Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia · Ukraine

Viktor Yanukovych, there you are! Meduza tracks down the likely hiding place of Ukraine’s ousted former president


Meduza
12:57, 1 september 2017

Ivan Golunov / Meduza

On August 25, State Duma deputy and Russian crooner Joseph Kobzon said in an interview with the website Dni.ru that his neighbor in the town of Bakovka is none other than ousted Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Ivan Golunov, a special correspondent for Meduza, has discovered that Yanukovych is apparently living at a state-owned retreat that belongs to a division of the Russian Interior Ministry. The former Ukrainian leader’s neighbors include fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin, journalist Yulia Latynina, and the high priest of the Russian Orthodox Church himself, Patriarch Kirill.

Since fleeing to Russia, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has given just a handful of interviews. One memorable meeting occurred in December 2014 with the American filmmaker Oliver Stone. In a Facebook post, Stone said he spent four hours talking to Yanukovych about “Ukraine on Fire,” a 2016 documentary film executive produced by Stone. He also shared two photographs, one of which showed him standing with Yanukovych in a snow-covered park enclosed by a high brick wall.

Journalists started searching for Yanukovych’s whereabouts in Russia almost the instant he left Ukraine, in the spring of 2014. The former president says he moved to Rostov-on-Don, but former Moscow city official Oleg Mitvol claimedas early as February 2014 that “a group of Ukrainian citizens” had procured for Yanukovych a home outside Moscow in Barvikha for a cool $52 million. No evidence has ever emerged to support this information, however.

On August 25, 2017, Russian singer Joseph Kobzon suddenly disclosed that Yanukovych has been living outside Moscow in the town of Bakovka. “I basically share a wall — we like to joke that it’s the Great Wall of China — with former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. That’s where they put him up after the coup at Maidan. This residence in Bakovka is controlled by our [state] authorities. But who are you hiding from? After all, if they really want to get you, they’ll get you anywhere,” the crooner told Dni.ru.

After the interview, Ukrainian journalists descended on Bakovka, and soon concluded that Yanukovych lives at 21 Lesnaya Street. Reporters even filmed the residence using a drone, and tried ringing the bell at the compound’s front gate, but nobody opened up.

Meduza has learned that the Ukrainian media appears to have made a mistake: Yanukovych most likely lives at another nearby compound.

The “Rushichi” guesthouse

According to Russia’s Unified State Register of Real Estate, the 8,400-square-meter (two-acre) plot of land at 21B Lesnaya Street in Bakovka has belonged for the past 13 years to Irina Tintyakova, the wife of former Russian Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin. Tintyakova owned a plot of land this size in 2010, according to the last property declaration her husband filed, when he was still a state official. The neighboring site (21A Lesnaya Street) belongs to the family of Vage Yengibaryan, who headed Russia’s consulate in New York in the 2000s, becoming one of the youngest consuls in Russian history. In recent years, Yengibaryan has become a successful businessman, reportedly owning the VIP concierge service “Prime Concept.” Together with the son of Russian Interior Minister Alexander Kolokoltsev, Yengibaryan was also singled out in a Spanish police investigation into Russian organized crime.

The wall outside the “Rushichi” guesthouse, and further down the wall of Vage Yengibaryan’s home.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza
The residence owned by former Finance Minister Alexey Kudrin’s wife.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza

In fact, the “Great Wall of China” Kobzon mentioned — a massive brick wall — separates his property not from the homes owned by Tintyakova or Yengibaryan, but a plot of land occupying more than 4 hectares (almost 10 acres) at 11 Odintsovo, Park Alley. The land belongs to the Russian Interior Ministry’s “Rushichi” government retreat. The same agency owns a recreational compound in the Kaluga region and manages several Interior Ministry guest homes located in Zhukovka, Pushkino, Serebryanny Bor, and near the Ivankovsky highway in Moscow.

According to Russia’s Federal Agency for State Registration, the land in Bakovka is designated as a “guesthouse for foreign specialists.” The compound includes a three-story 2,076-square-meter (22,346-square-foot) brick building, as well as a two-story 768-square-meter (8,267-square-foot) detached structure. There’s also a 25-meter-long (82-foot-long) swimming pool, a sauna complex, and storage facilities.

The wall guarding Joseph Kobzon’s residence; further, the wall guarding the “Rushichi” guesthouse.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza
On the left: Kobzon’s wall. On the right: the wall of the Interior Ministry’s “Rushichi” guesthouse.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza

In the past, this land was home to Soviet war hero Marshal Semyon Budyunny’s summer home. Even back then, locals complained about the high wall, making the same Chinese comparison as Kobzon. “Budyunny’s household is fenced in with a wall as enormous as the Great Wall,” a local resident wrote in a complaint about the property to Nikita Khrushchev. People also complained to the Kremlin that Budyunny employed as many a seven servants. One of these laborers described the estate in the following terms: “A big two-story house on 21 hectares [52 acres] of land has been built. Along the wall, a brook has been ‘deployed,’ and further downhill there’s a pond that soldiers dug out by hand.”

After Budyunny’s death, the compound became state property. One of the last people to stay at the guesthouse was Moscow regional Governor Boris Gromov, who lived there until the summer of 2012.

Hi-ho there, neighbor Patriarch!

Officials later paved a separate road to the guesthouse: Park Allery, which bypasses town and leads straight to the road that connects to Minsk highway. According to locals, a motorcade of several jeeps leaves the compound everyday around 11 a.m. and returns a few hours later. A year ago, sources informed Meduza that it’s between these hours that Viktor Yanukovych is often spotted at the World Class fitness club in Zhukovka.

A sign pointing to Park Alley, installed after Viktor Yanukovych’s relocation to Russia.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza
The intersection of Park Alley and Budyonny highway, not far from the Interior Ministry’s guesthouse.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza

A source who visited the “Rushichi” guesthouse in the early 2010s confirmed to Meduza that the setting for Oliver Stone’s interview with Viktor Yanukovych strongly resembles the Interior Ministry’s compound in Bakovka. The same source says Stone’s interview with former Ukrainian Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko likely took place on the guesthouse’s summer terrace. In the video, you can make out the lawn and the compound’s separate two-story building and pool.

Since March 2014, the Interior Ministry has ordered more services for its guesthouse in Bakovka, particularly when it comes to trash and waste removal. In early 2014, a sewage truck came to the compound once a monthto take away “liquid sewage waste.” Since at least 2017, however, the Russian government has this truck come as often as once a week. Also in 2014, the guesthouse’s management started ordering cleaning service for its fireplaces and boiler room. Since the summer of 2015, the lawn has been mowed six times a year, and technicians were brought in to upgrade the swimming pool, two cold plunge pools, a jacuzzi, and small waterfall.

Also since March 2014, a private foundation called the “Rushichi Country Guesthouse” has become the owner of several assets in Crimea. The organization apparently belongs to the “Kristall” recreation camp in Alushta. In April 2017, Sevastopol’s governor put “Rushichi” in control of the Komarov recreation camp, situated in the town of Foros on the Black Sea coast.

The front gate of the Rushichi guesthouse in Bakovka.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza
Training facilities for the soccer team “Lokomotiv,” located near the Rushichi guesthouse.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza

A year ago in Bakovka, at an intersection with the road that leads to the Rushichi guesthouse, officials installed a traffic light and a small road sign pointing to Park Alley. The same road leads to a few other noteworthy homes, owned by people like fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin, journalist Yulia Latynina, Gazprom-Avtomatizatisya chief engineer Nikolai Bobrikov, and Konstantin Pogorelov, who owns several large car dealerships and previously led Russia’s strategic forces’ chief engineering board. Until recently, the home closest to the Rushichi guesthouse’s front entrance belonged to Vasili Tsereteli, the vice president of the Russian Academy of Arts. Currently, Mankhim Manakhimov, the former vice president of the Russian Jewish Congress for Community Ties to Mountain Jews, is building a large home near the Rushichi guesthouse. Manakhimov owns the dishware manufacturer Gipfel International, as well as significant commercial real estate in central Moscow.

About 150 meters (164 yards) from the Interior Ministry’s compound, you’ll find the recently constructed “Skit” complex — home to Patriarch Kirill, the high priest of the Russian Orthodox Church. Meduza’s correspondent found a well-trodden path between the guesthouse’s backgate and the entrance to Patriarch Kirill’s residence.

The Rushichi guesthouse’s entrance gates.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza
The path between the Rushichi guesthouse’s backgate and Patriarch Kirill’s nearby residence.
Ivan Golunov / Meduza

One of the neighborhood’s residents told Meduza that he encountered Viktor Yanukovych at a local park during the last New Year’s holidays. He was accompanied by several burly men. “The guesthouse staff said that Yanukovych is living at Budyunny’s dacha, but I’ve only seen him once,” the source told Meduza. “They keep quiet and don’t attract attention.”

The address in Rostov

Vitaly Serdyuk, the lawyer representing Viktor Yanukovych in the treason case against him in Ukraine, denies that the former president lives in Bakovka. “His correct residential address is 81 Eremenko Street in Rostov-on-Don. This address is confirmed, and [prosecutors] have received all the [necessary] documents,” Serdyuk says. In court, Yanukovych’s representatives have cited the same address, adding that he resides at “Building V.” But Ruslan Kravchenko, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor, argues that no one lives at this address, pointing out that courier services have been unable to deliver a summons to Yanukovych in Rostov-on-Don.

According to Russia’s Unified State Register of Taxpayers, the owner of the residence in Rostov-on-Don where Yanukovych supposedly lives belongs to a businessman named Sergey Goncharov. Until 2011, someone with the exact same name headed the construction department of the Russian Defense Ministry’s North Caucasian Military District (in 2012, the department declared bankruptcy). Goncharov currently owns the “Paloma” and “Zemlestroi” construction companies in Rostov-on-Don, both of which won government contracts to build facilities at the Krasnaya Polyana ski resort near Sochi. Zemlestroi refused to answer Meduza’s questions.

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