Stavropol Territory Facing Radioactive Future

Stavropol Territory Facing Radioactive Future
Stavropol territory is under threat of radioactive contamination. The Khiminvest LLC nitrocellulose plant associated with the dollar millionaire Albert Avdolyan and notorious Igor Yuzefovich might become a time bomb. The town of Lermontov in the Stavropol territory will be the first to take a hit.

Lermontov is not a health resort although it is located in a spa zone. The Soviet nuclear shield’s radwaste repository in the vicinity of the town remains a problem, and now Mr Avdolyan decided to open another toxic production right on this Soviet-era holdover sprinkled with sand. That is, practically on the radioactive tailing dump.

Khiminvest requested three land parcels from the Lermontov administration which had to be carved out of the territory belonging to former Soviet LPO Almaz (JSC Hydrometallurgical Plant), Intermix-Met LLC and JSC YuEK. Avdolyan already has controlling stakes in all the three companies.

The plant sits on top-secret Soviet-era Mine No.1 which gave rise to Lermontov. Of course, it became a restricted access town. Soviet security chief Beria supervised the construction of the first mine.

Later on, Mine No. 2 was built on Mount Byk where uranium was mined until 1990 and subsoil waters were unsealed and merely dumped on the ground.

The exact amount of uranium extracted from the Beshtau and Byk mountains is still unknown. The mines were shut down in 1991 and the plant switched to the production of fertilizers and supplementary feeds from Kola apatite.

The land plots with cadastral numbers 26:32:010101:257, 26:32:010101:258 and 26:32:010101:274, requested by Avdolyanov’s Khiminvest, are located next to the tailing pond, a receptacle of waste from the production and enrichment of uranium used in Soviet missiles. It piled up pulps with solid and liquid phases for 36 years (from 1957 to 1993). According to experts, it contains 12 million cubic meters of radioactive waste.

The area was filled with waste rock, flooded with pit water and overgrown with shrubs and weeds. Alpha activity in the upper 25 cm layer of earth was from three to six kBq per kg on the average, and 18 kBq per kg at a depth of up to one meter. The measurements were taken by the Koltsovgeologiya government enterprise in 2000.

Almaz’s tailing dump is admittedly the most problematic facility of the former secret enterprise.

Avdolyan's executives told journalists that the area of these radioactive dumps was about 90 hectares. In actual fact, the tailing dumps sprawl on 162 hectares and comprise seven cells: 1, 1-A, 4,5, 5-A, 5-B and 6. The dam and the wastewater evaporation pond which is clearly visible even on the satellite map, are cells No. 4 and 6. Avdolyan has chosen to “forget” about the rest as if they never existed.

At the same time, the plant owners seem to have lost their mind, proudly claiming that they developed an original method to decontaminate the radioactive sludge collector. They maintain that uranium tailings have to be covered with phosphogypsum, a fertilizer production waste. However, the Rosprirodnadzor federal service for supervision of natural resources questioned the effectiveness of this method and decided to check the Stavropol creative inventors. Of course, it quickly found that they had been dumping waste on top of uranium tailings illegally, bringing more harm than good. The plant was immediately fined 57 million rubles for the stupid invention, amateurism and negative impact on the environment.

Incidentally, a couple of years ago, JSC Hydrometallurgical Plant tried to buy the plot with cadastral number 26:32:010101:63 (wastewater pond) from Lermontov’s administration. The authorities sold it for two million rubles. The Prosecutor's Office suddenly woke up and announced that a) the plot was radioactive and that these matters were handled by Rosatom, b) it was publicly owned unallocated land, not municipal property. Lermontov’s officials caught it in the neck, and the pond was eventually returned to the town. The contract with the plant was rescinded.

However, Avdolyan’s inventors found another use for the contaminated land. At the recent public hearings, Khiminvest deputy director general Alexander Chernoskutov’s speech was music to Lermontov residents’ ears. He claimed that the project to build a nitrocellulose plant was worth 6.3 billion rubles and would provide jobs for construction workers or the next decade. The plant would employ 160 people with an average monthly salary of 48,000 rubles. The regional budget would also benefit as the plant was expected to pay more than two billion rubles of profit tax, 2.7 billion rubles of value added tax and 73 million rubles of personal income tax. The authorities have already promised to invest all this money in welfare programs. Skeptics recommend Stavropol region governor Vladimir Vladimirov to immediately build a cancer hospital for 1,000 beds and be ready to suppress large protests which they said would surely erupt against this stupid idea promoted by the greedy business.

Avdolyan and his partner Sergey Adonyev own 34.9% of smartphone producer Yota Devices. They had connections to Sergey Chemezov and Rostech; the latter had kept a 25.1% stake in Yota Devices until its sale late last year.

Chemezov is chairman of the Board of the Avdolyan Foundation which is building a free school for orphans in Chemezov's native Irkutsk region.

Yeprem Vramovich Eksuzyan, the nominal founder of Khiminvest, has business interests with Avdolyan and businessman Igor Yuzefovich. Eksuzyan came into the limelight due to his involvement in several big scandals.

Back in 2013, the mass media went into hysterics over Deputy Communications and Mass Media Minister Denis Sverdlov (former CEO of Avdolyan’s Yota Group) having a second job as head of Skartel Red LLC which was a legal offence. Eksuzyan quickly took over the company in a possibly backdated reshuffle and successfully liquidated it in March 2015. This did not save Sverdlov from the dismissal as he also had accounts and real estate abroad. Scartel Red founder was Olga Polukhina who owned several audit and accounting firms.

Avdolyan is a co-founder of the Novy Dom Charity Foundation, whose Board is chaired by Sergey Chemezov. The Rostec head has repeatedly visited Novy Dom’s construction site in the Irkutsk region, where the educational complex Tochka Budushchego is due to open by September 1, 2020. In September, 2019, construction workers went on strike over wage arrears. Novy Dom claimed in a spate of press releases that the wage debt reports were a lie and that the general contractor had received all the money on time. The Irkutsk region is special for Chemezov. He was born there, went to a university and worked before he left for Dresden and got acquainted with Vladimir Putin.

Avdolyan’s large family (aka Avdalyans) runs business in St. Petersburg, Anapa and Irkutsk region.

Yuzefovich was repeatedly mentioned by the media in connection with the nitrocellulose story. It is this chemical, along with heavy metals, that contaminated the site of the former plant Polyex (formerly the Biysk Chemical Plant). Land reclamation expenses have to be paid for by the state. At the end of the 1990s, the enterprises were controlled by former Ukrainian citizens Vitaliy Salo, Oleg Rybalkin, Vladimyr Grinyuk, Oleg Levchenko and Mikhail Zhivilo. Polyex went bankrupt in 2007, and part of its lands and property came under the control of Igor Yuzefovich. However, he never tried to reclaim this poisoned land.

Salo, Avdolyan and Yuzefovich crossed paths at Expatel LLC, where the first was its director and Avdolyan and Yuzefovich were its founders. Furthermore, Salo and Eksuzyan were brought together by Expatel Consulting LLC. Salo was its founder and CEO in 2015, and it is still headed by Eksuzyan.

Expatel wins construction contracts at government procurement tenders; over the past year the company has only been outbid twice by the Russian president’s Administrative Affairs Department as it was awarded $1.5 million contracts for house repairs in Mexico City and Rome. Expatel wanted to bite off more than it could chew. In September however, the company got a 50 million ruble contract from the Tyumen Capital Construction Department to build a school in the Tobolsk region. In February, it had a 116 million ruble contract with Kometa Special Purpose Space Systems Corporation, JSC, and a year ago, it was awarded a 500,000 ruble contract to repair a migration center in Moscow. Previously, it had contracts with the Federal Penitentiary Service and the Interior Ministry.

Oddly, all large operating USSR-built plants associated with Yuzefovich, Avdolyan and Eksuzyan initiate bankruptcy proceeding with protracted court cases, withdrawal of assets, wage arrears and other dirty deeds. For example, the resounding case involving the large construction company Tyumenstalmost n.a. Tyumen Komsomol, which was previously part of Alexander Zabarsky's business, is not over yet.

The bankruptcy case was filed by Sberbank which had put pressure on the businessman for defaulting on loan repayment. The bank eventually passed Zabarskiy’s accounts to Yuzefovich’s Expatel. At the same time, clone firms were established in Tyumen. One of them bore the name of Tyumenstalmost and was headed by Yeprem Eksuzyan. In turn, a no less scandalous Razvitie Corporation had debts to Zabarsky companies. Zabarsky transferred his two-billion ruble debt claim rights to a Severo-Zapad Corporation, previously known as Expatel Severo-Zapad which was a part of Yuzefovich’s business.

Avdolyan came in possession of another business in the Stavropol territory in a surprisingly similar scheme. The Hydrometallurgical Plant belonging to Makhov and Chak had taken a large loan from Sberbank for an ambitious project to develop business with Kazakhstan but suddenly could not pay it back, although the company had been doing well. Due to debt problems, Makhov and Chak who owned the municipal thermal power plant, nearly left Lermontov freezing in the winter. The Lermontov mayor, former police officer Nuikin, lost his job because of the crisis. As in the case with Zabarsky's assets, Sberbank passed the debt to the investor who happened to be Avdolyan (of course, it was a coincidence). The local officials now call him the benefactor and savior of the town. As the cold season approaches, Lermontov now depends on Avdolyan, the thermal power plant owner. What a perfect timing to begin plant construction with the winter just around the corner.