Pseudo-activist and pseudo-blogger Valery Kuleshov became the second collaborator in Kherson to receive “a ticket to the eternal concert of Kobzon and the Alexandrov Choir”. An accomplice of the invaders was shot on the morning of April 20, when he left the entrance of his house in the Shumensky microdistrict of Kherson, got into a car and, possibly, intended to move from the Russia-occupied territory to Odesa.
Shots at Kuleshov were done from a machine gun from the front passenger seat. There are 16 bullet holes. “He came out of his porch and was shot right next to the garbage can,” said a neighbor of the victim. Valery Kuleshov had an ambiguous reputation in Kherson. He was talked about as an activist, a blogger, and recently as a volunteer. But such an opinion about Kuleshov was, so to speak, people socially close to him with predominantly pro-Russian convictions.
Other people, and there are many more of them, knew Valery Kuleshov as a representative of the so-called “commercial community”, who organized custom-made political provocations, moreover, in cooperation with Kirill Stremousov. The latter became known throughout Ukraine for his cooperation with the Russian occupiers as the so-called “head” of the illegal “Committee for the Salvation of Kherson Region” “For Peace and Order”.
However, Stremousov was previously known as a political freak, a pro-Russian provocateur, and at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as an ardent covid dissident and anti-vaccinator. Stremousov was also known for the fact that in 2019, during a press conference that turned into a conflict, he opened fire from a traumatic pistol. And in 2020, he attacked Kherson journalist Dmitry Bagnenko, whose materials about the barbaric cutting of green spaces in Kherson did not please Stremousov.
It is noteworthy that Stremousov got away with all the illegal actions: the case of the shooting during the press conference “sank” in the judicial routine, and the criminal proceedings on the fact of the attack on Bagnenko were completely terminated. This gave local journalists a reason to believe that Stremousov had a serious cover in law enforcement structures.
And Valery Kuleshov had a direct relationship with law enforcement agencies: he worked in the police, starting as a detective and reaching the investigator. In 2015, he even somehow received the status of “participant in the anti-terrorist operation”. Perhaps he simply went on a business trip to the Donbass, was on duty there at a checkpoint far from the zone of active hostilities, and received a certificate for such “merits”.
In the same 2015, Kuleshov left the service in the police and became a “social activist”. He left the police on the eve of a large-scale audit, which, as Valery’s former colleagues said, could be interested in why investigator Kuleshov “let go of some criminal cases with a clear judicial perspective”. Shortly after leaving the authorities, the ex-investigator teamed up with Stremousov and began organizing provocations, which, most likely, were generously paid from outside Ukraine.
Moreover, Kuleshov voluntarily gave the role of the main “showman” to Stremousov, and he sang solo during all the “performances” such as disruptions of City Council sessions, various pickets with hired “dancing”, and other scandals. Kuleshov preferred to remain in the shadows rather than take on the role of the number one brawler.
He reminded himself from time to time, playing the “main part” during some scandals, but, unlike Stremousov, he was able to stop in time at the point where the scandal ends and the violation of administrative or criminal law begins.
The turning point in the fate of Valery Kuleshov was 2019, when he and Kirill Stremousov visited communist China, ostensibly to participate in a large “congress of bloggers”. But, apart from the reports of two Kherson residents, there was no other information about this “congress”, most likely, there was no “congress” itself. According to people familiar with Kuleshov and Stremousov, there was a meeting with high-ranking Russian curators and instructions on further work in Kherson.
After this joint trip, Valery Kuleshov began a “solo career” as a blogger and activist, maintaining friendly relations with Stremousov, but ending his business. Since then, he has hardly appeared in high-profile stories, claiming that he is “engaged in charitable activities”. In fact, Kuleshov became close to the odious businessman from the Henichesk district, Viktor Anastasov, known in criminal circles as “Stas Makeyevsky” or “Stas Lipped”.
Anastasov, in particular, is known for his pro-Russian views and close friendship with the head of the former head of Henichesk district administration Seitumer Nimetullayev, who fled to Crimea in 2014 and became one of the “leaders” of Crimean Tatar collaborators there. Thus, Kuleshov could become a “bridge” between Russian protégés Anastasov, Stremousov and Nimetullayev, as well as their communicator with some corrupt law enforcement officers and officials.
Kuleshov was, for Anastasov, someone like a “counselor” and, more simply, a “decision maker”: he was in contact with officials, regulators, and law enforcement. Occasionally, Kuleshov developed his resources on social networks: the Telegram Channel, the Kherson Day and Night Facebook page, his own account, and wanted to create his own website. On his own resources, Kuleshov personally published mostly neutral content, but did not prevent the transformation of the group “Kherson day and night” into the Kherson “pro-Russian” online party on Facebook.
Kuleshov was also a co-founder of several non-governmental organizations, the “Donors’ Union”, the “Consumers’ Union”, the “Phoenix Association of Combatants”, and the “Kherson Fortress Public Organization of the Disabled”. Another co-founder of the first two organizations was Ruslan Zakharov, a friend of Kuleshov, a Kherson district council deputy from the pro-Russian party. Zakharov has a reputation as a notorious blogger who “nightmared” store owners under the guise of fighting for consumer rights.
After the Russian occupation of Kherson, neither the police past nor the status of “participant in the anti-terrorist operation” prevented Kuleshov from hiding in Kherson in a private car, recording streams, engaging in “volunteer” activities, including Facebook posts and video appeals. And this – against the background of abductions by the occupiers of former law enforcement officers, officials, veterans, volunteers and activists who did not have time to leave Kherson. The fate of some of them is unknown for several weeks.
But Valery Kuleshov felt free for more than a month and a half of Russia’s occupation and was not afraid of anything: he did not change his place of residence, traveled around the city, talked to different people, conducted online streams even during the occupiers’ curfew. With such an official track record as his, this is possible in today’s Kherson only if not only an agreement with the occupiers, but also direct cooperation with them.
Kuleshov claimed that he was a volunteer engaged in charitable activities. However, soon after his death, people began to write in the Kherson public that the blogger has recently been actively collecting personal data of people in need of some help. He promised to help these people, but all he really did was publish other people’s requests for help in his public places.
Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine Anton Gerashchenko reacted to Kuleshov’s death by posting on the social network, where he wrote that the deceased was applying for the position of chief of the occupation “police” of Kherson. If this is true, then Kuleshov had a very high chance of holding such a “position”, as the occupiers are unlikely to find another Kherson resident in the city who has experience in law enforcement and is willing to cooperate.
Also on social networks it was written that the blogger allegedly took part in the preparation of a “referendum” in the Kherson region, possibly on the fake illegal “accession of the Kherson region” to the occupied Crimea. And this seems to be true given the diligence with which Kuleshov approached the collection of personal data of people who turned to him for help.
We note in particular that exactly a month before the murder of Valery Kuleshov, on March 20, 2022, Kherson businessman Pavel Slobodchikov was killed, who was also known as the “consigliere” of the odious Vladimir Saldo, the long-term mayor of Kherson until 2012, a former people’s deputy from the Party of Regions and one of the most famous “providers” of “Russian world” ideas in the region.
Slobodchikov was also shot from a machine gun when he was in the car, and this also happened in the morning, but with the only difference that the victim was waiting for the victim at Saldo’s house. Pavel Slobodchikov was active in public relations in Kherson in the development of the municipal economy, he was engaged in the construction and advertising business, as well as charitable activities. But his main occupation was “solving problems” for the Saldo, which has assets estimated at millions of dollars, officially being only the head of the public organization “Association of Builders and Investors” “Stroyinvestsoyuz”.
Almost from the very beginning of the Russian occupation of Kherson, Slobodchikov established contacts with the invaders and, according to informed sources, on behalf of Saldo negotiated the return of the ex-mayor to the “number one seat” in the city as the head of the occupation administration. It is known that the cautious Saldo put forward a condition: he will take a seat in the City Council only if it becomes obvious that the Russian occupiers will stay in Kherson for a long time. True, the occupiers forced the ex-mayor to “shine” at the “rally” organized by collaborators on the occasion of the 78th anniversary of the liberation of Kherson from the Nazis on March 13 and the aforementioned “meeting” of the fake “Committee for the Salvation of Kherson Region” “For Peace and Order” on March 16.
This, apparently, was a fatal mistake of the Russian invaders, because four days after the meeting of the illegal “committee” Slobodchikov was killed, and on the same day, Saldo, under the protection of the Russian military, departed in an unknown direction.
The murders of Pavel Slobodchikov and Valery Kuleshov have a lot in common: the time of day, the victim’s stay in the car, the style of the perpetrators. And also the fact that both victims were part of the inner circle of contacts of the odious Kherson collaborators – Stremousov and Saldo. Therefore, it is possible that both liquidations are both warnings and deprivation of the occupiers of a rather “valuable resource”. After all, both Slobodchikov and Kuleshov, not having an openly odious reputation, could more or less normally contact different people, be links.
Why don’t unknown patriots try to liquidate Kherson “leaders” of collaborators? Perhaps in order not to provoke a surge of occupying terror in Kherson.
If the information about Kuleshov’s attempt to leave for Odesa is correct, then it can be assumed that he would have appeared there as a “patriot persecuted by the invaders”. The appearance in front-line Odesa of person like Kuleshov, of course, would be in the interests of the Russian special services.
Now people who sympathized with Valery Kuleshov have launched a campaign on Facebook to rehabilitate him. He was allegedly killed by the Russians due to his patriotic stance and refusal to cooperate. However, at the same time, after the morning incident, the Russian military blocked all exits from Kherson and did not let any vehicles out of the city. In Kherson itself, the Russians set up roadblocks on the busiest city highways in the morning, stopped cars and public transport, checked the documents and phones of drivers and passengers. It is unlikely that they would start looking for the killers of the pro-Ukrainian activist like that.