The problem of treatment facilities in the occupied Crimea remains extremely acute and it threatens the ecology and sanitation of the entire Black Sea region. The Russian invaders basically stopped the implementation of the Ukrainian program of water management in the Crimea and started their own one, the main goal of which is the personal enrichment of persons close to the Kremlin.

“Federal” money doesn’t stink

In September 2019, the “Head of the Crimea” Sergey Aksyonov announced that all sewage treatment plants (hereinafter – STP) of the resorts of the South Coast of Crimea will be reconstructed by the end of 2022. About 11.5 billion rubles were allocated for the reconstruction of 12 main objects in the “federal target program for the development of the Crimea”. In addition, the “Ministry of Construction and Architecture of the Republic of Crimea” stated that more than 40 billion rubles were allocated for all projects of the STP within the framework of the “federal target program”. And the completion of all work was announced “no later than 2024” [1].

Of course, the planned work was not started on time, and the number of facilities and the amount of funds required for reconstruction were “revised”. In 2020, the Russian “federal target program for the development of the Crimea” has already included 13 treatment facilities on the Southern coast of peninsula, as well as in Feodosia, Kerch, Yevpatoria and Mykolaivka. For the implementation of these works, it was planned to allocate 37.4 billion rubles. The total amount provided for the construction and reconstruction of facilities has already rosen to 50.7 billion rubles [2]. And this is not counting the needs of Sevastopol’s STP. But is such large-scale work really necessary? Maybe this is another way to “launder” money?

The former Minister of Housing and Communal Services of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea Mykola Poritsky said that there was no direct need to spend such large funds on the reconstruction of treatment facilities, which had actually already been modernized before the Russian occupation of Crimea started. As he noted, the construction of treatment facilities in Ordzhonikidze had been started before the attempted annexation and the readiness was about 35-40 %, but Mykola Poritsky was even more surprised that the “puck” in the village of Maly Mayak near Alushta, which was ready by 90-95 % back in 2013, got again almost a billion rubles, allocated for its “reconstruction”. Perhaps, regarding the Russian standards, given the corruption component, this is not so much money, but equipment had already been installed at Maly Mayak by 2014.

In March 2021, Russia-controlled “RIA Novosti Crimea” reported that the “estimate for the construction of treatment facilities” in the village of Maly Mayak amounted to 938.5 million rubles (including the project – 1.12 billion rubles), and a company called “Research and Production Company “Interbusiness-55”, registered in the Chechen capital, the city of Grozny, with an authorized capital of only one hundred thousand rubles, was appinted as the contractor under a “special procedure”, without “competition”. This company has to complete the work by January 31, 2024, having completed at least 60 % of the work on its own facilities, but will the company be able to do this? Mykola Poritsky expresses concern that this project may not be within the power of the contractor [2].

In Sevastopol, the situation with STP is even worse. The final construction of the infamous “Pivdenny” (“Yuzhnuye” or “Southern”) STP in the hero-city began in 2021, and according to the “local authorities”, construction began with the efforts of the Moscow contractor “Regional Construction Company”. STP “Pivdenny” was included in the “federal target program for the development of Crimea and Sevastopol” back in 2015 and the completion of construction was to be carried out by 2020. Those structures were planned to be reconstructed, partially completed, equipped with a wastewater outlet to the sea and a sewage treatment plant in Balaklava to be built. However, this project was not implemented “for various reasons”. In 2018, to start the repair work, funds in the amount of two billion rubles were transferred, but the bank where the advance was transferred was declared bankrupt, after which “judicial red tape” began with the contractor “Biotechprogress” JSC until the “termination of the contract” in April 2019 [2].

The result of this “scheme” for the funds’ disposal was the “initiation of a criminal case” against the former “Director of the Department of Municipal Services” Mikhail Tarasov. According to the “investigation”, Tarasov was involved in fraud during the construction of sewage treatment facilities. In December 2017, on his instructions, “Acting Director of the Department for Operation of Municipal Facilities” Alexander Antyufeev concluded not only a “state contract” for the construction of the STP, but also an “additional agreement” to it, which excluded the condition of “mandatory treasury support”. According to the “investigation”, this allowed spending the money for purposes not provided for by the “state contract”. As a result of this “additional agreement”, an advance payment of 2.056 billion rubles was transferred not to the “Treasury”, but to an account with “OFK Bank”, which “by a strange coincidence” had its license revoked a few months later. De-facto, the Russian “administration” in such a simple way of “the bank that burst” has enriched itself and their Kremlin curators by 2 billion rubles, with the definition of “switchmen” [3].

By the “verdict of the Leninsky District Court of Sevastopol” dated October 8, 2020, Alexander Antyufeev was “found guilty of exceeding his official powers with serious consequences”. The “court” appointed him “a punishment in the form of imprisonment” for 7 years, with “restriction of rights” for 2 years, and sent the “switchman” to a “correctional colony of general regime” [4]. For the same “waste” of more than 2 billion rubles during the construction of the “Pivdenny” treatment facilities, another “switchman”, the “general director of the Scientific and Production Enterprise” “Biotechprogress”, was also imprisoned for 7 years [5].

And these are just a few examples of disclosing the “schemes of appropriation” of funds, when the “officials” of the Russian-controlled “authorities”, instead of improving the life of the Crimean population, increase the capital – both for their Moscow leaders and for themselves.

Therefore, despite the high-profile “lawsuits”, no one returned these funds, and the “government” of Sevastopol began a long search for a new “contractor” who, after being appointed, needed some time to start any activity or at least for its next imitation. The new “contractor” began by redesigning the wastewater treatment plant project, which was drawn up back in 2017 and failed due to the story of the “loss of advance payment” in the bank. As we can see, the fantasy of the beneficiaries of “federal targeted funding” is rather modest. In fact, the construction of the “Pivdenny” STP is still at the very start. The Sevastopol’s “government” assures that the facility will be able to be commissioned by December 2023, but given that the “contract with the contractor” was signed until 2024, it can be assumed that a significant “time shift” is, of course, allowed.

According to the journalists of “Radio Svoboda”, the “contractor” announces the expected capacity of the “Pivdenny” STP at the level of 160 thousand cubic meters per day, but this will not completely solve the problem for Sevastopol. It is difficult to calculate – how much it will cost for the Crimean residents, since the main project included several more small projects as a result, each of which added costs: this is the collector between Karantinna and Martynovska bays, Balaklava’s treatment facilities, which will have a branch to the “Pivdenny” STP. In any case, it will be more expensive than anticipated. In the fall of 2020, during the “signing of the contract” with the new “contractor”, the base cost of the “Pivdenny” STP was estimated by the “authorities” of Sevastopol at 8.5 billion rubles under the “federal target program” [6].

The Russia-controlled “administration” is generally indifferent to the needs of the Crimean population and it is not in a hurry to fulfill its own promises. Residents of the Saki town also felt the “care of officials” when they faced the problem of stopping work on the storm sewers’ construction. Its building stopped at the height of the “summer season” and it left one of the main city “arteries” – Stroitelnaya Street in dugs, which made traffic in Saki extremely difficult. Also it is interesting that the infamous “Biotechprogress” company, already well known to the Sevastopol’s residents, became the contractor for the “state contract” for the construction of storm sewers in Saki. The construction of storm sewers in Saki is also included in the list of objects financed from the “federal target program”.

Works on its construction began in February 2018 and they were to be completed in December 2019 [7]. And again the question arises: is this a coincidence or elements of some kind of plan? Why is the company, which has already successfully spent money together with the “administration”, again supervises the construction? One thing is known – as of October 2021, “construction continues” and in accordance with the next promises, the object was to be put into operation in December 2021 [8]. Well, it won’t be long to wait.

In addition, it should be noted that the Russian invaders’ “administration” uses only “proven contractors” in the STP construction. In particular a single “contractor” was elected for the construction of the STP on the Southern Coast of the Crimea, who will receive 14.9 billion rubles for the development. This is the private firm “Regional Construction Company-Yug” (“RCC-Yug”), appointed by the “Head of the Crimea” Sergey Aksenov. This company must “develop a project for the reconstruction and implementation of construction and installation works for the reconstruction of sewage treatment facilities” single-handedly.

Those works should be carried out in Otradnoye for 8 billion rubles, in Simeiz – for 2.9 billion, in Alushta for 2.7 billion and in Gurzuf – for 1.3 billion rubles. In addition, the company will be engaged in the construction of a STP in Feodosia for 4.4 billion rubles. The work will be completed by the end of 2024. Earlier, Moscow had already allocated money to the occupied Crimea for the same purposes. The sewage treatment project was prepared at the turn of 2015-2016 by “RT-Ecos” for 90 million rubles. The construction was estimated at 6.8 billion and the already mentioned “Biotechprogress” was chosen as a “contractor”. Considering how this story ended and the fact that the “invaders” found a new “similar” company, we can assume how everything will end again. Experts question the feasibility of construction of treatment plants in Crimea, considering this project too expensive, environmentally hazardous and requiring exorbitant energy consumption [9].

“Federal” thieves’ laces

So it is worthwhile to trace in more detail the connections between the structures directly involved in the development of the funds of the “federal target program” for STP. For example, the aforementioned “RCC-Yug” indeed, according to the “commercial registers” controlled by Russia, in 2021 must fulfill five “orders” from the “state government institution” “Investstroy of the Republic of Crimea”, regarding construction and installation work at the STP and sewer collectors of Foros (920,07 million rubles), in the Sudak’s village of Morskoye (312.17 million rubles), in the Yalta’s settlement of Katsiveli (for 850.95 million rubles) and in Koktebel (1473.42 million rubles). In addition, “RCC-Yug” will spend 6,240.53 million rubles for the “reconstruction of distribution networks of water supply and wastewater disposal” in Yevpatoria. But it should be added that “RCC-Yug” is developing the “target funds” not only on the sewerage, but also on the “construction and reconstruction” of roads and streets, along which the company received 11 “orders” from the “Service of highways of the Republic of Crimea” with a total value of 34271.8 million rubles in 2020, and two more orders from the “administrations” of Yevpatoria and Simferopol for another 8.9 and 192.55 million rubles, respectively [10].

In general, as some analysts conclude, “RCC-Yug” with an authorized capital of seven million rubles, received from July 2020 to January 2021 as a “single contractor” agreements for more than 13 billion rubles, while the volume of its own work, without subcontracts, should have been no more than 25 % of the “contracted”. Such a condition in the “contracts” was set for a reason, because, in 2017-2019, “RCC-Yug” had already mastered funds for STP and drainage systems in the village of Gvardiyske, the village of Sovetske and in the Leninsky District of the Crimea. De-facto those works, much less in their actual volumes and allocated funds, were carried out by subcontractors – Penza LLC “Vodstroy”, LLC “Megaline” from St. Petersburg and Sevastopol’s “Spetsstroyservis-K” [11].

The activities of “RCC-Yug” on the development of 36.9 billion “budget rubles” within the framework of 31 “state contracts” have already been the subject of attention of the journalists of “Radio Svoboda”. In particular, “RCC-Yug” is linked with LLC “Regional Construction Company”, which is headed by Boris Sakun, allegedly “business partner” of oligarch Arkady Rotenberg, about whose relationship with the Russian leaders there was written a lot. It is also indicated that Boris Sakun heads another LLC “Transstroymekhanizatsiya”, and the “Regional Construction Company” is under the control of JSC “Transstroyinvest” through LLC “Garant”, which, among other things, founded “RCC-Yug” in 2019. At the same time, it is reported that the owner of “Transstroyinvest” Nikolai Fomenko, among other things, built housing for the “federal guarding service” in the Parkove village, for “border guards” and for the Russian military in Armyansk and Dzhankoy, and he also expanded the complex of “government dachas” in the Oliva village [12-14].

Indeed, the “Regional Construction Company”, mentioned at the beginning of our article, which had two billion in arrears at the end of 2019, signed a “contract” for Sevastopol’s “Pivdenny” STP in the amount of 8.5 billion rubles in 2020, and indeed it was Boris Sakun who signed it [15]. This company is called as the founder of “RCC-Yug” by other experts. The aforementioned Boris Vladislavovich Sakun is indeed connected with the Rotenbergs, but not as a “business partner”, but rather as their top manager, since in 2010 he moved to Rotenberg’s company “Transstroymekhanizatsiya” from Oleg Deripaska’s “Transstroy” concern. And in his new position, as a general director, Mr. Sakun ensured the development of 5.3 billion rubles by Arkady Rotenberg for the reconstruction of Moscow “Sheremetyevo” airport in 2011 [16].

We will add that “RCC-Yug”, according to the Russia-controlled “commercial registers”, has actually been founded by “Regional Construction Company” LLC since June 2020, and earlier it had the same founder registered in Vnukovo town near Moscow, but under the name of JSC “Transstroyinvest”, with the inconspicuous Muscovite Igor Lebedev as the director-general. But the Russian “registries” call Natalia Sergeevna Zvereva (TIN 503003134932) as the formal founder of the “parent” company for “RCC-Yug” company. This is a very powerful lady who has worked for many years in the Soviet and Russian prosecutor’s offices and has now become a partner lawyer in a wealthy Moscow firm “Advocate Digin and Partners” [18]. The same Natalya Zvereva is the founder of a number of companies, among which we can point to LLC “Regional Investment Company”, which founded another LLC “Managing Company Transstroyinvest”, which was also co-founded by the aforementioned Mikhail Alekseevich Fomenko [19].

And a certain “ART” LLC, “registered” in March 2021 in Simferopol on 5 Griboyedov Street is another company, founded by Natalia Zvereva, which included “design activities” in its functionality. It is obvious that the funds of the “federal target program” in parts of the of STP and roads’ “designing” will be pumped through this “ART” company. We will add that Svetlana Yuryevna Krastsyna has been appointed as the “director” of “ART”, to which another company is registered, LLC “Draft” from Gelendzhik, also in March 2021, but with a specialization in “development of gravel and sand pits, extraction of clay and kaolin”. So we should agree that “RCC-Yug” is an element of a “box” companies’ network, often with identical names, controlled by the Rotenberg clan, which are de-facto led by Moscow management.

We should add that Anton Makukhovsky, who is called as “the foreman of an inconspicuous construction company in Simferopol”, has been appointed the general director of “RCC-Yug” since it began to develop billions at the STP in 2020 [20]. However, in fact, Anton Makukhovsky in 2017 was “noted” as the “deputy director” of “Yalta Transport Company” LLC, which specialized in trade in building materials and cargo transportation. Also, Mr. Makukhovsky founded “Intime” LLC in the village of Nikita, specializing in construction, and the name of this company coincides in an interesting way with a powerful logistics structure operating in the Crimea and in the Ukraine’s controlled territory. Subsequently, “Intime”, obviously intended for a specific construction transaction, was transferred under the auspices of another “zits-chairman”.

Earlier, Anton Makukhovsky actually founded “Stroypartner” LLC in Simferopol [22], but the most interesting is that this person is allegedly listed as the head of “Consult-Stroy” LLC, allegedly located in Yalta on Rabochaya Street, 12 [22]. It should be noted that there are several powerful construction corporations with the same names in Russia itself and that firms with similar names operate in the controlled territory of Ukraine, in Kharkov and Kiev at the same time [23-24]. In general, the Rotenberg’s Crimean “puppet” management avoids publicity and the only discovered publication about Makukhovsky, except for purely official ones [25], concerns his wedding in Yalta, which was designed as a “jubilee”, “five hundred”, obviously out of “sincere respect for the couple” [26].

So, taking care of the ecological situation and the development of the Crimean population are not part of the Russian invaders’ activities. The multitasking of the “federal target program for the development of the Crimea” instead of using “budgetary funds” “as intended” creates ample opportunities for the enrichment of Crimean “officials” and their Moscow bosses. To absorb the relevant funds, the Russian oligarchs, affiliated with the Kremlin, have created a complex network of firms headed by dummies and run by Moscow top management. The importance of the correct operation of sewage treatment facilities is understood by every person, since the appropriate state of water, air and everything that surrounds a person is a component of health, not to mention a comfortable life. “Closing their eyes” to the fundamental right to a safe environment and sustainable development, guaranteed to the inhabitants of Crimea and the entire Black Sea region, the Russian invaders are confidently directing their activities towards creating conditions for the population that are unsuitable for existence.