An investigation into how Vladimir Putin’s family got 2.6 million serfs and a billion-dollar business to boot

An investigation into how Vladimir Putin’s family got 2.6 million serfs and a billion-dollar business to boot

Roman Badanin, Mikhail Rubin, Mikhail Maglov, Dmitry Sukharev and others, January, 19, 2022

Vladimir Putin rules Russia like a feudal state, distributing resources to relatives and friends. The scheme uncovered by “Agency” looks incredible: the president of the country gave his family a huge business, and then an entire region with 2.6 million inhabitants.

1. For whom miners die in Russia

2. How a security guard and a psychiatrist became coal tycoons

3. Who kept the secrets of the President’s family

4. How a new apanage principality appeared in Russia

“Kremlin halls have seen a lot of events, but this conversation is definitely one of the toughest and most dramatic […]. Putin immediately made it clear that a detailed analysis was ahead.” With this phrase, television propagandist Pavel Zarubin began the story of a meeting on December 2, 2021, where the Russian president discussed with coal miners the causes of the disaster at the Listvyazhnaya mine in Kuzbass a week before. Host of the program “Moscow. Kremlin. Putin” complimented the head of state, admiring the decisiveness with which he scolded the members of the government and the owners of the exploded mine. The only one who escaped the president’s criticism was the governor of the Kemerovo Oblast, Sergei Tsivilev.

And there are secret reasons for this.

Black gold

One of the reasons for the disaster at Listvyazhnaya was that the management of the mine neglected safety measures in order to increase coal production . The preliminary results of the investigation were reported at the same meeting with Putin on December 2: the methane meter in the mine was distorted in order for the miners to increase production, which was reflected in their bonuses and the growth of the company’s income × . In recent years, world prices for “black gold” have been breaking records, and coal miners, with the active support of the state, are extracting and exporting more and more fossil fuel.

Growth of production and export of Russian coal

mln tons

Over the past ten years, coal exports from Russia have almost doubled, and production has increased by 20%. This was made possible thanks to a trade war between China, which needs “black gold” for its growing industry, and Australia, one of the largest exporters of coal.

For the sake of increasing coal exports, the government is investing a lot of money in the construction of ports and coal terminals in the Far East, the reconstruction of the BAM and the Trans-Siberian Railway  — the country’s leadership has already spent or plans to spend at least 1.7 trillion rubles on this alone × , the construction of new access roads and infrastructure. For the sake of this, as in the days of the USSR, they even began to attract cheap labor to the construction site — the military and prisoners.

Does the president really only think about budget revenues and income of ordinary miners? To answer this question, one has to look at the main beneficiaries of the coal boom in Russia.

Lagerst mining companies in Russia

by coal production in 2020, млн tons

SUEK

101,2

Kuzbassrazrezugol/UGMK

43,2

A-Property

41,7

Safmar

24,0

EVRAZ

20,7

SDS-Ugol

20,2

Mechel

16,0

Stroyservice

14,2

EN

13,6

Vostochnaya Gornorudovaya Companiya

11,0

Vorkutugol

10,3

Sibuglemet

10,1

Resurs

7,4

Kolmar

6,7

CC Kolmar LLC, a company little-known to the general public, has seen a 15-fold increase in coal production over the past seven years, much larger than the average for the coal sector. The company invested huge amounts of money in the development of its deposits in Yakutia, opening new mines, processing plants and transport infrastructure. If Kolmar fulfills its plan for 2022  — to mine 22 million tons of coal × , then it can become one of the five largest companies in its industry, and its value will reach several billion dollars.

Growth of Kolmar’s production rates

mln tons

Source: Kolmar

Kolmar opens its new objects solemnly. In 2020, when the company launched the Inaglinskaya mine, the largest in Russia, the ceremony began with the traditional Yakut rite “algys” — a request to the “upper deities” to send grace. Officials and company executives who spoke after the shamans admitted that Kolmar had huge financial difficulties in the past, and foreign consultants considered the development of the company to be economically inefficient and advised not to build new mines , this was told by the former owner of the company Sergey Tsivilev. Head of Yakutia Aisen Nikolaev also recalled the difficulties × . It seemed like there had really been a divine intervention.

The role of a deity was assumed by the Russian state — Kolmar received such significant support that it is simply impossible to calculate its exact amount. According to “Agency”, the government spent at least 11 billion rubles from the budget to help the company. In addition, it received a preferential loan for another 4 billion rubles. Kolmar was also exempted from many taxes, thereby saving them even more money.

Government support of Kolmar

1. Direct support

560M rubles

allocated from the budget to built a power transmission line to the Inaglinsky mine in 2016

4.58B rubles

were allocated for the construction of railway infrastructure facilities for the export of coal from mines owned by Kolmar in 2018

4B rubles

allocated by the Far East Development Fund to expand the capacity of the Inaglinsky mining and processing plant and build a coal terminal in Muchka Bay in the Khabarovsk Kra, also in 2018

2.4B rubles

were spent on the construction of a railway line to the Inaglinskaya-1 factory, administrative buildings and warehouses, as well as the construction of buildings near the Denisovskaya mine, within the framework of the program “Development of the transport system of Russia (2010-2020)”

2. Preferential loan

In January 2018, Kolmar received through VEB.RF structures concessional financing for the Inaglinsky mining and processing plant in the amount of 4 billion rubles for 10 years at 5% per annum  — this is lower than the key rate of the Central Bank at that time × .

3. Tax exemption

Within the South Yakutia priority development area — exemption from taxes on land, profits and organization property. The tax on extraction of minerals is reduced. Insurance premiums are reduced from 30 to 7.6%.

A special attitude towards Kolmar was felt in everything. For example, the presidential envoy in the Far East, Yuri Trutnev, was personally responsible for the creation of a “territory of advanced development” in Yakutia, which gave “Kolmar” large tax benefits, on Putin’s instructions. according to an interlocutor close to the leadership of Yakutia × . At meetings in the administration of Yakutia, officials regularly instructed local television broadcasters to provide complimentary coverage of the company’s work. A participant in those meetings recalls: “Kolmar was treated with more trepidation than Alrosa, which brings much more money to the regional budget.”

The press usually associated the success of Kolmar, which appeared back in the 2000s, with the fact that in 2012 60% of the company was bought by companies associated with billionaire and Putin’s close associate Gennady Timchenko . These were the infamous oil trader Gunvor, where Timchenko at that moment was one of co-owners, and Volga Resources, also affiliated with Timchenko × . However, further events looked mysterious: billionaires Iskander Makhmudov and Andrey Bokarev, who are close to the government, held a stake in the company for some time , it looked strange, among other things, because they have their own coal business competing with Kolmar × , Timchenko gradually reduced his participation in the business he probably did this because of the Western sanctions × , until businessman Sergey Tsivilev, little known to the general public became the main owner of the company, which assets is now being valued at $2,4 billion , through Ante Holding LLC (40%) and “Arostan” (30%) × . The press treated Tsivilev as a junior partner of Timchenko who made a successful career thanks to the management of the enterprise entrusted to him . From 2014 to 2018 he was the CEO of the Kolmar group of companies × .

Inauguration of Sergey Tsivilev. Source: Kuzbass government

The Kremlin supported this conviction and kept entrusting Tsivilev with new responsible tasks. At the beginning of 2018, he was appointed vice-governor of the main coal region of Russia — the Kemerovo Oblast, and soon — when the governor Aman Tuleev resigned after 20 years of rule — Tsivilev was also entrusted with the governor’s chair of Kuzbass. “You started from a rather modest position and achieved serious results in a very short period of time, ” Putin said, praising Tsivilev’s work at Kolmar.

However, the president, like no one else, knew to whom Kolmar really owed its success. Now we know enough to tell the truth about the most mysterious company in the Russian coal market.

It all started in a psychiatric hospital.

Lunatic asylum

In the Soviet Union, it was customary to build psychiatric hospitals away from the eyes of the inhabitants, on the outskirts and in the suburbs. In Ivanovo, the lunatic asylum is aso located on the outskirts, in the village of Bogorodskoye, which gave its name to the institution — regional psychiatric hospital “Bogorodskoye”. Nothing seems to have changed since Soviet times there — old buildings stand behind a concrete fence. Anna Loginova, a 24-year-old graduate of the Ivanovo Medical Institute, came here in 1996 to work as a simple psychiatrist . Since 1994, the university has been called the Medical Academy × .

Psychiatric hospital ‘Bogorodskoe’ in Ivanovo

Anna grew up in a family of doctors: her mother, father and older brother were doctors. Many years later, Anna will heroically help a person who has become ill on board of a plane. However, this episode is known to the public only from complimentary articles about our heroine, which began to appear in abundance in recent years, when her husband, Sergei Tsivilev, became the governor of Kuzbass.

Anna worked as a psychiatrist for a short time. Shortly after President Putin came to power, she moved to Moscow, where she also received an economic education. In the capital, Anna began a new career — she was engaged in the supply of medical equipment, working as a manager, first in the state-owned Medtekhsnab, and then in the private company Digimed. It is unlikely that this work could bring Anna enough money to buy a stake in a large coal business , from 2002 to 2009, Digimed showed revenues of more than 100 million rubles a year, but in recent years things have been much worse — over the past 10 years the company has earned a total of just a little more than 30 million rubles × , but nevertheless, the next step in the career of our heroine was Kolmar.

Anna Tsiliveva at opening of new Kolmar’s mining plant. Source: Kolmar

“My husband and I purchased the coal asset in 2012, ” she proudly told the “Vedomosti” newspaper. That time the company was worth $400 million. However, the journalists did not ask her where the money that she and her husband used to buy the shares of Colmar came from.

Perhaps the money in this family was kept by the spouse, Sergei Tsivilev?

Red officer

– Here, you see — this is me on the navigation bridge of a warship, a senior lieutenant, a watch officer, — these are the words of Tsivilev from an interview obsequiously taken from the governor by the Kremlin journalist “Komsomolskaya Pravda” . Journalist Alexander Gamov calls his interlocutor “Hero” there — that’s right, with a capital letter × . Tsivilev spent most of his adult life in the navy — a native of Ukraine, he graduated from the Sevastopol Naval School, and then served in the Northern Fleet.

Sergey Tsivilev. Source: Moskovsky Komsomolets

Having entered civil service in the 90s, Tsivilev made a career common for the former military — he became the head of the security service of the St. Petersburg bank Aeroflot and co-owner of the security company Ekipazh, also in St. Petersburg. Gradually, Tsivilev began working with Putin’s acquaintances — he established the Nortek law firm, at first together with Oksana Ierkho, a business partner of Putin’s classmate Igor Sobolevsky. Later, Sobolevsky himself became a co-owner of Nortek.

In 2007, a really important event happened in the career of a retired sailor. He became a co-owner of the Lenexpoinvest company — it was supposed to build the Lenexpo halls, where the St. Petersburg Economic Forum is held every year. This is a responsible role — the forum is called “presidential”, Putin always delivers a keynote speech there. The sailor’s partners in this business were also responsible — these are Viktor Khmarin and Vladimir Khodyrev. The latter previously headed the Leningrad City Executive Committee, and Khmarin is another former classmate and cousin-in-law of Putin , he is married to Putin’s cousin Lyubov Kruglova × , his sparring partner, and, finally, a person who represented the interests of the president in various business projects.

Lenexpoinvest was created right at the time of Tsivilev’s wedding with Anna Loginova, which happened in the same year. It was as if the “upper deities” gave the newlyweds a wedding gift. However, the deities did not stop there and a few years later also gave the couple of an officer and a psychiatrist a share in the coal business, where none of them had ever been seen before and which, if we focus on the revenue of those firms where they worked, none of them could afford.

The thing is that the deities have nothing to do with it.

Grey schemes

At least two of Putin’s friends helped arrange the life of the Tsivilev family — the already mentioned classmate Khmarin and the owner of Gunvor Gennady Timchenko, whose stake in Kolmar eventually went to Tsivilev . Pyotr Kolbin, Putin’s childhood friend, was also a co-owner of Gunvor at one point × . Where does this guardianship come from?

In 2018, a certain Mikhail Putin, a doctor by training, received a very high position — he unexpectedly became the deputy head of Gazprom. Presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov was then forced to admit that he was a “distant relative” of Putin, with whom the president “actually does not communicate.” This is not entirely true. To see this, just look at this photo, which has been in the public domain for almost 20 years.

The photo, presumably taken in the mid-80s, shows the Putins — the future president himself, his parents, his wife Lyudmila, and the family of the president’s cousin Yevgeny. Yevgeny Mikhailovich himself is sitting on the right in the bottom row, his wife Dia is standing behind him. It is their son Mikhail who will become Alexei Miller’s deputy at Gazprom — he is not in this photo, perhaps because he took it.

Vladimir Putin with his family near Leningrad in the 1980-s. Source: Biography of Vladimir Putin by Oleg Blotsky, 2003

The only person in the picture who we haven’t named is a young girl standing next to mother Dia. As Agency established, her name is Anna Evgenievna Putina aka Tsivileva, the president’s niece.

Anna Putina on the left and Anna Tsivileva on the right

Ivanovo Putins and Leningrad Putins were much closer to each other than Peskov claimed. In Oleg Blotsky’s book “Vladimir Putin”, published in 2003, President Putin himself advises the author: “I don’t know the history of the family very well. You’d better contact Yevgeny Mikhailovich. He is a great storyteller and knows much more about relatives than I do.” Yevgeny is called in the book nothing less than the “keeper of the ancestral memory” of the Putins. Yevgeny, whose son Peskov called a “distant relative”, lost his father in the war and was brought up for three years by the grandfather of the future president, Spiridon Putin. Evgeny Putin called him “old dad”.

An apartment building in Ivanovo, where Yevgeny Putin’s family used to live

The family of Yevgeny Putin lived in Ivanovo, on Sakko Street, 33. A gray panel house surrounded by garages and an old playground nearby — the Putins’ house looks now just like it did years ago. In the document on the ownership of the Ivanovo apartment from Rosreestr, Anna Evgenievna Loginova is listed along with Evgeny and Diya Putina. This is still the same Anna Putina-Tsivileva

The document on the ownership of the Ivanovo apartment from Rosreestr

The fact is that back in the 90s, Anna married psychiatrist Lev Loginov . Anna’s first husband still works as a narcologist in Ivanovo. “Agency” turned to him for comments, but he categorically refused to talk × . This will enable the authorities to hide the origin of Anna Tsivileva — in the publications of the pro-government media it has always been said that Loginova is the maiden name of the governor’s wife. But this is another lie. “Agency” has documents confirming that Anna Putina changed her last name to Loginova by 1996 at its disposal.

The life of the family changed dramatically with the advent of the uncle to power. In 2002, the Putins got rid of the cheap housing in Ivanovo and moved to the capital after their children. But the neighbors down Sakko Street still remember Anna and her family very well. In a conversation with the “Agency”, Nina Zhandarova, a former neighbor of the Putins from Sakko Street, recalled how Yevgeny Putin let slip to her at the beginning of the 2000s that he was the cousin of the new president. Four years ago, Anna and Diya Putina came to Ivanovo by car, Nina remembered the last meeting with her neighbors. Another neighbor and childhood friend of Anna, who asked not to be named, recalled how, together with a relative of the president, she jumped from garages and rescued cats from trees. “Say hello to Anya, ” she asked us as she said goodbye.

Bright personality

Anna Tsivileva has kept the secret of her last name for many years, but at the same time she does not hide at all that she has a huge influence on her husband’s affairs. Government officials were able to verify this when they came to the Kemerovo Oblast in August 2018 to discuss the development of the local cultural sphere. The capital’s guests were very surprised that not only the head of the region, but also his wife, who did not have any formal positions, discussed matters with them.

She participated in one of the meetings closed to the media, interrupted the speakers, made suggestions and even gave instructions to her husband’s employees, recalls with surprise a former federal official who participated in that event: “Tsivileva behaved like a full-fledged mistress of the territory, while the governor did not contradict her ‘.

Anna and Sergey Tsivilev. Source: Kuzbass government

An interlocutor who is close to the leadership of the region also believes that Tsivileva is behind many important actions of her husband. And he recalls an interesting example. In 2018, the head of the Kemerovo Oblast, Aman Tuleev, despite forced to leave his post after the tragedy in the Zimnyaya Vishnya shopping center , 60 people died in the fire then, mostly children × , but really wanted to maintain influence in the region. So much so that just 10 days after his resignation, he was elected speaker of the local legislative assembly and even tried to form a list of United Russia members loyal to him in the new elections to the regional parliament. Most likely, Tuleev simply did not know with whom he was dealing. The Kremlin gave a quick answer — first, Moscow subjected the former governor to public criticism, and then simply forbade the formation of an election list according to Tuleev’s advantageous model. As a result, Tuleev announced his final retirement from politics. But even this was not the end of the matter — soon local businesses began to receive calls from the governor’s administration demanding that they stop any contacts with Tuleev , according to an interlocutor close to the leadership of United Russia × . It was believed that it was Tsivileva who was in charge of the fight against the former governor. “In Kemerovo, many consider the governor himself to be a mumbler and wimp, and they say about his wife that she actually controls everything, ” says a source close to the leadership of United Russia.

The head of the region appreciates the efforts of his wife so much that in 2019 he solemnly awarded her with the medal “For Service to Kuzbass”.

Anna and Sergey Tsivilev on awarding ceremony. Source: Vesti Kuzbass

This service was manifested in the fact that a year before the award, she headed the regional council for social welfare issues. Formally, this is an advisory body that “prepares proposals for the development of the social sphere and creates conditions for conducting charitable activities.” However, in practice, the council attracts money from businesses that want to operate in the region for the PR purposes of the governing Tsivilev spouses. And there are businesses to raise money from — the council includes representatives of SUEK, EvrazHolding, as well as Mikhail Fedyaev, the president of the Siberian Business Union, at whose mine the tragedy that claimed the lives of 51 people occurred in 2021 . A foundation of Elena and Gennady Timchenko is also a partner of one projects × .

On the Internet, you can find many complimentary videos that tell how Putin’s niece, who received a huge business and a whole region with 2.6 million inhabitants from her relative, helps ordinary people. For example, in 2019, the council gave motherless triplets… new glasses. Which they did not hesitate to report.

* * *

The history of the Tsivilevs is just one example of feudal customs in contemporary Russia. In 2013, Putin married off his daughter Katerina. After the wedding, the family of her husband Kirill Shamalov, already close to the president, received a royal dowry: the Shamalovs were given a stake in Sibur, a private petrochemical company that was once separated from the state-owned Gazprom with Putin’s help. A few years later, the marriage of Katerina and Kirill broke up and Shamalov’s “dowry” was taken away . In 2017, Shamalov sold his 17% stake to Leonid Mikhelson, and last year he left the board of directors of Sibur × .

The president probably also treats Kolmar as his property. At least one of the interlocutors of “Agency”, who is well acquainted with the circumstances of the transactions around the company, pointedly answered the question of who owns “Kolmar”: “It’s him…”

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