In previous publications , we have already covered the situation with the railway communications in the occupied Crimea. The time has come to find out how passenger and freight rail transportation “according to the Russian model” is “developing” and what has happened in this area over the past year. The historical retrospective and the nearest forecast were described in this essay by the candidate of legal sciences Andrey Chvalyuk.
The so-called “State Unitary Enterprise of the Republic of Crimea” “Crimea Railway” was established illegally on March 26, 2014 on the basis of structural divisions of the Pridneprovskaya railway, located in Crimea. The staff of the “enterprise” at that time consisted of 13,500 people. By the end of 2016, the number of employees was reduced to 8,600. This difference is due to the fact that gradually non-core structures “came under the jurisdiction” of the “Republic of Crimea” and the “City of Federal Importance Sevastopol”, for example, the departmental hospitals and boarding houses, which were reduced to a disastrous state in the future . Also, some of the “employees” were forced to resign because of the bad attitude of the “management”, difficult working conditions and uncompetitive salaries.
As of September 2020, the “staff size” of the “Crimea Railway” has decreased even further, to 7,000 (a decrease of more than 40 % from the original). Now three groups of former employees of JSC “Russian Railways” are “at the helm” of the “Crimea Railway”: “Rostov’s” ones, headed by the “chief accountant” N.V. Konstantinenko; “Transbaikal’s (Far Eastern)” ones, headed by the “first deputy general director” A.V. Krasotkin, as well as the “Northern” ones brought there by the “former general director” G.V. Frolov. They do not “make friends” with each other and “interfere with the work of ordinary employees” . This situation has arisen due to the fact that over the 7 years, that have passed since the occupation of Crimea, 6 “chiefs” have been replaced at “Crimea Railway”
Andrei Karakulkin, who held the “position of the head” of “Crimea Railway” from May 2014 to March 2015, could not resist not putting his hands into “the budget funds allocated for the operation of the railway”. In April 2015, the so-called “Crimean Financial Supervision Service” (“Krymfinnadzor”), based on the results of an “audit” carried out at the “enterprise”, “revealed violations” in the amount of 18.5 million rubles. As the press service of “Krymfinnadzor” reported, the “Crimea Railway” signed an “agreement” with the Moscow State University of Railways on training the “head of the enterprise” under the additional professional program “Master of Business Administration” with a specialization in “Management of transport and logistics business”. Being unprofitable, the “enterprise” paid for the training of its “manager” in the amount of 610 thousand rubles. At the same time, the “manager” finished only one semester and “resigned”, leaving the uncovered account in the amount of 125 thousand rubles. “Accounts’ department” of this “enterprise” also paid for Andrei Karakulkin “daily allowance, travel and accommodation” in two junior suites and VIP. As reported by “Krymfinnadzor”, all expenses were attributed to “travel expenses” and were paid in the amount of 193 thousand rubles, “in violation of Article 166 of the Labor Code of Russia”. In addition, the unprofitable “Crimea Railway” then did not skimp on the purchase of decorative sculptures of lions, fountains and aquariums, referring them to “general production and administrative costs” .
The next “boss” is Alexei Chernyaev, who was in charge of “Crimea Railway” from March 27 (actually from March 6) to September 24, 2015. During this time, he did not manage to get into the field of vision of local “law enforcement agencies”, but the “experience” he gained in Crimea was able to realize after his appointment to the post of First deputy Head of the Russia’s North Caucasian Railway. At the new location, the official did not deny himself the pleasure of receiving bribes from representatives of the “Tamanneftegaz” company for providing advantages in organizing traffic in the area of the port of Taman. However, the Russian court reclassified the charges against him as “fraud” and “abuse of power”. Moreover, according to one of the articles, the period for bringing to justice expired, according to the second, Alexei Chernyaev was sentenced to two years in a penal colony. The defendant had already served this term during the investigation, so the court released him from custody after the announcement of the verdict .
In 2015, the same so-called “Financial Supervision Service” of the “Republic of Crimea” conducted the “demonstrative” “unscheduled checks” at the “Crimea Railway” for the period from January 1 to September 30, 2015. One of the “violations established as a result of inspections”, became “misuse of budgetary funds” in the amount of 8.8 million rubles. On the basis of this violation, “Krymfinnadzor” brought the “Crimea Railway” to “administrative responsibility for the revealed violations in the form of a fine” in the amount of 2.2 million rubles . And although violations occurred during the term of Alexei Chernyaev’s “reign”, he managed to transfer before the end of the check, so the “fine” was paid under the new “boss”, who became Viktor Rebets. The funds for the payment of this “fine” were taken by him from the pockets of ordinary “employees” of “Crimea Railway”. Throughout 2016, the “employees” of “Crimea Railway” were not paid “penalties for delayed payments for non-part time vacations; awards; processing on weekends and holidays, night shifts”. At the “enterprise”, the amount of “material assistance for the birth of a child” has decreased fourfold . Thus, the “check” initiated by the “Head of the Crimea” for propaganda purposes, got the only result as the decrease in the ordinary railroad workers’ incomes.
At one time, the President of JSC “Russian Railways” Oleg Belozerov, sending Viktor Rebets off to the Crimea “for promotion”, awarded him with the badge “For Impeccable Work in Railway Transport” and highly appreciated his activities. It was stated that “Viktor Ivanovich is moving to a new place of work following the results of his successful work here in Armenia. A lot has been done – from 2008 to 2015, more than 250 million dollars were spent, every year under his leadership various innovations were introduced on the road, new technologies were applied” . It is still unknown whether Viktor Ivanovich managed to “master the funds” of the “Crimean Railway” just as successfully. After all, he held the position for only six months. However, we do not lose hope that he and the rest of the “effective managers” of the “Crimea Railway” will still surface in the criminal chronicles and materials of courts’ decisions.
Two weeks before Viktor Rebets left his post of “chief” of “Crimea Railway”, “Krymfinnadzor” reported that “Crimea Railway” had found “financial violations” totaling 53.3 million rubles. However, the “Arbitration Court invalidated” this information about multimillion financial violations on the “Crimea Railway” and “ordered the supervisory authority to reimburse the carrier for all legal costs” . An interesting and slightly absurd situation was that the old “boss” almost pinned his abuse on the new one again.
But the next “head” of “Crimea Railway”, Aleksey Gladilin, managed to avoid responsibility. Apparently the bad experience of his predecessors made him move in time and connect “heavy artillery” to the solution of the problem. The skill to promptly solve emerging problems, in particular with “financial checks”, helped Alexey Gladilin to hold out in the chair of “chief” of the “Crimea Railway” for four whole years. And all this time, his well-being (according to the declarations) showed an increase from 7 to 14 million rubles a year. After that, this Moscow-appointed “leader” handed over the “labor banner of embezzlement” to the next one – Gennady Frolov, and that one year later – to Mikhail Goncharov.
The Russia-controlled media, referring to local “ministerial officials”, regularly reports on “the repairs of the roadbed and the reconstruction of platforms, the construction of new railway lines” [9; 10]. However, the “employees” of “Crimea Railway” themselves state that, despite the colossal amounts that pass through the so-called “Ministry of Transport of the Republic of Crimea,” there is no control over the use of these funds. A low-quality tool is being purchased, and blatant thefts are being made. It sounds crazy, but, for example, sleepers are now being transported to the Crimea from the north of Russia .
We checked this information and found out that the “tender for the supply of a profile sheet” announced this year by the “Crimea Railway”, in the amount of 19,509,192 rubles, was indeed won by the “Megavolt” LLC, which is legally and actually located at a distance of more than 2500 kilometers from the place, where this profile sheet will need to be delivered (railway station “Mekenzievy Gory”) . And the “tender for the supply of roofing materials with components” in the amount of 5,157,203 rubles was won by an individual entrepreneur A.A. Beslaneev from the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria . Axial oil is supplied to “Crimea Railway” by another small individual entrepreneur from the Republic of Tatarstan , edged pine board travelled to the Crimea for 900 kilometers from Kislovodsk , and there are many other similar facto related to the “Crimea Railway”.
The Rostov-lovated firm “Pharmacist” looks especially interesting in it. This CJSC supplies any product to the Crimea successfully, from medicines for a psychiatric hospital to sleepers and wooden beams for the “Crimea Railway” . Although, in our opinion, the postscript of the sleepers is, most likely, a typo on the website of the RTS-tender platform, which has been selected since 2018 as a single procurement operator for “Russian Railways” , but “this is not certain”.
An old proverb says: “A heifer is the price, but across the sea, and a ruble is the transport expences”. Therefore, even a layman understands that logistics costs are an important component of the price of any tender. And the closeness of the goods’ supplier to the Crimea would be the most attractive in terms of price for his tender application. In Russia, which, having occupied Crimea, unlawfully extended its own legislation to its territory, there are classical norms of budget law – budgetary organizations work with those who agree to execute a tender at the lowest price. But the “management” of “Crimea Railway” consistently selects the most distant suppliers for a year in a row, because the most expensive official price makes higher the amount of the rollbacks. I would not be surprised, if the “tender for the supply of crushed stone” in the amount of 142.5 million rubles, opened now, will be won by the individual entrepreneur from Karelia or Kamchatka.
But unlike crushed stone and sleepers, for which there are average market prices, serious corruption risks include those types of services that cannot be objectively evaluated and, accordingly, bring the customer to justice for unjustified overstatement of the cost of these works (services). For example, the “management” of “Crimea Railway” itself is not able to develop a strategy “how we should work further and in which direction to move”, therefore it attracts specialists from outside. For the provision of services for drafting the “Development Strategy of the Federal State Unitary Enterprise” “Crimea Railway” for the period up to 2025, the “management” of the “Crimea Railway”is ready to pay 5,222,682 rubles .
The execution of design and survey work on the object “Technical re-equipment of the Crimea Railway. Stage 1. Railway bypass of the Inkerman Monastery of St. Clement” will be much more expencive. The development of a plan on how to build a railway (the total length of the reconstruction section will be 1.6 kilometers) bypassing the ancient cave monastery and residential buildings will cost 138,750,000 rubles . For comparison, the cost of building one kilometer of a railway using new materials is 52.5 million rubles in Russia , so only the pointed project’s drawings will cost twice as much as the materials and construction work for its implementation.
By the way, there is no objective reason to move the railway line from the monastery walls. The railway was laid here at the beginning of the 20th century, and according to local residents, until now, it did not interfere with the monastery, cut through the monolithic rock. Moreover, the intensity of its use has seriously dropped due to the occupation of Crimea. But the new “monastic leadership” turned directly to the President of Russia Vladimir Putin, and he gave instructions to prepare proposals for the construction of an electrified railway bypassing the “St. Kliment’s Monastery”. After that, the railway workers began to pull communications and mark with pegs which of the houses of local residents will be demolished “in the name of preserving the object of cultural heritage” . No one worried that local residents, the stadium and another unique monument – the cultural heritage site “Zagaytanskoye fortified settlement” would suffer.
It is noteworthy that, allegedly, in an attempt to preserve the cultural heritage of the Crimea, the invaders are ready to make a detour in the construction of the railway. However, we are also aware of numerous reverse examples, when a straight motorway turned on purpose to pass through an ancient Scythian settlement. The artifacts dug out at the same time were partially destroyed, partially removed from the territory of Crimea. However, back to the railroad.
In addition to ineffective selection of tenders, there are also problems with the irrational use of specialized railway specialists. There have been situations when track fitters, whose duties include only routine maintenance of railway tracks and adjacent structures, were attracted to overhaul sections of the road, along which trains will run after the completion of the “Kerch Bridge” construction. There is also information that engineers and technicians, responsible for the “strategic and tactical management of railways in the Crimea”, are now receiving salaries 50% higher than workers. Until 2014, it was the other way around, railway workers received higher wages than their office counterparts .
Many employees of “Crimea Railway” did not wait for the completion of the “Kerch Bridge” promised to them. Low salaries, boorish attitude of the “management”, as well as systematic violations in labor protection, forced them to quit. It began with the fact that the inadequately expensive “Sevastopol-Kerch” train, about the ceremonial launch of which the occupation press wrote a lot in 2015, was quietly canceled in September 2016. According to the railway workers themselves, a ticket for it was too expensive for an ordinary person, because it was three times more expensive than a similar bus ticket. Basically, this train was used by the Russian military officers, who needed “to go somewhere”. The train consisted of several cars, but only two were usually loaded, which made the train absolutely unprofitable . After the “cancellation of the train”, the employees working on this route were transferred to other places (many with “demotion” and, accordingly, in the salary).
In those days, “Crimea Railway” saved on everything it could. Basically, locomotive crews and rolling stock suffered. At least once a week, the time correction was carried out, which is given for the delivery and acceptance of electric trains. It got to the point that it was simply physically unrealistic to accept an electric train normally. Accordingly, there was no guarantee of traffic safety. During acceptance, a fictitious test of the brakes took place, and the crews had to go on a voyage at their own risk .
With freight traffic, things were a little better. But priority was still given to defense cargo for the ever-growing military occupation corps. The ferry crossing (if there were no storms) managed to pass up to 2-3 freight trains per day. On December 23, 2019, a “solemn ceremony” was held for the opening of railway traffic on the “Kerch Bridge” and the first passenger train departed. Freight traffic by the railway part of the bridge opened on June 30, 2020. And on September 28, 2020, the last flight of the ferry railway service through the Kerch Strait took place, after which the movement stopped. After the complete opening of the “Crimean Bridge”, the Kerch ferry crossing became unclaimed and stopped working . Naturally, according to the list of tenders, “Crimea Railway”continues to provide services for the implementation of military railway freight traffic in Crimea. The customer of the services is, among other things, the Main Center for Special Transportation of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation .
The “Strategy for the Development of Railway Transport of the Russian Federation until 2030”, prepared by the Ministry of Transport of Russia in 2014, provides for the allocation of 135.4 billion rubles “for the development of the railway infrastructure of the Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol” . This is serious money, but no one knows where it will actually be spent. Will they settle in the pockets of the next “chief” of “Crimea Railway”, who are being replaced more often than they are now changing protective medical masks, or will they go for “more strategic needs”. It is not excluded that the two tunnels that they plan to build “are needed not by the Crimean Railway, but by the Russia’s Ministry of Defense in order to “preserve the Inkerman’s “St. Kliment’s Monastery” , but a new railway line is just a cover for these works. In any case, as long as there is money in the federal programs, Siberian sleepers and Ryazan paratroopers will continue to be imported into Crimea. But money, as we do know, tends to run out.