Valaam Billions – The Monastery’s Secret

On the Karelian island of Valaam rises the beautiful Patriarchal Men’s Monastery. But reality around it is not quite as beautiful.

The turnover of the business on the island is billions of rubles. The largest state-owned companies are doing business in this area, while the living conditions for local residents become worse. They are squeezed out of the island, of their houses and their jobs. And the main beneficiary of it all is one of the most famous institutions in religious Russia – the Valaam Monastery of the Russian Orthodox Church. Gleb Yarovoy, journalist from the media outlet 7×7 in Petrozavodsk, has gathered information about business on the island.

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The investigation was also published on Medusa, one of the most popular media in Russian

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The Local Pearl Turned Toxic Green

Lake Valdai is known as “the Pearl” of the Novgorod Province. It streches out with an island with a monastery in it. It is a popular holiday spot for families. But one day the water was a toxic green.

Local authorities took a look, confirmed that something was colouring the water and concluded that it was algae forming because of the hot weather. No analysis were made.

Local journalist A. Galaktionov suspected that there was more to the story and went sailing. Together with Alexander Ivanov, an employee of the Federal Agency for Water Resources Novgorod Sector who is also specialized in the particularities of environmental water, they collected  over 20 tanks of water from around the lake. Their analysis showed a different story.

The investigation was published on Valdai.com on September 30, 2016.

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No Peaceful Rest for the Dead in Vologda

When a family in Babaeyevsky, 300 km from Vologda, opened the coffin of a deceased family member, an unknown person was inside. “People change after death” was one of the explanations from the Health Department. But this person had then changed so much that a tattoo on his back had disappeared.

Another family experienced finding a man inside the coffin instead of the deceased mother. And many families have competing funeral service companies knocking at the door just minutes after the deceased person’s last breath. These companies are owned and operated after work hours by staff from the Forensics Bureau.

Marina Chernova took a closer look at the unruly situation for the dead in Vologda. Her story waspublished in three parts:

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The Broken Dream of a Neat Street

Walking nine streets of the city of Syktyvkar, the reporter Maksim Polyakov from the web media outlet 7×7, counted 14 450 missing or damaged stones in the pavement.

The paving is quite new. The work started in 2006. Most of the streets were covered in 2010 and 2011. One year later the stones started to break. The companies who made the work are in now bankruptcy or close to it. One source says the reason for the many broken stones could be the heavy machineries used when cleaning the snow. Another suggests the stones were laid before they were dry, and therefore are broken. But nobody knows. The city administration doesn’t have money to repair it all. Maksim Polyakov reports that some of the broken areas now are filled with cement.

The investigation was published at the website “7×7” in November 10, 2016.

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Medical Care on Service

During many years the hospitals in Kaliningrad were equipped with computer tomography for use in various state run medical programs. This expensive equipment, financed by the federal Russian tax payers, was supposed to be used in the benefit of the residents in the Kaliningrad region. Today more than a third of them are out of order to be repaired.

Millions of rubels from the regional budget are spent on maintenance of this broken equipment. According to the Ministry of Health this is a natural process. But why are they so often out of order? Maria Pustovaya, journalist at the newspaper Dvornik in Kaliningrad tried to find the answer.

The investigation was published in the newspaper Dvornik and on the website RUGRAD.EU in the autumn 2016.

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Not a Single Official Refugee from Ukraine to Kaliningrad in Two Years

Accomodation for migrantsFighting in the south-east of Ukraine forced millions of Ukrainian citizens to flee from their homes to save their lives and the lives of their children. Many have lost their relatives, their homes and belongings. Many did not have a choice where to go – only to Russia, which at that time offered them help and support.

The purpose of this investigation was to find out whether Ukrainian refugees in Russia received any support. Or were they left with their problems alone? Russia promised to support refugees on a state level. However nobody was granted an official refugee status in Kaliningrad region in last two years.
The investigation was made by Anastasia Drozdova and published in the newspaper Novy Karavan 5th of March 2016.

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If You Can’t Buy It, Burn It

romanIn the Kaliningrad region, people are in danger if they live in old houses on attractive spots close to the sea. Someone might want to have their beautiful view.

If a person living in an old house on a popular locations refuses to leave, there is a big risk that their house will set fire. During the last two years more than 200 arsons have been recorded in the Kaliningrad region.
The journalist Roman Romanovskiy has been digging deep into the fires and found dead bodies, a local politician who owns a construction company and the new expensive housing he has built on the lovely plots.
The investigation was published in the newspaper Dvornik 1 of March 2016, on the website Rugrad March 3rd 2016 and on Transparency Internationals Russia’s website for Kaliningrad.

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Ukrainian Refugees Forced Back From Russia

resettDuring the two years of the armed conflict in Ukraine, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced out of their homes. Many of them have moved within Ukraine. A large number of them followed Russian propaganda and went to Russia. However, not everything was so wonderful in the Russian Federation: only a few regions could give out refugee status, and only some offered free lodging and financial benefits. Having no work permits or legal documents, many Ukrainians were forced to return back to Ukraine.

In Ukrainian cities, a big volunteer movement started. Local residents gathered food and clothing and offered lodging to people who came from Eastern and Southern Ukraine. Donbas residents themselves actively joined the volunteer movement and started their own NGOs, and by their own example inspired others.

The video “Resettlement Secrets” by reporter Tetyana Rikhtun for the Chornomorska TV/Radio Company was posted on YouTube on March 9, 2016.

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Big money in Illegal Ukrainian amber

Wherever you find precious stones like amber, you also find smugglers and organized crime. The Volyn region in Ukraine and the Russian enclave Kaliningrad – both with large deposits of the precious material – are no exceptions, and consequently the Polish city of Gdansk is the capital of a veritable industry of  illegal jewellery.

The Russian reporter Nikita Kuzmin and his Ukrainian colleague Maya Holub investigated how amber is mined illegally, crossing borders illegally and the structures behind the schemes. And surprise, surprise: a friend, Sergey Chemezov, of the Russian president Vladimir Putin is in this business.

The article “How Ukrainian Amber is Illegally Transported to Poland” by reporters Maya Holub from the Ukrainian/Polish newspaper “Monitor Wołyński” and Nikita Kuzmin from the Kaliningrad business portal Rugrad.eu was published online on the Corrupt.ua portal on February 24, 2016.

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Too Much Water Makes The Kaliningrad Sausage Profitable

Three out of four samples of so-called high quality sausages bought in the local food store in Kaliningrad contained much more water than allowed in the Russian state standards. That was the result when the reporter Anastasia Drozdova in Novy Karavan sent the samples she had bought to laboratories.

The investigation was published 22nd of December 2015 in Novy Karavan Nr 41. This was the second time the investigative reporter Anastasia Drozdova tried to figure out what the sausage from local producers in Kaliningrad is made of. The first attempt failed, as any of laboratories couldn’t tell how much meat was in the sausage.

But Anastasia Drozdova didn’t give in. She bought a selection of locally produced high quality sausages in the food store and sent it to three different laboratories – in Kaliningrad, Saint Petersburg and Moscow.

The result was astonishing. According to the protocols from the labs, three out of four samples contained more water than allowed in the state standards, to which the producers referred on the package. Since water is cheaper than meat, this makes it profitable for the producer, but the customer is cheated.

In a message The Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Rights in Russia, Rospotrebnadzor writes, that food that does not live up to the information on the package should not be sold. The consumer who bought it has the right to get their money back, according to the statement.

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Read the full supplement of the investigation(Russian only) – page 1-2page 3page 4page 5-6page 7-8

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