…How to Steal a Resort, or grand corruption on Russia’s Black Sea coast
I’m glad that Navalny is not the only person fighting the all-penetrating Russian corruption. However, the more those dedicated people expose the scale of corruption that is going on in Russia, the more you despair (and I’m sure we don’t even know the beginning of it!).
I’m talking about Open Coast (Открытый Берег), a great whistleblower project dedicated to keeping Russia’s sea-line open to ordinary Russians, as it is supposed to be according to the law. In mid-January 2011, they posted an entry called “How to Steal a Resort” (Как украсть курорт), which exposes the scheme of unlawful transfer of many acres of Black Sea sea-line to private hands for unknown purposes. The only thing known about it for sure is that now there is a concrete fence blocking people from entering this kilometers-long strip of sea-line, and also making difficult and even dangerous for tourists to access and enjoy the beautiful nature of Black Sea shoreline, traditionally widely popular among campers from all over Russia – keep in mind that the Black Sea shoreline comprises pretty much all of Russia’s resort space in the are of warm climate. Needless to say, all of this is against the Russian Forest law, which clearly states that sea-line belongs to the people.
When Open Coast people managed to get into the territory behind the fence, they discovered that it became a huge construction site and that square kilometers of rare type of pine trees have been demolished to build this mysterious project:
Sadly, this is not the only construction going on on the Black Sea coast. There are several versions of what is happening there. One of them is that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin is building a lavish dacha for himself on the Black Sea shore, in the village of Praskoveevka. This version dates back to December 2010, when Russian businessman Sergey Kolesnikov published an open letter to President Medvedev on a website tellingly called Corruption Free Russia. In the letter, available in both Russian and English, Kolesnikov says that Putin is building a castle for himself on the Black Sea with the money obtained “mainly through a combination of corruption, bribery and theft”.
Another version, voiced by the Open Coast project, is that the sea-line is being taken over by several people: one of them is Vitaly Yurievich Semenov, general director of a large Moscow transportation company Ochakovo, and another – surprise! – is no other than Vladimir Mikhailovich Gundyaev, known to most people as Metropolitan Kirill of Smolensk and Kaliningrad, and since 2009 – Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, or, simply speaking, the spiritual leader of Russia. Impressive, huh? Apparently, Russian Orthodox Church, in an act of remarkable appreciation of mundane pleasures, requested a summer residence for Patriarch as early as the early 2000s, and the government approved the request, “coincidentally” giving away a parcel of land on the Black Sea sea-line with precious rare pine trees on it.
Brave Open Coast activists have already written to both Putin and Medvedev. The former ignored their letter, and the latter responded quickly, acknowledging the lawlessness of the matter but also implying that ultimately, nothing will be done. Honestly, I don’t have much hope for the favorable outcome of this issue (that is, favorable for ordinary Russians, not oligarchs). Still, let’s hope for the best against all odds. Maybe there will be a revolution and Putin’s gang will be overthrown.