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Kompromat Korner June 29, 2006
Kompromat Korner
The latest from Russia’s rumor mill… By Yasha Levine Browse author Email

Are multistory apartments out of fashion in Moscow?

Butovo Village

About a half-dozen rundown derevnya-style shacks are at the center of a much-televised land dispute heating up in the Moscow's southernmost neighborhood of Butovo. The area is slated for demolition to clear the way for an "affordable housing project" spearheaded by the office of Moscow Mayor Luzhkov.

In early June, Butovo residents living in what is probably the last remaining village within Moscow's city limits were served eviction notices and offered apartments as compensation for their property. But Butovo residents didn't think that two-bedroom apartments were a fitting compensation for what are essentially pre-revolutionary serf farms, complete with small tracts of arable land on which residents grow crops for personal consumption and sale. City officials didn't care and in mid-June called in the OMON to forcibly remove the last remaining residents.

Forced evictions are nothing new here. This happens all the time without even so much as a blip on the media radar. But this time something was different.

While Moscow Mayor Luzhkov was away in Tajikistan last week receiving some honorary title, the Butovo affair exploded into a national media frenzy. Camera crews descended on Butovo and the Russian media surprisingly sided with the local residents and, in a rare move, painted the tiny local resistance as a grass roots campaign similar to the Orange Revolution complete with tents, ribbons and massive local support.

United Russia Duma deputy and billionaire Aleksander Lebedev stepped into the fray by renting out three rooms in one of the houses slated for demolition "for use as a reception area for government duties," reported. According to Article 19 of the Russian Federation law, the living and working spaces of a Duma deputy are protected by diplomatic immunity and cannot be confiscated, nor tampered with. His move effectively checkmated Luzhkov's building project and seemingly tilted the battle in favor of Butovo's beleaguered residents. If Luzhkov dared to go ahead with demolition plans, the mayor would be openly breaking federal law.

"[Butovo residents] aren't going anywhere. Instead, they will buy small houses and build them on their land... If they don't have the money, the National Reserve Bank will give lend them money at 1% interest for 25 years," quoted Lebedev as saying on site at Butovo.

What's interesting is that Lebedev had the figures all worked out. But it makes sense. Lebdev is in the banking business and is the owner of the National Reserve Bank. He's also involved in federal projects which would allocate credit for small housing structures.

Forbes puts Lebedev's worth at around $1.6 billion and places him in the category of the wealthiest former-Soviet-intelligence-officer-turned-businessman. Now we know he's on the side of the little guys.

Of course, something about this smells. Why would sharks like Lebedev and the weight of the Russian state propaganda machine really pretend to care about a handful of poor evicted villagers? Could it be that Luzhkov's building project is stepping on some sort of federal building initiative? Or did the mayor just fall out of favor for other reasons?

Sergey Matvienko

St. Petersburg govern-er's son buys an Estonian island?

Sergey Matvienko, the 33-year-old son of St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvienko, bought a 10-hec-tar island situated on a river close to Tallinn along with two other Russian partners for an undisclosed sum.

According to Komsomolskaya Pravda, the island was bought as residential property and will be developed into an 8-house living community for the ultra-rich. That comes out to be just over three acres per household. Matvienko, as well as his two partners are going to be residents, but the other spaces are up for grabs.

Rumor has it that the American Consulate in Estonia attempted to buy this exact island some years ago with the intention of building a resort for its workers. But the island's Estonian neighbors were worried that the Americans would pollute the place with their high-energy lifestyle. They lodged a protest and the plan fell through.

Sergey Matvienko plans on having a helicopter shuttle connecting the island to St. Petersburg. According to Kommersant, Copterline, an Estonian transportation line, tried to open up Tallinn-St. Petersburg line some time ago, but the plan was shot down by St. Petersburg authorities. The route would pass too close to strategic objects, they said. But as Sergey's mom is the governor of St. Petersburg, he probably won't have that problem.

According to a friend, Matvienko has his sights on Estonian residency status. Now that this Baltic backwater is part of the EU, he could go anywhere in Europe without hitting a single border control.

Kadyrov graduates?

How does Prime Minister Ramzan Kadyrov celebrate the 3-month anniversary of his dominion over Chechnya? He goes take a final exam. No joke. Kadyrov recently walked out of Chechen branch of the Makhachkalinksy Institut Finansa with the Russian equivalent of a PhD in Economics after successfully defending his work in the field of the "most optimal relationship between main participants in a construction business." reported that he's been working on this thesis for the past two years.

The fact that Kadyrov never finished elementary school and in a recent interview couldn't recall what the theme of his dissertation didn't seem affect his performance. "He knew his material and proved that knowledge the members of commission," reported Alikber Allaxrovedrev, the institute's rector.

No shit? As the only warlord of a Chechnya and the commander of a 3,000-strong personal militia bearing his family name, I'm sure Ramzan insisted that he be not given preferential treatment.

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Yasha Levine is an editor at The eXile. You can contact him at

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The future of The eXile is in your hands! We're holding a fundraiser to save the paper, and your soul. Tune in to Gary Brecher's urgent request for reinforcements and donate as much as you can. If you don't, we'll be overrun and wiped off the face of the earth, forever.

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