Does the Navy Dream of British Furniture?

Chain of scandals are being revealed about the activities of the former Russian Minister of Defense Anatoly Serdyukov and his subordinates. The investigation focuses on a contract with a phony firm for supply of English furniture for the Russian Navy.

The “Severnaya verf”(The Northern Wharf) shipyard awarded a 40 million rubles contract to a little-known Company, called “Morskie Kompleksnie Sistemi”. The firm has to outfit the corvette “Gremyashiy” (“The Fulminatory”), which is under construction, with furniture from a British company called Strongbox.

The firm was was authorized by former Defense Minister to supply furniture for all Naval Forces of Russia, but when journalists began examining it, their conclusion was: MKS LLC can easily be a shell company, and tracks of presumable fraud lead to people around Ilya Klebanov, a former Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the North-Western Federal District.

The story as investigated by Julia Nikitina and Denis Korotkov, and it was published on on January 15, 2013.

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Forests of Wonderland

Something mysterious is going on in the woods of Leningrad region: showy private mansions appear miraculously on territories owned by the state. Even the wrath of Sergei Stepashin, the head of the Russian Audit Chamber, doesn’t frighten landlords who likely took possession of their properties by dubious means.

The township of Roschino in Leningrad region is one of the spectacular examples of preserved lake shores and state-protected forests passing into the hands of regional government officials and their rich friends. The locals are convinced that “public servants” developed a range of shadowy schemes allowing private persons to become landowners through simplified procedures. Activists fighting against unlawful seizure of lands suffer from constant pressure of local authorities.

Denis Terentyev investigated the story, which was published on November 11, 2012 on the website of the NGO Bellona and in the magazine  “Ekologia I Pravo” (Ecology and Law)

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 (Photo: Freedigitalphotos)

Millions for Water Gone Down the Drain

A decade ago, an ambitious and expensive project started in the town of Slantsy in the Leningrad region: The construction of a water-treating facilities complex, which was intended to supply the settlement with drinking water drained from an abandoned shale mine. But after twelve years, the system is not operational and its maintenance requires more and more government money.

In 2000 the government of the Leningrad region supported an experimental idea of specialists from “Leningradslanets” enterprise and state-run “Inzhenerny tsentr “Vodokanal” (“The Engineering Centre “Vodokanal”). The Water was to be drained from the abandoned Kirov mine, and  instead of dumping it  into the environment’s water system, they would purify it and use it for the water supply of the town and villages nearby.

The experiment, which cost the federal budget 200 million rubles, seems to be unsuccessful: After being filtered, the water does not comply to ecological regulations, and the expensive construction is hard on Slantsy’s settlement balance. Till federal authorities allocate funds, nobody cares to finish the project in the right way.

Reporter Svetlana Shishkina investigated whether all the efforts have gone down the drain. Her three stories were published in October 2012 in the newspaper “Znamya truda”.

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(Photo: Freedigitalphotos)


How to Infect a Whole School

In 2012, many inhabitants of the Gatchina district heard the word “Norwalk virus” for the first time. It is an enteric infection transmitted effectively by food, air or in domestic environment. Recurrent Norwalk virus outbursts in January and March put dozens of children and adults to the local hospital.

Virus infections abound in schools in the Gatchina district in the Leningrad region. Rospotrebnadzor (Federal Service for Consumer Rights Protection and Human Welfare) constantly registers violations of operating instructions in work of school canteens. Despite the fact that food suppliers and cooks are aware of particular responsibility, and they try to satisfy quality standards, outbursts of virus infections occasionally take place at schools. Why does it happen?

In 2012, one of the Gatchina’s high schools and a recreation camp became the hotbeds of decease. In her TV investigation journalist Oksana Voronova explains how the school meal system Works, and if it is safe to employ its services. Her investigation was broadcast in October 2012 on the cable TV network “Oreol” (Gatchina)

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Children Are Born Sick in Severodvinsk

The Atomic Shipbuilding Center, the city of shipbuilders, the city with heightened radiation levels—Severodvinsk always stood out for its environmental conditions.

What’s more, it has two of the largest enterprises right in the center of town. Both are directly connected with the construction and repair of submarines with onboard nuclear reactors. And 20 kilometers from the residential neighborhoods is Mironov mountain: a cemetery of low-level nuclear waste. In these circumstances, a population of approximately 164 thousand people is holding out. Every day children are born, and their health is at risk.

Natalia Oskerko looked into the health situation in Severodvinsk. Her report was transmitted on October 15, 2012 on the Severodvinsk tv channel.

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Pskov and Condominium Partnerships – a Romance Yet to Come

Today almost 90 condominium associations – non-profit organizations created by owners for the co-management of their houses – are registered in Pskov. They control approximately 20per cent of all apartment houses in the city. However, this control is illusive: most of the associations exist only in official papers.

The massive creation of these associations (CPs in Russian) began by initiative of the city administration in 2007, when the “Foundation of Housing and Utilities”, a state company with tremendous budget, appeared in the country. It was ready to allocate funds for major repairs of residential buildings. To comply with the Foundation’s requirements and get the money, Pskov authorities ran a large-scale campaign to encourage condominium partnerships. But the results for the owner’s are poor. The reason, it seems, lies not only in the inertness of local citizens, but also in the fact that the authorities failed to follow the established rules of the game.

Maxim Andreev investigated the matter. His article was published in Expert Severo-Zapad on October 10, 2012.

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(Photo: Michael Clarke, Wikimedia Commons)

Older than the Pyramids – and Decaying

“Besovy sledki” (Devil’s Trail) is a part of the unique complex of petroglyphs or stone carvings, images on the rocks made by ancient people. It is situated near the town of Belomorsk in Karelia. Despite its high tourist potential, the site, in fact, belongs to nobody, and therefore is left without proper custody.

In 1960s, a pavillon was erected over “Besovy sledki”, intended to safeguard the object from vandalism and damage from the blasts from the nearby hydro power plant. Half a century passed, and now the building become rundown. But nobody is eager to reconstruct it: the complex is not on neither federal nor municipal budget. While officials are reluctant to take responsibility, only “black guides”, who don’t pay taxes, bring some tourists to “Sledki”.

See the original video, reported by Anna Tokareva

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Photo: Sampo TV, Karelia

Desperately Looking for Baltic Cesium

The ecologists are concerned: Areas contaminated with cesium-137 have been found at the bottom of the Gulf of Finland.

A report from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection-2008 started the concerns. The experts take the contamination for the “legacy” of Chernobyl incident, but it is hard to determine more precisely: data from different state laboratories diverge.

Cesium-137 is a dangerous element with the half-life of 30 years. It tends to accumulate in plants, animals and fish. Concerning the role of the gulf for the fishing industry, the existence of radionuclide deposits at its bottom can be pretty dangerous. The Ministry scientists are convinced, that the cesium comes to the gulf not only from the deposits of 80-ies, but also from contemporary sources – nuclear power plants, for example. At the moment there is no way to confirm or disprove their speculations: ecology supervision agencies are no more responsible for tracking pollution sources, and the best radioecology lab in the country is governed by “Rosatom” state corporation, not a Ministry.

The information on cesium contamination of the Gulf of Finland should be in openly accesible in the public domain, mentions journalist Lina Zernova in her investigation.

The investigation was published on the web-site of ecological NGO Bellona, in the Gorod 812 magazine, on the News BCM portal, the Ecodelo portal, in the NGO social network “Ammado” ( and at a local fishermen forum.

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How to Steal 40 Billion Rubles

In 1995, the Murmansk region was shocked by unprecedented fraud: five swindlers managed to pull a con game on local government and transfer 40 billion rubles ($6,5 million at that moment) assigned for medical purposes to foreign bank accounts. Later four of them were captured and convicted, yet the fifth still walks free.

This story is a real detective novel including multiple financial schemes, escapes and arrests on the borders.

At the instigation of former Murmansk region governor, Evgeny Komarov, the federal government in 1995 transferred 40 billion rubles to the regional budget. The administration intended to spend the money on supplies and equipment for local medical institutions. But the hospitals never saw neither money, nor equipment: the funds went to five cheeky businessmen. They got the supply contract due to self-asserted connections with high-ranked Moscow officials. During the past 17 years, four of the criminals have served their detentions. However, the fifth one eluded prison – because of expiry of the limitation period.

Journalist Sergey Yudkov narrates about the “crime of the century” on Kola Peninsula in his documentary, broadcasted by TV-21 channel.

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The Curtain Falls, the Drama Goes On

Retired actors in St. Petersburg are fighting fiercely for the House of Stage Veterans on Petrovsky Island, and the battle has gone on for years. Retired actors and the general public are sure that funds allocated for institution repairs are misused.

The House of Stage Veterans is a whole complex of historical buildings where actors «who gave all the efforts and health to serve art» are living after their retirement. However, their services for fine arts apparently go unnoticed by the House’ owners and administration – the management of the Theater Workers Union of Russia. The latter, notwithstanding significant commercial activity, refuse to provide necessary medical services for retirees and account for money spent.

Moreover, it remains unclear what happened to the $5 million, which were granted by the Russian holding AFK «Sistema» for the renovation of the house. The economic crime department has inspected the case, but still there is no decision to begin criminal investigation. Meanwhile, the Department for Presidential Affairs of the Russian Federation now allocates new funds for repairs, and veterans are being moved to a holiday center in the suburbs.

Tatiana Vorontsova is unweaving cobwebs of this «performance» in her investigation. The investigation was published in St. Petersburg online newspaper

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