was surprised by our questions. She said that she heard about Kherson contracts from us and sister never told her about them. 

“O my God, no! Wait, it is impossible. I’ve got another specialization and it’s not my business. Yes, I do have sister. But I do not live in Kharkiv and not involved into this business”, as persuaded us Anastasia Pavlivna. 

Repairing works in Kherson shelters, in accordance with contracts of Natalia Yurchenko. Photo: investigator.org.ua

Thus, there is weird situation. Contracts for almost 6 million UAH are implemented by people under management of unknown “Armenian” who does not bear any responsibility because contracts were not signed by him. 

It should be noted that all contracts, concluded in August 2023, do not envisage advance payments. The payment will be conducted only after the completion of works. It means that Natalia Yurchenko had to hire workers and buy materials from her own pocket. But she does not have them because she is …looking for a job! On September 7, she posted her job resume at website work.ua. It means that she is looking for a job after she concluded contracts and took on obligations for almost 6 million UAH?! 

In accordance with her resume, before the Russian full scale invasion, she has resided in Rubizhne of Luhansk region and worked as technician in Severodonetsk company on gas supply. 

Physical person-entrepreneur Rzhevsky and other “people from Luhansk”

Physical person-entrepreneur Rzhevsky Vasyl Mykolayovych won two contracts for repairing shelters. He registered his business entity on April 12, 2023 in Kyiv. The entity has been inactive for four months. In August 2023, it suddenly received two contracts for 3,5 million UAH in remote Kherson. Rzhevsky must repair shelters at the following addresses: vul.Universytetska, 22 and vul. Perekopska, 129.

36 years old Vasyl Rzhevsky has been registered in Kyiv as an entrepreneur at the following address: vul.Mayakovskogo, 12a (this street has been renamed as “prospect Chervonoi Kalyny”). Our journalists visited the apartment where the entity was registered but nobody opened the door. We called the phone number indicated in the State Business Register. Unknown man picked up the phone, told he was not Vasyl Rzhevsky, refused to tell his name and stopped conversation when we informed him about our investigation. 

Physical person-entrepreneur Vasyl Rzhevsky who must repair two shelters in Kherson. Photo: social media 

Two shelters are being repaired but workers refused to tell who hired them. 

Vasyl Rzhevsky also has Luhansk background. Two apartments in occupied Severodonetsk have been owned by the person with this name, in accordance with Ukrainian State Register of Immovable Property. Severodonetsk is indicated on his account in social media. 

Current First Deputy Head of Kherson City Military Administration Natalia Chekhuta has worked as the Head of Kreminsky Raion State Administration in Luhansk region before 2019. Her husband has been military commissioner in Severodonetsk. We asked her whether she knew Natalia Yurchenko. 

“No, I don’t know her. You mention this physical person-entrepreneur… I am deputy of Roman Mrochka (the Head of Kherson City Military Administration – ed.). It is not my duty to look closely into each entrepreneur. We have department of civil protection of population. This department concludes relevant contracts. I see only overall picture”, as answered public official.

Natalia Chekhuta, the First Deputy Head of Kherson City Military Administration, photo: investigator.org.ua

Oleksandr Gorin has been the head of the department of civil protection of population since March 31, 2023. We looked into his biography and found out… Luhansk background! He has been Deputy Head of Kreminna Raion State Administration in Luhansk region since January 2015. In May 2015, he has been appointed as the Head of Kreminna Raion State Administration. Later he has been replaced  by… Natalia Chekhuta! Though she has been member of pro-Russian Party of Regions, she has held this position until 2019.

What happened with Oleksandr Gorin? He received the position of the Head of Irshava Raion State Administration in Zakarpatska region, on the opposite end of Ukraine. The photo below explains this surprising turn in his career. 

Oleksandr Gorin and Gennadii Moskal in 2015. Photo: zak.depo.ua

Head of Luhansk Oblast State Administration Gennadii Moskal has been appointed as the Head of Zakarpatska Oblast State Administration in July 2015. In August 2015, he transferred Oleksandr Gorin, whom he knew while working in Luhansk oblast, to head Irshava Raion State Administration in Zakarpatska region. 

Who brought these public officials with Luhansk background to Kherson region? It seems that it has been done by current Head of Kherson City Military Administration Roman Mykolayovych Mrochko when he staffed his team. 

Roman Mrochko is the former military prosecutor. He has been military prosecutor of Luhansk garrison of the Antiterrorist Unit of the Armed Forces of Ukraine from 2015 till 2917. Severodonetsk has been the administrative center of Luhansk region under the control of the Ukrainian government. Mrochko was given the title of “honorary citizen” of Severodonetsk. He has been appointed as the Head of Kherson City Military Administration by the decree of the President of Ukraine from March 2, 2023. Mrochko appointed Natalia Chekhuta his deputy on March 13 whereas Oleksandr Gorin has been appointed as the head of the department of civil protection of population on March 31, 2023. 

Later, people with Luhansk background started suddenly receiving contracts…

Roman Mrochko, the Head of Kherson City Military Administration, photo: Facebook

Kherson city authorities do not see anything surprising in the activity of Luhansk entrepreneurs to repair shelters in Kherson. 

“I can explain this tendency. If these people have worked in Luhansk region, now, under Russian occupation, they are not able to work there. They can do their business on other territories of Ukraine. Why not in Kherson?” as told us Deputy Head of Kherson administration.

This explanation seems to be strange. Both physical persons-entrepreneurs did not conduct construction business in Luhansk region as the Ukrainian State Business Register and databases of State Tax Service demonstrate. They did not transfer their businesses to liberated Kherson as they first registered in Brovary and Kyiv. 

More to that, repairing works are implemented by Kherson workers who do not know names of these entrepreneurs (they should have signed contracts with them). 

Only one company from eight winners of “repairing contracts” has been founded in Kherson (we will cover their activity in our further investigations). 

Physical person-entrepreneur Chernobylsky and LLC “Advice solution”

Entrepreneur Chernobylsky Yevhen Volodymyrovych received contract to repair shelter at the address Gogol street,1 in Kherson. It is important object – city perinatal center named after Z.S.Klymenko, known as the maternity hospital. Russian occupants shelled it several times and causes fires and destruction. The cost of repairing works is the smallest in the latest wave of contracts – 802 861 UAH. 

Yevhen Chernobylsky comes from occupied Melitopol. He founded “MCJ” company there (maintenance and repairing of cars). As physical person-entrepreneur, he conducted studies in the sphere of natural sciences. The activity of this business entity has been stopped by him. 

Chernobylsky decided to change the profile of his business and focus on construction and repairing works. He registered new business entity in Lviv two weeks before Kherson contracts. It can be said that Kherson basement he repairs united East, West and South of Ukraine. Denys, his qualified worker from Kharkiv, said: 

“We were invited by Lviv contractors. We did the same works in Kharkiv. I cooperate with everybody who gives me work, but I never go beyond my direct duties”, as commented Denys our questions about his working team. He confirmed that he met Chernobylsky.

Physical person-entrepreneur Chernobylsky and maternity hospital # 1 in Kherson in which the shelter should be repaired. Photo: social media 

Company “Advise Solution” received two contracts to repair shelters in multi-floor buildings at addresses: vul.Polkovnyka Kedrovskogo, 14 and vul. I.Kulyka, 21, korp.7. Overall cost is almost 4,5 million UAH. The company was registered in Kyiv. Its legal address is at the heart of Ukrainian capital, near Saint Michael Cathedral. Our journalists did not manage to enter the building and find an apartment. They called director and single founder of the company Kateryna Viktorivna Scherbyna but nobody answered. 

It is remarkable that construction works are new business for Scherbyna. Her other two companies in Kyiv and Dnipro are trading companies. 

Scherbyna has owned “Advise Solution” since May 2023. She changed its business profile into construction works. Since then, the company has received three small contracts in Hostomel in Kyiv region and large one – in Kherson.

Kherson city authorities do not see the problem in this variety of newly created contractors without background in construction works. All contractors will receive their payments only after the completion of works. 

However, there is legitimate question – Who is responsible for the quality of works if they are not performed by those who signed contracts? 

Residents of buildings with shelters under repair inform that some repairing works have been launched well before the 27th of August – the date of signing contracts. The situation looks like this: works are launched whereas formal legal entities-contractors are found afterwards, in order “to legalize” the spending of public funds…