Defendant number nine Russia jails prominent businessman Mikhail Fedyaev in connection with deadly mine accident in Siberia
One of the richest people in Russia, prominent businessman Mikhail Fedyaev was once predicted to take over as head of Siberia’s Kemerovo region. But on Wednesday, December 15, he was jailed pending trial in connection with a methane blast that killed 51 people at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine in November. Investigators charged Fedyaev with abuse of authority entailing grave consequences, making him the ninth defendant in the criminal case initiated over the accident. Earlier, on December 2, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly chastised Fedyaev over the mine’s safety. The businessman’s arrest on Wednesday coincided with Investigative Committee Head Alexander Bastrykin paying a visit to the Listvyazhnaya mine and urging the investigation team to establish “the role of the mine’s owners in the tragedy.”
On Wednesday, December 15, a court in Kemerovo jailed prominent businessman Mikhail Fedyaev, the president of the holding company Siberian Business Union (SDS) and the chairman of the board of directors of SDS Ugol, the company that owns the Listvyazhnaya coal mine. Fedyaev’s arrest comes after 51 people were killed in a methane explosion at the Siberian mine on November 25. Investigators charged Fedyaev with abuse of authority entailing grave consequences (under Criminal Code Article 201, section 2). If convicted, he will face up to 10 years in prison. Fedyaev has pleaded not guilty and his lawyers intend to challenge the court’s decision to jail him pending trial. There are eight other defendants involved in the criminal case.
In addition to Mikhail Fedyaev, eight other defendants have been jailed pending trial in connection with the November 25 explosion:
- Andrey Molostov, director of the Listvyazhnaya coal mine;
- Sergey Makhrakov, the mine’s first deputy director;
- Sergey Gerasimenok, a site manager at the mine;
- Sergey Vinokurov and Vyacheslav Semykin, chief inspectors from Rostekhnadzor’s Siberian branch;
- Gennady Alekseev, the general director of SDS Ugol;
- Anton Yakutov, the company’s technical director;
- Anatoly Lobanov, LLC Mine Listvyazhnaya’s chief engineer.
Depending on their role, the defendants were charged with negligence and/or violation of industrial safety requirements for hazardous production facilities that has entailed through negligence the death of two or more persons.
Forbes ranked 59-year-old Fedyaev the 177th richest businessman in Russia in 2020. At the time, Forbes Russia estimated his net worth at $550 million — but he didn’t make the magazine’s top 200 in 2021. Fedyaev owns half of the SDS holding, which includes the company SDS Ugol and around 100 other enterprises and organizations, the bulk of which are located in the Kemerovo region (the rest are scattered across six other regions of Russia). SDS is Russia’s third largest producer and exporter of coal, according to the holding company’s website.
Fedyaev and his business partner Vladimir Gridin built the holding company back in the 1990s with the support of the Kemerovo region’s then-governor, Aman Tuleyev, writes Forbes. In 2017, Fedyaev himself was named among Tuleyev’s possible successors as head of the region. The businessman’s son, Pavel Fedyaev, is a State Duma lawmaker from the ruling United Russia party.
After the accident in November, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly lambasted Fedyaev over safety shortfalls at the mine. During a meeting concerning the state of the coal industry in the Kemerovo region on December 2, where the explosion at the Listvyazhnaya was the main topic of discussion, Putin asked Fedyaev whether the mine’s board of directors pays attention to safety “or only counts the money.” In response, the businessman assured that the holding company never scrimped on safety, blaming the accident on “human error.” Fedyaev also said he was “ready to bear any responsibility.”
Fedyaev’s arrest coincided with Investigative Committee Head Alexander Bastrykin paying a visit to the Listvyazhnaya mine. On Tuesday, December 14, the Investigative Committee chairman met with the relatives of the victims, and held a meeting with the investigation team, where he called for establishing “the role of the mine’s owners in the tragedy.” According to Siberian news site Taiga.Info, Fedyaev was interrogated that same evening and then released. However, law enforcement raided his home in the middle of the night on Wednesday, and arrested him after the search. “Fedyaev was detained in the night, [he’s] in a temporary detention center,” a source in law enforcement told the state news agency TASS on Wednesday.
This is the first major mining accident in Russia in the last 10 years that has resulted in the arrest of a mine’s ultimate owners, notes news site The Bell. Following the disaster at the Severnaya coal mine in the Komi Republic in 2016, criminal charges were brought against 14 people, including the mine’s managers, as well as specialists and inspectors from Rostekhnadzor. The case opened in connection with the 2010 Raspadskaya mine explosion was dropped last year because the statute of limitations for prosecution had expired. The November 25 disaster at the Listvyazhnaya coal mine was Russia’s deadliest mining accident in the last ten years, second only to the aforementioned tragedy at the Raspadskaya mine.
Translation by Eilish Hart