Just over a year ago I mentioned how Viktor Yanukovych was "Building himself a private Kingdom of Monaco - in Crimea", complete with a 900 metre length of private beach along one of the most beautiful and desirable parts of the Black Sea coastline.
This beachside mini-kingdom is based around a former recreational holiday centre called 'Mis Aiya' which had previously been owned by Ukraine's national highways agency - 'UkrAvtoDor'. It was privatised at a knock-down price in the summer of 2007, just after major constructional improvements had taken place.
The purchasers are tightly connected to the two opaque shell companies, 'Tantalit' and 'Vidrodzhennya Ukrainy', who ostensibly own Yanukovych's infamous 'Mizhhirya' palace on the banks of the Dnipro riiver near Kyiv, and shell companies that own a large hunting hunting lodge, adjacent forests and hunting grounds, also near Kyiv. No-one can be absolutely sure who the true offshore-registered owner of all of this real estate is..but most reasonable observers consider it to be 'Yanukovych.. and family.
In 2006 Viktor Yanukovych was appointed head of the government for a second time, and a PoR parliamentary deputy, Volodymyr Demishkan, was appointed head of the highways agency 'UkrAvtoDor'. Almost immediately a decision was made to commence privatisation of this most desireable chunk of Crimea real estate.
Several months later, in 2007, Demishkan's son, Serhiy, was arrested, allegedly on a charge of premeditated murder. [Gruesome details from a previous blog of mine here. and an up to date report from 'K.P' here]. The victim, who had 'crossed' Demishkan jr in business deal, had a heating radiator tied to his back and was thrown into a canal to drown.
Demishkan Jr confessed to the offence when in custody, but once Yanukovych became president, he was released on bail.
Just a month ago he was found guilty of kidnapping and murder...and then released on the grounds he may be seriously ill with a terminal illness. As a rule, Ukrainian courts seldom take such factors into account when passing sentence.
LB.com journalist, Tetyana Chornovil, who describes the Mis Aiya affair in a series of recent articles, provides one example: Judge Rodion Kyreyev, who sentenced Yulia Tymoshenko to seven years in prison last year, previously sent to prison a man suffering with hepatitis B and C, and who was HIV positive. The poor man was the only support for his elderly mother, invalid sister, and pregnant girlfriend. His crime? Stealing jewelry valued around $65.
Chornovil writes: "Was the compassion of the court shown to Serhiy Demishkan a coincidence? ...the court freed a killer whose father helped 'UkrAvtoDor' give up the highway agency's workers' holiday recreational centre...in the West such coincidences woud destroy the career of any highly-placed official.."
p.s. Just out: a new book entitled "The Man Without A Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin" by Masha Gessen
Read two reviews here and here
"Gessen speculates, the Russian prime minister suffers not so much from kleptomania as pleonexia, "the insatiable desire to have what rightfully belongs to others… He compensates for his compulsion by creating the identity of an honest and incorruptible civil servant."
Check out Putin's Black Sea palace here . Does Yanukovych suffer from the same affliction?