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Russian federal agents detain former Khabarovsk Governor and Presidential Envoy Viktor Ishaev for stealing money from Rosneft

Meduza
Sergey Karpov / TASS

Federal agents have detained Viktor Ishaev, the former governor of Khabarovsk and the Kremlin’s former envoy to Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District. Russia’s Investigative Committee says Ishaev was detained on suspicion of stealing money from the oil company Rosneft. According to investigators, between 2014 and 2017, when Ishaev served as a vice president at Rosneft, a company he owns leased 280 square meters of office space to Rosneft at an inflated price. The case is being investigated as large-scale fraud. Federal investigators have asked a judge to place Ishaev under house arrest.

The case against Ishaev was built on evidence collected by Rosneft’s own security service, according to the news agency Interfax. On March 28, Rosneft announced that it is closing down its Far Eastern Representative Office, citing unspecified abuses discovered by the company’s own security service. Rosneft says the decision to liquidate its representative office in Khabarovsk was made late last year. A source told Interfax that Gennady Kondratov, the head of Rosneft’s Far Eastern Representative Office, has been detained in connection with the same case.

Journalists initially reported that Ishaev’s detention might be tied to a 10-billion-ruble ($153.4-million) fraud case in the lumber industry. Reporters speculated that Ishaev is connected to alleged criminal activity by former Khabarovsk Krai First Deputy Prime Minister Vasily Shikhalev and lumber industry tycoon Alexander Pudovkin, who were both arrested last week. According to the Attorney General’s Office, Shikhalev extended political patronage to Pudovkin between 2013 and 2018, showering him in federal subsidies worth more than a billion rubles ($15.3 million) and allowing more than 9 billion rubles ($138 million) in illegal lumbering. The case is being investigated as large-scale fraud and an abuse of authority.

For the second time in two weeks, FSB agents raided the Khabarovsk Krai’s government building, focusing their search on the office of Vladimir Khlapov, the government’s deputy head of security issues and cooperation with federal officials. According to RBC, Khlapov is one of Ishaev’s trusted confidants. The magazine’s source says Khlapov was detained, as well, but Khabarovsk regional officials denied this report. RBC also reports that federal agents detained Ishaev’s son, Dmitry. Other news outlets haven’t confirmed this rumor, but a source told TASS that federal officials also raided the offices of Ishaev’s family members.

Sergey Furgal, Khabarovsk’s current governor, says he “can’t wrap his head” around the news that Ishaev has been detained by federal agents. “For me, this isn’t just a news story. I don’t understand it at all, to be honest… I can’t even begin to imagine what, why, or how… I just can’t imagine it. I can’t wrap my head around it,” Governor Furgal told the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda. Sources close to the Putin administration told the newspaper Vedomosti that Ishaev supported Furgal’s election bid last year against incumbent and United Russia member Vyacheslav Shport. Several members of Ishaev’s old team later found roles in Furgal’s cabinet.

Viktor Ishaev was Khabarovsk’s first governor. Later in his career, he worked as a top executive at Rosneft. Ishaev took charge of the Khabarovsk regional government’s administration in 1991. In 1996, he was elected governor in the first round of voting and held the post for the next 13 years. After stepping down, he served as a presidential envoy to Russia’s Far Eastern Federal District, and as the Far East’s development minister. In 2013, Rosneft CEO Igor Sechin hired him as an adviser, tasking him with overseeing the company’s development projects in the Far East. Ishaev left Rosneft in 2018.

Olga Korelina

Translation by Kevin Rothrock