Alyaksandar Lukashenka has a tendency to criticise private developers for obtaining super profits. However, according to the Belarusian Investigative Centre, there were plenty of precedents when Lukashenka himself was handing out pieces of land in Minsk to his favourites and exempted them from paying a fee. As a result, the budget is at a loss of millions of dollars, while the money remains in companies, which belong to Lukashenka’s hockey team members.
It’s become common in Belarus to build sports facilities in return for land. As a rule, the so-called social burden lies down on those investors, who receive land from the president or implement large projects. Thus, Yury’s Chizh company “Triple” had to build a new sports ice complex near the Students Village to get the right for construction of “Dom u Troitskogo”, whereas Pavel’s Topuzidis company “Tabak-Invest” funded the construction of an ice arena in the outskirts of Minsk to get the right to build the shopping centre “Zamok”.
At the end of 2021 the company “Skistroyinvest” began the construction of a ski arena next to the amusement park “Dreamland” and the new Supreme Court building. Along with that the company received land for building multifamily residential buildings totaling 115.000 sq.m. on Vaupshasova, Zaharova and Zheleznodorozhnaya streets. Authorities remark that the financial burden lies down on private business and has nothing to do with the state budget. But is it really true?
At first sight it seems that the deal might bring profit to the state budget. “Skistroyinvest” invested $13 mln in the ski arena. In case the final construction cost happens to be lower, the difference will be shared between the Minsk budget and the National Olympic Committee.
The rent of three pieces of land in Minsk, which were allocated without conducting an auction, for the construction of residential buildings costs $2.5 mln. The state would help the developer to save the same amount of money by allowing him not to meet the car park quota. Considering this and other benefits, the overall volume of preferences for an investor in 2018 was estimated at $5mln.
According to the calculations of investigators and experts, cadastral and market value of these three pieces of land amounts to $15mln. In other words, “Skistroyinvest” will be able to cover the expenses at the cost of just one free piece of land.
However, free land is not the only benefit. “Skistroyinvest” was founded in 2018 by shareholders of “Zaslavlstroyinvest” and “Sovavto Invest”, which by that time had been implementing the projects on construction of real-estate in Belarus for 10 years. As a rule, these developers constructed high-rise panel buildings with the help of state developer “MAPID” and positioned themselves as provider of affordable housing in Minsk. Their prognosis in 2018 was that the prime cost of 1 sq. m., taking into account the engineering and transport infrastructure and site cleaning on Vaupshosova, Zaharova and Zheleznodorozhnaya streets, would account for $770 instead of estimated $22mln. According to the reports of the Minsk Executive Committee, given the preferences, the estimated income of “Skistroyinvest” would reach $26.4 mln in case of selling the housing for $1000 per sq.m.
At the moment the price for 1 sq.m. amounts to $1100. As of 20 March 2022 the average price for 1 sq.m in Minsk accounts for $1258. However, during previous constructions of the developer the prices were growing closer to the start of the construction. The final cost could exceed the initial price by up to $200 per sq.m.
As can be seen, the housing cost doesn’t seem so affordable considering the given preferences. Yet, the budget lost a considerable amount of money.According to the State programme “Stroitelstvo zhilia” 2021-2025, the money from the budget, which flows there including sales and land rent, must be allocated to fund construction of cheap housing for the citizens.
In addition to the fact that the budget has already lost millions on selling land, the Belarusians will soon bear the burden of maintaining another sports arena with their taxes.
Former official, now the manager of Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, Anatoly Kotau:
– Basically, the Belarusians themselves sponsor construction of the facilities, which they, allegedly, get as a gift. At the moment there are 44 indoor ice rinks in Belarus. They are very expensive to maintain. And they don’t pay off.
It is believed that ex hockey player of Belarus national team Siarhei Shitkovsky should take all the credit for success of “Zaslavlstoyinvest” and “Skistroyinvest”. He owns 30%
and 15% in both respectively.
He retired more than 20 years ago, after that he joined Lukashenka’s team, which used to fly to Emirates quite often. In 2014 Lukashenka awarded him the Order of Merit after another win. Soon after that Shitkovsky took off in his business.
Anyway, Siarhei Shitkovsky wasn’t the first to succeed in land issues owing to his contribution to Lukashenka’s favourite game.
Thus, in 2017 Mikhail Grabovsky, godfather of Shitkovsky’s youngest son Elisei, seized access to the lake Ptich and a piece of roadway and also built a 7 metres wall to separate from the neighbours. The officials found him guilty and decided to bring administrative charges against him and ordered to to knock down the wall. But Alyaksandar Lukashenka himself stepped in and issued Mikhail Grabovsky the territory the latter had seized.
Pavel Belyi also made his way to business through the Lukashenka’s team’s locker room. Despite being barely successful in hockey and his back injury, he frequently played in Lukashenka’s team and even was Lukashenka’s partner and the best goalscorer. Soon his and his father’s company “Tapas” became one of the major developers in Minsk. They have built synch residential complexes as “Park-City”, “Braslavsky”, “Aquamarin” “Megapolis”, “Monterey” and business centres “Futuris” and “Ayaks”. The construction of “Olympic-Park” was followed by an incident. In 2018 Lukashenka issued a decree exempting Belyi’s company from land fees, changed the borders of the preserve “Lebyazhiy” and allowed the building of a restaurant at the sanctuary sites. According to preliminary estimates, such a favour caused a loss of approximately tens of millions of dollars for the budget. Despite public outrage and fines, “Tapas” didn’t stop the construction. The restaurant opening had the honour to host Lukashenka himself as well as many Belarusian celebrities and famous sportsmen. Now the management of “Lebyazhiy Park” is in charge of the restaurant; the founder of the management is the National Olympic Committee chaired by Lukashenka’s eldest son Viktar. Lukashenka’s personal doctor Svetlana Kanashenka
is one of the business partners of the Belyi family.
Lukashenka’steam head coach Dmitry Baskau is also occupied in the construction business. He has shares in a couple of companies that build residential and commercial real-estate. In particular, he has partnered with Mikalay Ermashou, who owns “Stroymonolit”, “SU-3 Belstroy” and “Zelenaya gavan”.