Oleg Sheremetyev, the Moscow City Duma lawmaker and a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF,) became a figure in the criminal case under Part 3 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code that cites gross fraud committed by a person using the official position.
The Moscow City Duma elections held in the fall of 2019 changed the political landscape of the city. The Moscow City Duma has turned from a quiet and god-forsaken place into an arena of high dramas and violent clashes. Hot-eyed opposition deputies use every reason to oppose the city authorities at all levels and to deliver their own bombastic speeches on any significant occasion. Pickets and protest actions are followed by broad statements, scandals at sessions of the Moscow City Duma and again by pickets, legal proceedings, rallies, and trips to epicenters of social protest actions in other Russian regions. There was much commition in the political arena when an outright fraud suddenly jumped into the spotlight.
Deputy Oleg Sheremetyev’s case is indeed a system event. The Moscow City Duma deputies have no salaries, except for the chairpersons and senior members of committees, but large amounts of money are allocated for the assistants. This is a direct route to corruption. With the best will not justify opposition deputies, they need to earn money to live on somehow. That is why conversations of this kind were held more than once in relation to Sheremetyev’s other colleagues.
However, it is not the main thing. Everyone in today’s Russia has already realized that it is almost impossible to abide by law and to conduct any business or political activity. Seemingly, active laws were written for another purpose. So, the system works in the following way. Someone is allowed to earn money to live on, and someone is not. Fairly recently, Sheremetyev was just an ordinary activist and, perhaps, an honest person. Probably, the system was unaware of his existence. Let’s take a closer look at this very system.
So, following the elections to the Moscow City Duma in 2019, a large number of opposition candidates quite unexpectedly got to the city legislature. Given the methods of election campaigns, this was an unprecedented event. Some of these candidates conducted their campaigns, and some did not even do it and did not expect that they might win. The question of how and why it happened should be the subject of another article. Let’s focus on Moscow’s system of working with opposition deputies and politicians who are not deputies.
It was this system that created Deputy Sheremetyev. Chances are a check on how his opposition comrades live will lead to the same results. The Russian anti-corruption legislation, if applied in its entirety, is a very cruel thing for those who were unlucky enough to fall out with the system.
Let us take a look at the heroes of the invisible struggle and some facilitators, who since the beginning of preparations for the elections to the Moscow City Duma in 2019 worked very productively with the so-called key opinion leaders of the opposition in the city, conducted a selection of those who fit there and those who did not, and then worked with what eventually turned out to be both the Moscow City Duma and outside of it. It was they who “shaped up” the deputy Sheremetyev and it was they who led him to the disaster, which became a symbol of the collapse of the system of working with the opposition in Moscow because at present, the precedent poses risk for practically all opposition deputies in the Moscow City Duma.
Certainly, the authorities are highly unlikely to raise a mega-scandal amounting to the criminal prosecution of everybody. However, if the current system continues functioning, then some parts of it will be cut off in this way over and over again. And perhaps once all the facilitators will be in crosshairs.
And there is one more thing. Before making public the names, let’s talk about the system itself. Everyone observes protest actions in the U.S., Germany, Khabarovsk, and Belarus. These are fierce rallies without any social or political entities behind them. They are based on a couple of rather primitive mottos while there are no political or social programs at all. Apparently, protest actions symbolize the same populism that replaced a whole layer of real socio-political demands of the masses of people to leaders through systemic actions. Therefore, the purpose of a protest action is not to change the current state of affairs but to simply use people’s discontent for sorting out relations between the individual groups of elites.
Let's assume that the Moscow part of the conspiracy was uncovered by an opposing grouping of the elite and there was a plan was to settle accounts with it. Supposedly, this grouping launched an operation of restraint, especially since all the component elements of a crime were obvious. Therefore, any deputy who is just in opposition to key opinion leaders cannot feel at ease. For example, Sergei Tsukasov, who worked with A. Krasnov, the former head of Moscow’s Presnya district, who once declared the sovereignty of the district, and Ye. Balashov. Deputy Sheremetyev is said to have been a frequent visitor in the office of deputy mayor Peter Biryukov's, and, allegedly, it was Balashov who took him there.
Balashov runs a very important Moscow think-tank funded from the city budget. Therefore, a direct conclusion about the founders of the Moscow opposition network can be made.
From this moment, the system branches out across the vast expanses of Moscow's lawlessness and starts gaining popularity among various groups of dissatisfied Muscovites with the aid of populist methods, as the facilitators most obviously teach. We can see the communist sequence of programmatic actions on the part of a comrade who likes to flaunt in a pointed Red Army helmet. Now, the other part of the elite, the one that should have been done away with, has found this out. The fact is that an inspection initiated by Deputy Sheremetyev against his assistant suddenly hit himself. It was contrary to the facilitators' assurances that the sky was the limit for him and his entourage in Moscow. The situation showed the true state of affairs. Some gentlemen, or comrades like they call themselves, are actually given the role of cannon fodder in the upcoming and ongoing battle of the elites for the Russian, Belarusian, and world power transfer. There is the first victim in Moscow already, and the verdict on him will be voiced shortly.
To put this into perspective, there is the post that was published on Facebook. It is about the situation around the arrest and the future prison term for deputy Sheremetyev:
It is written by those who according to their personal data did not fit into the system built up by the Moscow “puppeteers.” This fact, of course, speaks in their favor in common sense.
“This is an important, long, and unpleasant post.
“I was eager to write this post long ago, when I first learned about the arrest of Deputy Oleg Sheremetyev, read dozens of speeches in his defense, as well as judgmental and dirty statements about his assistant Irina Kuznetsova. Probably, if there are no unanimous condemnation and no offensive comments under the posts of some deputies, I would have kept silent. But unfortunately, I saw that even many of my friends who did not even have a full understanding of the situation began to repost a text defending Sheremetyev and throwing mud at Irina. And they are good people whom I have the greatest respect for.
“I realized that if I continued keeping silence, it would mean to join these people. Alas, I know from my personal experience what it feels like to be bullied. I understand that with this post I have brought a storm of indignation and a wave of dissent upon myself. I understand that for many people opposition solidarity and the honor of the party ticket mean more than the truth and, of course, the reputation of a particular person. However, I hope that not for everyone, and that after reading my post many people, if not change their position, will at least think about it.
At present, the story of Oleg Sheremetyev, a member of the Moscow City Duma from the CPRF party, is widely known now. He sued Putin, therefore, he is a hero and a fighter. However, it looks like this only on paper. And in reality? The story of Irina Kuznetsova, the real hero, is not known to people outside the community of city protection activists and residents of the Veshnyaki district. Although, when we were working together on the project to protect the Kuskovo park and the Church of the Assumption in Veshnyaki, I repeatedly warned her against close cooperation with politicians and recommended that she promote herself more. Today, one is right who makes loud statements and remains in the spotlight. People support those whom they heard about. Sheremetyev was on the firing line. We, social activists, have to cooperate with politicians because they give us a platform and media coverage where they promote themselves using our subject of cultural heritage, environmental issues, education, etc. So, this is it.
“Where did Sheremetyev come from and how did he become a deputy? For several years in a row, architect Irina Kuznetsova and Gleb Vasiliyev, the USSR State Prize laureate and an academician of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics, who passed away a year ago, fought to preserve Kuskovo, the summer country house, and estate of the Sheremetev family. The estate needs no introductions as it is known all over the world. They fought against the construction of the North-East Expressway in Moscow which posed risk to Kuskovo’s existence.
Everything came into play – hundreds of letters to all the imaginable federal and Moscow City authorities, including dozens of appeals to the prosecutor's office, meetings, rallies, and collection of more than 1,500 signatures. In 2015, they came to me for getting support at Moscow’s branch of the All-Russia Association for the protection of historical and cultural monuments. We held hearings, invited reporters, addressed the Presidential Administration, established the Veshnyaki district’s branch of the Association for the protection of historical and cultural monuments, and worked closely together for several years. So, a lot of things were done. Kuznetsova and Vasiliyev succeeded in doing what couldn't be done. Things of this kind are barely accomplishable for politicians. They drew the attention of bedroom districts that had been completely apathetic and loyal to the authorities previously, united people on the ground of the environmental problem and the issue of nature protection and of history of the district’s gems that were close to every normal person.
“But they were not just promoting themselves. They only protected people's interests for free, leaving the palm of victory to politicians and already well-known public figures. At a certain point, they decided that Veshnyaki needed its own deputy, who would defend Kuskovo and the interests of the district’s residents from the Moscow City Duma. A man, Oleg Sheremetyev by name, walked around nearby, helped them from time to time as an activist and fulfilled Vasiliyev's instructions. When a candidacy for this post was discussed, many were on the list, but Oleg Sheremetyev was chosen. He is a strong-willed and assertive person from the people. And they began to promote him as a defender of the district and to openly share the fruits of our work with him. The entire mechanism of public activities for the defense of Kuskovo and Veshnyaki, began to work for the nomination of Sheremetyev.
So, Oleg Sheremetyev, a former construction site supervisor, unexpectedly became a deputy of the Moscow City Duma. He got a personal VIP office, an executive-class car with leather seats and a personal driver and all the numerous bonuses that Moscow deputies have rewarded themselves with for many long years. As in the Russian fairy-tales, simple-minded Ivanushka was lying on the stove, and then suddenly got half the kingdom. Yesterday one worked as a digger, but today he or she is a person the mayor and ministers have to report to. As the phrase has it, the world is yours. This might seriously hit a person, and not everyone can bear it, especially a person far from Moscow's political beau monde. Megalomania is not only a flimsy lady but also a very sudden one. In a nutshell, a person engaged in public policy, eventually shifted all the work connected with the district to assistants. The media are not interested in the routine. They want scandals. Kuskovo is a threadbare theme, too. Kuznetsova complained to me that the last message on Kuskovo, which she gave him, he just tore it up and threw it in the garbage can. Vasiliyev who had made Sheremetyev a politician, passed away. There were problems with burying him, a person who had forged his homeland's missile shield, and Sheremetyev did not do anything about arranging a burial site. Everything was done by Kuztesova and his relatives. Some help came from local municipal deputies and the Russian Orthodox Church. And where was Sheremetyev? He had no time for that. He is engaged in matière politique.
“However, there is one difficulty in the work of a deputy. They do not receive a salary if they are not committee heads. It is a very bad and wrong thing because it makes them look for money through back channels. A clever deputy acts carefully while a foolish one steals everything at his or her elbow. He or she hires his or her family members. Bravo! It is not forbidden. A deputy just lobbied someone’s interests, connected the person to some decision makers and got direct or indirect gratitude. Of course, it might be not good but are there any witnesses? And so on and so forth.
“Or there is another situation. Some deputy rewards his staff assistant who receives a declared salary, with munificent bonuses on a monthly basis. She is asked to cash them and give him back. The explanation is simple. Allegedly, there are a lot of non-staff assistants, and it might require hiring more experts, etc. However, he just puts the money in his pocket. As simple as that.
Months go by, and after a half of a year, the amount exceeds 2 mln rubles ($25,619.81.) The assistant finds out that according to the documents, she is a millionaire, and he is a poor man with an income below the minimum subsistence level. She asks the deputy to clarify the situation – and what happens? He tells her secretary to clear out. He fires her in no time also filing a report on her as if it was her who cheated. As a field mouse that stole grain in the barn without being accountable for it. Well, isn't he an idiot? He himself triggered the process of scrutinizing his activities. For a greater effect he begins to besmirch her, a public person, throughout the whole City Duma and the whole district. She asks her colleagues from the faction and party headquarters for help and urges them to bring this crazy deputy to his senses as he has set up himself and now is making mincemeat of himself. And she hears back: go your way, sweetheart. He is a deputy, and who are you?
“Please, tell me if a person has the right to protect his or her honest name and business and socio-political reputation. Does he or she have a right to apply for justice to representatives of the state authorities? The answers are obvious to any unbiased person.
“It's time to make a conclusion.
“I would like to address the deputies from the power-wielding party. You have had a majority in the State Duma for many years. Everything depends on you there. Don't be too happy. This story has hurt not only the CPRF but also all the deputies and the entire State Duma. Therefore, each of you personally. A deputy should receive a legal and official salary, well, at least 200,000 rubles ($2,561.98) a month. If there is a salary, there will be no temptation. After all, not everyone is a millionaire and can afford working without recompense. The duties of a deputy almost eliminate the possibility of any side job if he or she works at 100% output. And it is indecorous to do things like that. Millionaires can take an example from Donald Trump and work for 1 dollar or 1 ruble. The situation with Sheremetyev is caused by the absence of salaries for deputies. This is the major and most serious reason. By the way, municipal deputies should also receive decent salaries at the level of an average one in the Moscow region.
And I’d like to address the deputies from the CPRF party, too. You had every opportunity to prevent a criminal case, to resolve everything in a non-confrontational way, to bring Sheremetyev to his senses, and finally provide him with earnings. Didn't Kuztentsova come to you for help? Didn't you think it was only her personal issue? You didn't do anything. How short-sighted you are, and how dare you call yourselves politicians. The spot of the story around Sheremetyev might not only deprive you of a post in the State Duma but it has already blackened the image of the faction. An assistant is not a secretary. It is not an interchangeable part. It is not a glove that is easy to throw away and then to buy a new one if the former one is torn. Your assistants are the most trusted people. In fact, they are deputies who do half of the work for you, if not more. They do hard work interacting with people, preparing documents and collecting various materials. There are not so many deputies who give 100% percent doing their job such as Shuvalov and Mitrokhin. However, even they rely on their loyal assistants.
Finally, I would like to address my colleagues in the defense of Kuskovo, the inhabitants of Veshnyaki. For 5 years already I have known Kuznetsova as a disinterested person and a tireless and humble fighter. If Vasiliyev was the “head” of your struggle, then she was its “hands.” I am used to trusting my people and will never name “mine” someone whom I have doubts about. If Kuznetsova wanted to make a profit on this issue, she would have become a millionaire many years ago. The only thing to do was to register some fund to save Kuskovo. This estate is a brand of European importance. Then it would be necessary to appoint an impeccable and honored academician Vasiliyev its President, and donations from the cultural communities in Russia and Europe would have poured into the fund. If everyone who signed the appeal in defense of Kuskovo, contributed 100 rubles ($1.28,) she would buy an apartment on Tverskaya Street [one of Moscow's thoroughfares] and enjoy all the advantages of bourgeois life. And where is it? You can easily see that there is nothing of the kind. And finally, the most important thing. Do not give up your fight. Protect your neighborhood and trust each other.”
Vladimir Khutarev-Garnishevsky, Candidate of Historical Sciences and the chairman of All-Russia Association for the protection of historical and cultural monuments in 2013-2018, when the struggle for Kuskovo was held.