Today, without further ado, we will work our way through this piece by Alexander Rostovtsev for PolitNavigator. It contains Anatoly Shariy’s video expose of the “Potemkin Village” constructed by bureaucrats in the ancient city of Feodosia, Crimea. In order to, the implication being, pull the wool over the eyes of Russian Federal officials such as Housing Minister Mikhail Men, whose interesting biography we studied yesterday.
A Peek Behind the Curtain
Investigative blogger and community activist Alexander Talipov shot video proving that the new public housing complex, presented to families eligible to be moved out of run-down housing, were not yet ready for human habitation. What local officials showed to Mikhail Men and Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksenov, were just unfinished shells. A True Potemkin Village. One can only marvel at the sheer gall of the lazy and greedy bureaucrats who put together this media spectacle!
For starters, forty families had been promised new flats. Yet the one functioning entranceway (which was shown to the visiting dignitaries) only leads to 18 flats! Inside this one functioning area, the floors and stairs are covered in cracked tiles which the subcontractor had the gall to call “Byzantine mosaic design”. And pretending that the cracks and mismatches in color denote an “abstract art style”. One can see from the photos that it is just bits and pieces of cheap kitchen tile put together with no pattern.
Further, it gets better: The visiting dignitaries were at least shown this part of the complex where there are “mosaic” tiles and a paint touch-up. It looks somewhat okay. The electricity is on. (But no gas or heat yet.) The visitors were not shown the unfinished flats further inland, where there are gaping clearances between the stairway and the wall; and where neither paint nor tile exists. Nor were they told that no families have been able to move in yet, despite the big media circus and show of handing them prettily-painted keys.
In contravention of Russian code and regulations, there is no elevator in this 6-storey building. In the place where the technical equipment would normally be housed for the elevator shaft, the subcontractor created what he calls a penthouse apartment!
Well, beggars can’t be choosers, one might say.
Yes, but not all of these families are even beneficiaries of the Government Assistance Program (Федеральная целевая программа – ФЦП). a Federal program which helps Russian families to obtain affordable but (supposedly) quality housing. In fact, some of these families laid down their hard-earned cash a year ago, in order to to secure what was supposed to be a prized modern flat. And even the other families are not exactly welfare bums. And even welfare bums don’t deserve to be treated in such a manner. Not to mention the fact that Russia promised the citizens of Crimea a better life, after 25 years of Ukrainian neglect and decaying infrastructure.
The horrors continue as the tour goes on: Floors and stairways which are bare concrete; holes and gaps everywhere; naked electrical wires hanging from the ceiling. There is no heat and gas in the building, a fact which promises a brisk and bracing winter season for the new residents.
For purposes of comparison, the blogger took a look at nearby construction projects, also under the aegis of the ФЦП. There too the blogger found signs of the contractor’s parsimoniousness. The thrifty housing constructor had built the foundation layer of his new edifice using recycled slabs of cement salvaged from older abandoned buildings!
To his credit, Crimean Prime Minister Aksenov, once he had learned the real story behind the farce in which he had been forced to participate, responded with an angry outburst. He ordered the bunglers to fix the problems and threatened to pound them into dust with his own fists if they disobeyed him.
A Russian problem – a Russian solution!
Rostovtsev goes on to muse on the strangeness of it: Why would the ФЦП entrust these construction projects to this particular subcontractor? To be more specific, the subcontractor in question is the company owned by a man named Roman Lukichev. Whom one might call the Great Combinator, but whose actual nickname is “Crimea’s Misfortune”.
The baby-faced Lukichev has been in the construction business for a long time. Back in 2010, when Feodosia still belonged to the Ukraine, Lukichev built a 90-unit apartment building in the Feodosian suburb known as Blizhnie Kamyshy. (Which in Russian means “Nearby Reeds”, because it’s near the ocean and in a reedy area.) The Ukrainian Defense Ministry eagerly bought up half of the flats for their army troops. The soldiers were thrilled when they moved into flats with a view of the sea. Only to discover that even a room with a beautiful view is not nearly as nice as having indoor heat, water, and electricity. They probably didn’t mind so much that the doors had no handles. But not having a functioning toilet is a different order of inconvenient. Well, being soldiers they adapted somehow. Like extras in a grim war movie, they learned to haul their water up laboriously in buckets. They managed to dispose of their bodily wastes as best they could, using the “Nearby Reeds” as a community latrine.
Six years later, and Lukichev is still in business. Still cutting corners, still constructing shoddy housing for pennies on the dollar; and still somehow managing to pull the wool over the eyes of local officials, be they Ukrainian or Russian.