Currently, the Russian media is massively “promoting” the order of Russian President Putin, announced in late 2020, to Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin to launch a modern cruise ship of the PV300 project on the Sochi-Yalta line [1]. Indeed, one such ship, the “Mustai Karim”, IMO No. 9879351, was built at the “Krasnoye Sormovo” plant in Nizhny Novgorod in 2019 [2], [3] and it was already operated on Russian river waterways in the 2020 season [4].

This is exactly the vessel what Russian officials say about, as there is simply no other one in this project in Russia at the moment. The second ship, reinforced by the PV300VD project, “Petr Velikiy” was launched for completion by the Astrakhan plant “Lotus” in 2019 and is scheduled for commissioning in April 2021, so it is unlikely no time for it to go into operation by the 2021 season [5]. The political and propagandistic substantiation of these theses in the Crimean dimension is obvious. After all, the infamous cruise liner “Vladimir Velikiy” purchased abroad by the Russian Federation has been remembered for a number of incidents during the years of its operation on the Sochi–Yalta line and has been under repair for most of each summer season.

At the same time there are maritime safety standards in addition to propaganda. The PV300 project, in particular the “Mustai Karim”, is intended for operation mainly on inland waterways or, under certain conditions, in calm coastal waters. This type of cruise ship is not certified for safety by “normal” maritime registers and in Russia is under the supervision of the Russian River Register (RRR). RRR, by the way, is currently under Ukrainian sanctions for assisting the Russian authorities in the occupation of Crimea. So, the vessels of the PV300 project received according to the PPP standards type “M-PR 2.5 (ice 30) A”. In the relevant technical rules of the PPP of 2008, vessels of this type were intended for reservoirs with waves not exceeding 2.5 meters, which is clearly not about the Black Sea [6].

However, adjusting the standards to the needs of politics and propaganda, after the occupation of Crimea, the order of the Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation dated May 30, 2016 № 138 relaxed such security requirements [7]. The new RRR rules allow to all “M-PR” vessels to sail in a ten-mile coastal strip near the Crimea and the Caucasus, but even such a permit is possible if the weather forecast for the coming half-day guarantees a wave not higher than 2.5 meters (in some areas not higher than 1,5 meters) (paragraph 7.4 of the new PPP rules) [8].

That is, if the “Mustai Karim” is put on the “Crimean-Kolyma line”, as the Sochi–Yalta route was called in the USSR, it should go only in very good weather and near the shore. Therefore, on this route, he will either walk regularly in violation of safety requirements, or stand most of the season at the pier waiting for good weather.

The situation is a bit better for the unfinished “Petr Velikiy” because it will have in the RRR class “M-SP 3.5 (ice 30) A”, so in good weather he will be able to risk even a little off the coast. However, here the Russian operator will constantly choose – whether regular Black Sea shipping or the actual safety of passengers and crew, and it is clear that he will pitch upon reality. Moreover, the Russians themselves do not hide that the “PV300VD” concept will work on the line “Moscow – St. Petersburg”, as well as for cruises “Moscow – Rostov-on-Don – Sevastopol – Sochi” [9].

It is noteworthy that both “Mustai Karim” and “Petr Velikiy” were projected, after the occupation of Crimea begun, by Odessa vessels’ designers from the “Marine Engineering Bureau” (“Morskoye Inzhenernoye Byuro”, registration code 21022796), that not only works closely with the enterprises of the aggressor state, with Ukraine-sanctioned RRR and has a unit in St. Petersburg (Mira Street, 15/1, office 76H) [10], but that also fruitfully cooperates with the Odessa State Maritime University and that was involved by the Ukrainian authorities in 2020 to lift the infamous tanker “Delphi” [11].

It is obvious that “money does not smell” for these benefactors, because they design en masse, and especially for Russian shipyards, various vessels and not such “peaceful” types as river cruise liners only. Although there can be no complaints about the technical quality of Odessa bureau’s projects, the “Marine Engineering Bureau” reports that the “Mustai Karim” was designed as just a river vessel [12] and “Petr Velikiy” was designed primarily as a river vessel [13].

Therefore, time will tell whether Odessa vessels’ designers are ready to bear a share of responsibility for the river vessels, designed by them, given their reckless operation by the aggressor state with an obvious political and propaganda goal in the occupied and not so safe waters of Ukraine on the Black Sea.

Such “Crimea-Sochi” cruise, announced by the Russian president, not only does not stand up to professional criticism, but is also another project to cut billions by one of the gangsters included in the pool of “Rostec” director Sergei Chemezov. In loud statements about the launch of the PV-300 vessel not adapted for sea navigation [14] on the “Crimea-Sochi” line, the Russians report that the project operator is “Vodokhod” LLC [15]. The structure is headed by a native of Bashkiria Rishat Bagautdinov. He is a partner of the notorious former Deputy Minister of Transport of the Russian Federation Viktor Olersky, the leader of the Bashkir gangster wing of the group of Putin’s friend, director of “Rostec” Sergei Chemezov.

Loud scandals surrounding the theft of billions with the help of the Finnish shipyard “Arctech Helsinki Shipyard” and the construction of the Murmansk fish factory hint at the belonging of Olersky, who has interests in Crimea, to the “fish mafia” investigated by the “ARC” [16]. Its previous history is very similar to the apotheosis of the conflict between the Crimean criminal gangs “Saylem” and “Bashmaki” [17].

This happened during the previous joint business of Olersky and the owner of the cruise ship of the project PV-300 “Mustai Karim” Rishat Bagautdinov in the Volga-Baltic company. Another partner was the senator from Bashkiria Igor Izmestyev. Izmestyev is currently serving a life sentence in the controversial Russian prison “White Swan” [18]. In 2008, the investigation established that Izmestyev was the leader of a criminal group, which he commanded along with Georgy Safiev and Imran Ilyasov. Safiev was killed in 2001 in the United States, Ilyasov received 19 years of strict regime for banditry by the decision of the Moscow City Court [20].

Izmestyev himself was accused of an attempt on the life of the general director of the joint-stock oil company “Bashneft” Ural Rakhimov, the son of the head of Bashkiria, Murtaza Rakhimov. The senator was also accused of organizing two terrorist attacks, seven murders, four assassination attempts, deliberate destruction of property, bribing an FSB officer and cooperation with the “Kingisepp” criminal group. It is interesting that the famous “submarine” bandit Alexander Pumaneh “fought” on the side of Izmestyev, who is associated with the events of the formation of the criminal group “Ozero” of Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg [20].

It is no less interesting that a full-fledged gangster war took place around “Bashneft”, a serious asset in the oil industry, which is most important for the Russian president. First, control over the asset was established by “AFK Sistema”, Vladimir Yevtushenkov, a partner of the former Moscow Mayor Luzhkov. Then “Bashneft” in 2017 took away from Yevtushenkov the top manager of the Russian President Igor Sechin [19].

It follows that Izmestyev was hid away from human eyes for life imprisonment as an executor who knew too much about the gangster technologies of consolidating oil assets in the hands of Putin’s “Ozero” group. And the current “maritime businessmen” Olersky and Bagautdinov, who were on the periphery of those processes, were able to seem useful to the Kremlin for which they got the opportunity to “master” billions of rubles under the wing of Putin’s friend, director of “Rostec” Sergei Chemezov. This is the answer to the naive question of the Russian press: “Why didn’t Bagautdinov and Olersky, who worked together with Izmestyev, go to prison?” [18].

It is even more interesting that “authoritative statesmen” from Ufa entered Crimea much earlier than the announcement of the next sea cruise “from stove to bench” in 2021. The head of the FSB “Crimean department” in 2014-2018 was Viktor Palagin, whose previous place of work was just the Bashkir FSB regional unit and precisely during the years of the shocking adventures of Izmestyev and his friends.

Now Viktor Palagin has “retired” at the apartment, presented to him by the “speaker of Novorossiya” Oleg Tsarev on Volodarskogo Street in Yalta. And his charges, which obviously have nothing to lose at all, “master” millions in connection with the Crimea on a Russian vessel with the Bashkir name “Mustai Karim”, unsuitable for sea navigation and designed by Odessa residents.

Borys Babin