Putin’s best friend and Lukashenko’s wallet

Conflict between Russia and Ukraine

Thanks to being a mediator in these negotiations, Minsk has mend fences with western countries. Thus Belarus got its own financial profit, which, however, was flowing directly into the businessman’s hands.

Who and how cherry-picks the political decisions between Kiev, Moscow and Minsk? In our new article we present a joint investigation conducted with the help of the famous Ukranian programme “Schemes”.

Old partner of Kremlin

New political scandal and tension escalating between Moscow and Kiev. Ukraine authorities placed the main pro-Russian politician from Ukraine Viktor Medvedchuk under arrest. He was suspected of attempting to rob national resources in Crimea, passing the state secret information to Russian intel agents and anti-ukrainian organisations.

Putin comments on the events in the neighbor country at the Security Council meeting:

“These decisions are clearly political and have only one goal – to wipe out the forces that promote peaceful solutions to end the crisis in the south-east of Ukraine, Donbass and neighbourly relations with Russia. These issues must remain taken into account and we, keeping the threats in mind , would react accordingly”.

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and leader of Ukraine’s Opposition Platform – For Life political party Viktor Medvedchuk attend a meeting at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia October 6, 2020. Photo: SPUTNIK / Reuters / Forum

Arrested Viktor Medvedchuk is not only a political partner of the Kremlin but also a close friend of Putin. Vladimir Putin and Medvedev’s wife are Medvedchuk’s daughter godparents. In 2009 Putin wrote a wonderful composition dedicated to Medvedchuk (the essay was published in “Glavred” magazine). Later the President said that he met Medvedchuk when the latter worked as the President’s chief of staff between 2000 and 2005 (at that time Leonid Kuchma was the second President of independent Ukraine). Medvedchuk’s main partner used to be Dmitry Medvedev as he was the President’s chief of staff in Russia respectively. “They still get along well” – pointed out Vladimir Putin in 2017.

This year Medvedchuk entered “Forbes” list of the wealthiest people in Ukraine. Ukrainian media report that he invested his assets into growing the political importance of his pro-russian party “Opposition platform for life”. As a rule, these assets were registered to his wife, TV-host Oxana Marchenko, and his partners. The field of his business interest is rather big: from media and properties to metallurgy and fuel and energy complex. For instance, in Russia he owns an oil-processing business. According to “Forbes”, his assets are worth $620 mln.

Our joint investigation with the Ukrainian programme “Schemes” found out that Medvedchuk had a helping hand in Belarus too. Media repeatedly reported about his alleged business relationship with businessman Nikolay Vorobey.

Nikolay Vorobey. Photo: TUT.BY

However, our team managed to figure out that these relations are much deeper and have a protection racket that is much more authoritative than we assumed. Firstly, our Ukrainian colleagues from the programme asked us to assist in gathering the information about the Belarusian businessman. During our correspondence we came to a decision to write material together.

Banded by one pipeline

It was the year 2019 amidst the elections in Ukraine. Presidential and parliamentary campaigns rolled out while Medvedchuk was having meetings with Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow, and with Vladimir Putin and Alexander Lukashenko in Sochi.

On top of this, he even met Lukashenko twice in Minsk.

Official reason to visit Minsk was to attend a meeting upon settling the conflict in Donbass. But Ukrainian Ambassador Igor Kizim didn’t happen to see him there.

“It astounds me too and makes me wonder because he is the participant of the Trilateral contact group. I’ve not seen him for a one and a half since I moved to Minsk. Of course, he might meet with the participants. But in my humble opinion, he has no right to be called the participant of the group.”, – says Igor Kizim in his interview to TUT.BY.

Ukrainian Ambassador thinks that Medvedchuk might have discussed business issues with Lukashenko. Indeed, in spring 2019 right after the meeting mentioned above, Nikolay Vorobey bought a part of the pipeline “Samara Westbound”, which pumps oil from Russia through Belarus to Ukraine and to the EU.

The director of Consulting Group “A-95” Sergey Kuyun comments: “Ukrainian politics and business associations understand that Nikolay Vorobey couldn’t have made such a decision unless it was authorised from above. Projects that are closely tied with politics and the interests of the Russian Federation can’t be an individual decision”.

After the Soviet Union collapse the pipeline belonged to Russian “TransOil”. Three years before it was purchased by Vorobey, it belonged to the little-known Swiss company “International Trading Partners AG”. Anatoly Shefer was its beneficiary.

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Ukrainian specialists believe that this unknown Anatoly was simply a nominal owner.

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“I have never met anyone who knows him. Even among businessmen he is a dark horse. But people say that the purchase and its active work in 2016 are tightly connected with pro-russian politician Viktor Medvedchuk. He is doing his utmost to deny his involvement in this project, but according to the media, he has some sort of involvement. In general, we realise that amidst the blood bathing war in Ukraine it’s really tough to start a project like that one”, – says Sergey Kuyun.

Sanctions-busting oil schemes

Once the pipeline was bought, Nikolay Vorobey told TUT.BY that he was going to supply belarusian oil products to Ukraine. But in reality, the pipeline was used to pump diesel fuel from Russia to the “Wexler Group”, which is somehow connected with Medvedchuk.

Nikolay Vorobey took his part in this supply. During the previous year his Minsk company “BelKazTrans” imported diesel oil to Ukraine mainly of Russian origin.

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The manufacturer turned out to be Russian company “Bashneft” that has been under Ukrainian sanctions since 2016.

The recipients were the companies related to Medvedchuk: “AnviTrade” and “Glusco Ukraina”. In other words, Vorobey acted as a mediator so that they could supply sanctioned oil to the leader of pro-russian political wing in Ukraine.

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Alexander Sirenko, the chief-editor of Ukrainian publishing “NaftoRynok”: “Unfortunately, sanctions haven’t been proven to work well that’s why sanctioned products appear on the Ukrainian market”.

Another cunning scheme was executed through Estonia. Oxana Marchenko had an oil processing plant in Novoshakhtinsk, Rostov region. As we managed to find out, oil products from this plant went to Ukraine through estonian company “NT Marine”, road oil in particular. Another estonian enterprise “NT Bunkering” was importing light distillates from a factory in Novoshakhtinsk to Europe from 2018 to 2020. At the beginning of this year Ukraine imposed sanctions on this plant for their fuel supplies to Donetsk and Luhansk separatists.

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Alexander Sidorenko has his point on it:

“Working with DNR and LNR is a crime. You would be called on that. Sanctions, bans, and attrition are the appropriate measures. If somebody is bigheaded, then the evidence base and court actions will be brought into force.”

Estonian companies, with the help of which oil products from Novoshakhtinsk went to Ukraine and Europe, comply with a businessman Alexey Chulets, who turns out to be Vorobey’s partner.

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Both of their assets in Moscow are being controlled by Alexey Lysenkov. He is the director of “BelKazTrans” in Moscow, owned by Vorobey and at the same time – a firm “Yularius’ ‘, which is under Chulets’s control. Along with that, he is a shareholder of both of these two companies.

The full text of the investigation is available in pdf, mobi, epub formats.


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