Ukrainian tycoons allegedly continue doing business in sanctioned Crimea

By Alexander Query. Published Dec. 17. Updated Dec. 17 at 7:09 pm

Ukrainian oligarch Rinat Akhmetov (R), former lawmakers, multimillionaires Andriy and Serhyi Klyuyev (C), tycoon Vasyl Khmelnytsky (L) allegedly continue to do business in sanctioned Crimea, that was annexed by Russia in 2014.Photo by Kostyantyn Chernichkin / kmu.gov.ua / Vasyl Chupryna / Igor Tyshenko

Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the economic sanctions that followed do not appear to have stopped some of Ukraine’s richest men from still doing business on the peninsula, a new investigation purports to show.

The richest Ukrainian, Rinat Akhmetov, the tycoon Vasyl Khmelnytsky and the multimillionaire brothers Serhiy and Andriy Klyuev are alleged to still be operating their businesses in Crimea, despite Ukrainian, U.S. and European Union sanctions.

These new details were reported on Dec. 17 by the U.S.-funded Russian-language media Current Time and the anti-corruption group Scanner Project.

Akhmetov’s Crimean resorts

In Crimea, before Russia annexed it in 2014, Akhmetov owned the DTEK Krymenergo energy company, the Kerch Switch Plant, and the company Kerch Metallurgical Complex, but Russian authorities seized these assets.

However, it seems that some other oligarch’s property still belongs to him, as Akhmetov still has stakes in a sanatorium, a resort and a summer camp for children located in Crimea.

This violates sanctions which since 2014 have forbidden companies to work in Crimea.

His resort marketed as a modern SPA center, Ai-Danil, for example, still works in Yalta.

Registered in both the Ukrainian and Russian registries, it continues to offer its services and regularly signs contracts with Russian state-owned companies like Russian oil pipeline giant Transneft. That firm has been under EU and U.S. sanctions since 2014.

A former manager of Akhmetov’s Ilyich Mariupol plant allegedly runs the sanatorium.

Another property still managed by Akhmetov, according to journalists, is the Novy Kucuk Koy residency. Akhmetov bought it through Cypriot company Starvista Crimea after Russia’s annexation in August 2014.

Crimea’s second largest summer camp for children, Bereg, also still belongs to Akhmetov. The director of the camp, talking to the Current Time journalists, confirmed this information.

In 2016, the camp signed five contracts with Russian’s Education Ministry of Crimea worth nearly 120 million rubbles, the equivalent of $1.8 million today.

Ironically, the Russian authorities shut down the camp in July 2019 due to violations of sanitary and hygiene regulations.

Akhmetov, however, denies any involvement in running these assets, with spokesperson of his holding SCM Natalya Yemchenko stressing that the businessman stopped taking part in their operations once Russians seized them right after the annexation of Crimea.

“It’s ridiculous,” Yemchenko wrote on Facebook on Dec. 17. She claimed that Crimea’s new Russian authorities fully took over the residency Novy Kucuk Koy and camp Bereg and that resort Ai-Danil, in fact, was never even owned by Akhmetov.

This statement contradicted by the deputy head of the camp, who told the Current Time that “the camp owner hasn’t been changed after the annexation of Crimea.” He also said that the institution has been running smoothly over the last five years.

Khmelnytsky’s Crimean real estate

Ukrainian tycoon Vasyl Khmelnytsky is pouring money into IT, solar power, and a range of small-sized businesses.

Some of his high-profile investments today include the innovation park focused on startups, Unit.City, and the solar power station builder UDP Renewables.

But while nicknaming himself an “investor in Ukraine’s future,” Khmelnytsky still owns real estate on the annexed peninsula. One of them is Zhigulina Roscha in Simferopol.

Khmelnytsky’s UPD Holding used to have stakes in the Cypriot holding Synestra, the founder and owner of construction firm SKG, responsible for building Zhigulina Roscha.

Building this real estate, Khmelnytsky poured money into Crimea and its Russian budgets, paying for communications and the construction of administrative and social buildings there.

In October 2018, the Simferopol administration appointed by Russia bought an apartment in Zhigulina Roscha for 2.4 million rubbles.

In a comment to the Current Time, Khmelnytsky didn’t deny he owned this complex after Crimea was annexed, but said he sold it to Russian businessmen Sergey Martynov and Roman Mitrofanov in 2018 and now doesn’t know its fate.

“I don’t know who now owns the complex. Last year, we sold our stake in the company that owned the complex,” Khmelnytsky said.

Another asset the tycoon has in Crimea is the shopping mall Meganom. Its construction was started before the annexation by companies associated with Khmelnytsky: UTG and Crimean Development Company, they registered the Meganom trademark.

The Current Time wrote that it has become clear that UPD Holdings Limited owned shares of the Crimean Development Company until December 2018.

Meanwhile, the European sanctions against Crimea prohibit European companies from acquiring new or expanding shares in existing companies on the annexed peninsula. Still, in January 2016, Khmelnytsky’s Crimean Development Company, increased its authorized capital by almost 100 times.

According to Khmelnytsky, in December 2018, his group sold its stake in the Meganom mall.

Klyuyevs’ shady solar business

Former Ukrainian lawmakers Serhiy and Andriy Klyuyev are current Crimean businessmen, according to the investigation.

The brothers own solar power plants in Crimea, which, in fact, were even selling electricity to mainland Ukraine in 2014–2017.

They started their Crimean solar power business with Active Solar, an Austrian-based firm, that built solar power plants on the peninsula. In 2016, Active Solar declared bankruptcy and Russian-based firm Power Services took over the plants in Crimea. But the Klyuyevs remained in charge.

Power Services has several daughter companies running power plants in Crimea, these firms are incorporated in the Netherlands, Austria and Cyprus – all of them are EU members, which means that their operations in Crimea violate the EU sanctions.

Besides, the Active Solar that ceased to exist still owes $1 billion to Ukrainian state-owned banks Ukreximbank and Oschadbank, which the Klyuyev’s company took for constructing power plants, including in Crimea, according to German media Deutsche Welle.

Both brothers are currently on a list of wanted fugitives in Ukraine. Current Time did not receive a response to requests for comment from them.

(C)KYIV POST 2019

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