The gas distribution systems, seized illegally in the Crimea by Russian invaders, were transferred by the invaders to the extremely interesting structure of “Krymgazseti” (“Crimean Gas Networks”). Formally, it is allegedly in the “property” of the “Crimean government”, but de-facto, its management is not transparent.

Our interest on “Krymgazseti” is based on the facto, that it is this structure that allegedly operates and maintains the gas infrastructure of the Crimea, but certain “private firms” are responsible for diagnosing the networks [1]. Associate Professor Andrii Chvalyuk found out what are these “private diagnosticians” and what is the true goal for such “outsourcing”.

Expenses for “services for diagnosing gas control points, closed gas control points, underground gas pipelines and inspection of siphons” regularly appear in the “reports” of the aforementioned “state unitary enterprise” “Krymgazseti”. For example, in 2020, according to such “report”, 2.023 million rubles were spent for these purposes [2]. Moreover, the costs of diagnostics were not an “unforeseen production necessity”, they were initially attributed by the managers of “Krymgazseti” to “planned expenses” with increasing dynamics: in 2020 – 5.079 million rubles, in 2021 – 5.266 million rubles, in 2022 – 5.477 million rubles.

Usually, if the “governmental” structure needs to systematically carry out certain diagnostics of its own equipment, then it is economically more expedient to purchase the necessary tool itself and introduce a new position on the staff, or retrain one of the existing employees, and not spend money on hiring outside specialists. Moreover, if there is not enough money and the “enterprise”, starting from 2015, has been consistently showing losses [3]. But, as it was announced at the beginning of the article, “Krymgazseti” is in fact an extremely unusual structure.

In exceptional cases, “Krymgazseti” still “purchase measuring instruments and related equipment” through the Russian e-procurement portal [4]. For example, in this way, “an application for the purchase of an ultrasonic flaw detector” [5] and “the supply of diagnostic equipment using the magnetic memory method” [6] were placed. But the amounts of “purchased equipment” cannot be compared with the amounts paid to various “involved specialists”.

“Technical diagnostics of in-house or in-apartment gas equipment” are carried out by representatives of “Krymgazseti” independently, in accordance with the approved “price list” [7]. At the same time, “services for the inspection of gas pipelines”, according to “order” No. 00512, should be “purchased from small and medium-sized businesses” [8]. Not only the text of this “order” is remarkable, but also its number. As the saying goes, “habit is second nature”, and therefore the “director” of “Krymgazseti” Sergei Tarasov, despite the fact that he “officially” allegedly stopped serving in the state security bodies long ago, continues, according to the old KGB habit, to put zeros in front of the numbers of the orders to be signed.

Having ascertained from whom the decision “to diagnose gas pipelines by third-party specialists” comes from, that is, who may benefit from hiring outside personnel, we will try to identify these mysterious “diagnosticians”. The most “recent” “reports on the procurement carried out” on the site of “Krymgazseti” are dated 2015 [9]. This proves the reluctance of the “Krymgazseti”`s bosses to advertise with the lists and, most importantly, with the amounts of their “tenders”. It accordingly stimulates us to conduct detailed monitoring on the Russian portal of electronic procurement.

The first thing worth paying attention to is the discrepancy between the wording in the generated “applications” on the procurement portal and in the “reports” on the own site of “Krymgazseti”. For example, the “application” is called “Provision of services for the examination of industrial safety of gas control points and cabinet gas control points” [10]. But in the “report” the money was already written off for “diagnostics services” of these objects, as well as of the “underground gas pipelines and inspection of siphons” [11]. “Expertise” and “diagnostics” sound the same to the layman, but within the framework of any budget estimate, these are completely different concepts – with completely different costs. Therefore, if the so called “Financial Supervision Service of the Republic of Crimea” had not been supportive of “Krymgazseti”, such “inaccuracies in the wording” could have ended in a good basement for “gas workers” from the invaders’ punishers for “misuse of budget funds”.

The next pattern refers to the consistently overpriced price of tenders placed by “Krymgazseti”. Starting from 2018, the initial price of all placed “bids” for examinations, diagnostics and others was 2-3 times higher than the offer of the firm – the “winner of the tender”. It would seem that in four years it is time to find out the average level of market prices for services rendered by third-party specialists. But no, “Krymgazseti” stubbornly continues to “throw” a couple of million rubles from above. Overestimation occurs in all cases, regardless of the “source of funding”: whether it is the company’s own “funds”, of the “subsidies” received from the “budget of the Republic of Crimea” or the “funds of the federal target program” “Socio-economic development of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol up to 2022”. And here the most interesting begins.

If we compare the names of “Krymgazseti”`s “officials”, indicated as responsible for placing the “tender” and accepting “applications” with the names of the winning firms in these “tenders”, we can see a certain pattern.

The manager of “Krymgazseti” Kokurina Elena Yurievna gave all the “tenders” for the “industrial safety examination of steel underground gas pipelines with a service life of 30 years or more”, as well as for the “industrial safety examination of closet gas control points”, to the “joint-stock company” “Dinon”, even if other firms offered to perform the same work for a lower price. For example, the amount of the initial price was 7.269 million rubles, and the actual cost of the services provided was 1.950 million rubles [12; 13].

Another representative of “Krymgazseti”, Mokritskaya Violetta Aleksandrovna, entrusted the examination of the same steel gas pipelines by LLC “Profexp”. The starting price was 3.964 million rubles, with actual payments of 1.750 million rubles [14]. The applications of the “Scientific Research Center Joint Stock Company” “Gorny Master” (“Mining Expert”) in 2020 were confirmed on behalf of “Krymgazseti”  by Sofya Igorevna Zakharova, and the initial price was 4.773 million rubles, but in fact 2.082 million rubles was paid for the examination of steel gas pipelines [15].

Earlier, Molchanova Irina Viktorovna worked closely with the same “Gorny Master” on “the development of funds for targeted programs” for “Krymgazseti”. In 2018, she gave him a “tender” in the amount of 598 thousand rubles for “the provision of services for the examination of industrial safety of closet gas control points”. The starting price, as always, was overstated and amounted to 2.510 million rubles. Also, through this scheme, another “tender” was held for “the provision of services for the examination of industrial safety of pipelines and technical devices of gas control points, buildings of gas control points”. The initial price was 4.708 million rubles, but in fact 858 thousand rubles were paid [16; 17].

The analysis of all the conducted “schemes” allows us to assert that only in 2020 the price of “tenders” for the examination of gas pipelines and other gas equipment was overstated by “Krymgazseti” in comparison with the market price by 10.224 million rubles.

The above facts raise two logical questions: is it not too many underground gas pipelines in the occupied Crimea, and where does the money, allegedly “saved on tenders”, go?

Let’s start by answering the first question. Let us assume that there are indeed many “steel underground gas pipelines with a service life of 30 years or more” in the Crimea, since orders for their examination are placed not only by “Krymgazseti” directly, but also by the so-called “State Committee for Competition Policy of the Republic of Crimea” [18]. Despite the fact that this “Committee” theoretically acts in the interests of the same “Krymgazseti”, the financing of ‘tenders” is carried out under a different code “Other technical testing and analysis services, not included in other groups” and it is “funded from the federal target program”. The winner of the aforementioned “tender” was LLC “Construction production and technical company” from Russia’s Magnitogorsk with an offer of 1.490 million rubles, out of the initially planned 5.5 million rubles [19].

It is noteworthy that this and other “tenders” from the “Competition Policy committee” [20; 21] had the same names as the “tenders” from “Krymgazseti” and were also announced simultaneously, within one week. Only the “sources of funding” were different. We are sure that if you study in detail the “tender documents” and calculate the mileage of gas pipelines that have passed the “industrial safety expertise”, you can get quite interesting, and most importantly, absolutely identical figures. We have already indicated in our articles how the same work is carried out by Russia’s invaders under two different “financing programs” at once, as a result of which one “act” closes two “estimates” at once, and in fact, funds are written off twice for one work. In fact, the same scheme was used here.

Let’s move on to the second question, about the ways of using the millions “saved” on “tenders”, and with this everything is easier. After the “head of the Republic of Crimea” promised “the dismissal of officials” for not using the “federal target program funds” [22], this money really began to be spent “at zero,” often for purposes different from the original ones.

For example, in 2020, “Krymgazseti”’s financial affairs were apparently going “so well” that they could no longer cope with calculating profits manually. Therefore, on December 28, a tender was placed for the supply of banknote counters [23], but these are ridiculous little things, only 100 thousand rubles, but vehicles are another matter. In the first half of 2021 17.790 million rubles were spent on them, under the article “Purchase of equipment that is not included in the estimate of construction projects and does not require installation”. Moreover, 16.941 million of these funds not included in the “estimate” of “Krymgazseti” were taken from the unused funds of the “investment program” in 2020 [24], that is, from the previously “saved” on “tenders”.

We return to the question of the advisability of conducting diagnostics by third-party specialists. The number of personnel employed in a regulated type of activity according to the report of “Krymgazseti” is no less than 1,838.2 people [25]. Perhaps the compilers of the “Information on the main indicators of financial and economic activity” of “Krymgazseti” for 2020 did not watch the classic cartoon, going even further in the matter of crushing the personnel and instead of the classic “1.5 digger” received “1.2 gasman”. However, maybe someone in “Krymgazseti” eats too much or, on the contrary, works beyond human capabilities. Perhaps thanks to this “effective use of personnel” and not at all for kickbacks to the “leadership of the republic”, “Deputy Director for Financial and Economic Affairs and Personnel Management” of “Krymgazseti” Valentina Ivanovna Ushakova was awarded a “diploma” from the “Presidium of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea” in 2020 [26].

As for the “effectiveness of diagnostics”, there is a simple answer to the question – does it benefit “Krymgazseti” as a whole or does it only contribute to the some individuals’ enrichment. In 2020, technological (operational) gas losses, declared by this “enterprise”, amounted to 51.312 million rubles, which is almost half of all material costs of “Krymgazseti” in 2020 [27]. Yes, it is possible that part of the gas was stolen by end users, and also was resold by “Krymgazseti” “by the left hand”. But we can assume that the main percentage of losses fell on the share of worn-out gas pipelines, the defects of which should have been promptly identified by various “mining experts”. Which in fact, naturally, no one did at all.

It remains to determine whether it is possible that the schemes we have described are only “private business initiatives” of the management of “Krymgazseti”, for example, the same Sergei Tarasov, a KGB veteran, and now a “deputy of the State Council of the Republic of Crimea” from “United Russia” and a “chairman of public organization” “United Crimean Union of Veterans of Afghanistan and other Local Wars – Soldiers-Internationalists” [28]. An analysis of the biographies of the mentioned “officials”, responsible for the “tenders of the enterprise” allows to give a negative answer to this simple question.

For example, the same Mokritskaya Violetta in 2015 was the “main economist” of another “Crimea’s state treasury institution”, namely the “Service of Highways of the Republic of Crimea” and she was even promoted by the Russian invaders as a “trade unionist’ to the Council of the ‘All-Russian Trade Union of Road Transport and Road Workers’ [29]. And her current colleague at “Krymgazseti”, Irina Molchanova, in 2016, was noted on large-scale purchases of a number of drugs in the interests of such a “Crimea’s state treasury institution” as “Krymzdrav”, including the psychotropic lorazepam [30]. It is obvious that the “republican bosses” would clearly not have appointed “just anyone” to master funds for such specific purchases, controlled by all kinds of invaders’ structures. Therefore, it is obvious that these “gas swallows” regularly bring “good news” in their beaks not only to “the main Crimean veteran of Afghanistan”.

In conclusion, we would like to add that the process of writing off the “budget” millions by “Krymgazseti” for various “examinations” is still going on. Just the other day, they placed another “tender” for 811 thousand rubles for “the provision of services for the examination of industrial safety and comprehensive examination of hazardous production facilities”, namely, boilers and an economizer [31].

“Expert opinions” are precisely the type of work that does not provide material evidence of their implementation, so it is not surprising that the managers of “Krymgazseti” chose this method of “disbursement of funds” in the interests of the “higher management”. There are prerequisites that appetites are growing there, and soon the amounts allocated for various “expertise” will increase exponentially. This means that the number of “tenders” from “Krymgazseti” and “extra millions” during their holding will only grow. Obviously, in such conditions, the Crimean “gas workers” not only become part of a significant “food chain” between “budgetary funds” and payments for gas consumers, as well as the “leadership of the republic” and “federal security officials”, but also operate the gas pipelines and gas networks of the Crimea till their “wear”.

It should be noted that the high-profile case of the “Ukrainian saboteurs” was promoted in August-September, 2021 by Russian propaganda and punishers, allegedly within the framework of the “blowing up of the gas pipeline” in the Perevalnoye settlement. The preparation and implementation of such FSB provocation would have been simply impossible without the assistance of the “gas-blue thieves” from “Krymgazseti” and their “chief veteran” Tarasov. Moreover, it is now obvious that in the future any emergency on the completely worn-out gas pipelines of the Crimea will be blamed on the same “saboteurs”. At the same time, none of the “experts” and robbers of “Krymgazseti”, of course, will not suffer, except the situations of banquets on the occasion of receiving the next “republican award” for their “hard work”.