Several months ago prime minister Yanukovych invited journalists to his none too extravagant 150 sq.m. home to show what a modest, down-to-earth guy he really was.
Some recent fine investigative journalism in 'Obozrevatel' reveals that this had been a cheap and cynical PR deception. Just weeks after the visit by the journalists, the house to which they had been invited was bulldozed to the ground, and a far grander construction project started which includes an artificial lake, tennis courts, a sports complex three times bigger than the house, and a shooting range. In total the property, which could spread over 136 Ha near the banks of the Dnipro river would probably be the most valuable in Ukraine - estimated at about $272 million.
As a comparison, Ukraine's richest man, Rinat Akhmetov owns an estate comprising 35 Ha set in the former botanical gardens in Donetsk.
Yanuk's new 'pile' will allegedly also include a mini-zoo and greenhouses for growing bananas.
In recent years this state-owned 'gosdacha', called 'Mezhyhirya', in which Yanuk lived, changed its status several times. When Victor Fedorovych arrived in 2003 for the first time, administration of the estate passed to the Cabinet of Ministers.
After the orange revolution, Yanukovych moved out, and the dacha returned to the control of the State Affairs Administration. The head of the SAA, Igor Tarasyuk claimed at that time that Yanuk had almost claimed and privatized all 136 Ha around the gosdacha.
Then President Yushchenko signed the so-called Memorandum of Co-operation with the then oppositionist Yanukovych, and the new authority not only provided Yanuk with use the residence, but the president also passed an edict granting him state protection, even though, according to law, he did not have the required status to merit such protection - he was not occupying any high state post, and was not even a VR deputy. So Yanuk lived in the Mezhyhirya residence from that time.
A year ago the President allegedly issued an edict granting Yanuk lifelong use of the property, but 'Oboz' was unable to find documents to support this. What they did find however, was a KabMin document, signed by Yanuk himself, transferring the building and territory around it to the national state joint stock company 'Nadra Ukrainy' - who are responsible for geological prospecting and exploration investment projects over Ukrainian territory. They also found a document detailing all of the objects that were transferred. These included a sauna, a bird house, hot-houses, a covered pavilion for the orchard, a station for the biological purification of water, fences, road, water pipes and even septic tanks for processing sewerage. When a JSC 'Nadra' administrator was asked about all of this, he denied all knowledge of the transfer. The head of administration of JSC 'Nadra', Eduard Stavitsky is a PoR VR deputy candidate in September's elections.
Oboz suggests that 135 Ha of land around the property will be allocated to 'service' it, providing a simple scheme for its cost-free privatization. Rinat Akhmetov 'inherited' 9.6 Ha of the botanical garden in Donetsk in similar fashion. The government residence of former president Gorbachev set in the garden's grounds were first transformed into the 'Lux' hotel; and then the city executive committee decided to allocate 9,6 Ha of ground to the building.
A waterway from 'Mezhyhirya' to the Dniprovsk -Teterivsk hunting forest, which is located above the Dnipro, with deepened portions and moorages, is being constructed.
Yanukovych likes to go hunting wild boar with former President Leonid Kravchuk in the Dneprovsk -Teterivsk forest. After the death in a shooting accident of Yevhen Kushnaryov, few hunters are now permitted to hunt there, and about half the forest is fenced off.
Oboz reports that a road is being constructed through the forest. Pine trees are being felled, swamps drained, embankments constructed and asphalt laid. About 10 km. of this 'road to nowhere' has already been constructed. Work proceeds even on Sundays.
p.s. Did Yanuk keep his prison uniform after his spells behind bars many years ago? Does he ever try it out for size? Tymoshenko kept her prison crockery as a souvenir.
Update: BYuT are demanding a public explanation on the legality of the transfer of Yanuk's residence to National JSC 'Nadra' - maybe this affair will gain traction after all..