Protesters demand investigating Panama Paper-linked Odesa mayor

Odesa mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov has been accused of holding a Russian passport. Photo: social media

Odesa mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov has been accused of holding a Russian passport. Photo: social media 

2016/07/15 • News

In Ukraine, the movement for renewal of power didn’t stop with the Euromaidan revolution in 2014. In the southern city of Odesa, activists have been permanently protesting against their mayor Gennadiy Trukhanov for three months in a row. The protest, called “Anti-Trukhanov Maidan,” has as its goal the removal of “mafia” in the city’s administration – the chief of the mafia being Trukhanov himself.

International investigators consider Trukhanov to be a mafia ally possessing a Greek and Russian passport, Ukrainian corruption fighters accuse him of creating schemes for his personal enrichment. Despite this, the Odesa mayor has been governing the city for the third year in a row, being supported by the city’s voters and Kyiv authorities.

Participants of the Anti-Trukhanov Maidan have written an open letter to the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, and US Embassy in Ukraine and embassies of the EU countries іn Ukraine, in which they plead making Trukhanov liable for his crimes.

Trukhanov- a supporter of Yanukovych’s policies

In it, they accuse Trukhanov, one of the main figures of ex-President Yanukovych’s Party of Regions in Odesa in the past, who de-facto controlled the Odesa Council, of encouraging the brutal actions of Yanukovych during Euromaidan, which led to the deaths of hundreds of protesters. The Council did not express any official position on events in the country after Yanukovych’s flight to Russia in the spring and summer of 2014, when Russian-inspired separatism attempted to carve a “Novorossiya” out of Ukraine’s south-eastern regions.

Read more: Meet the people behind Novorossiya’s grassroots defeat

At that time, the activists write, Trukhanov “openly supported the Odesa separatists and the collaborators of the ‘Kulikovo pole’ movement and collaborated with the pro-Putin party ‘Rodyna’,” which fueled the tensions in the city and led to the tragic fire in the Odesa Trade Unions building on 2 May 2014, when as many as 48 people died.

The activists stress that, despite this, Trukhanov managed to become mayor in 2014 thanks to a dirty misinformation campaign: “backed by city resources of all kinds that were controlled by him and the obvious partisanship of the electoral commissions. Trukhanov again became mayor in 2015, using the administrative resources in the campaign even more.” They accuse him of voting falsifications in both cases.

Offshore links exposed in Panama Papers

“In 2016 Trukhanov’s name popped up in the Panama Papers, and new information about his direct involvement in international crime was obtained,”

write the activists. The international investigation revealed that Trukhanov registered five offshore companies located on the British Virgin Islands, which, in their turn, control some two dozen enterprises in Ukraine. Curiously, Trukhanov lists a Moscow suburb as his place of residence, which might suggest Russian citizenship. Only in 2015, the Odesa-based Rost Investment Group Ltd, associated with Trukhanov, received $9.6mn budget money to repair roads in Odesa and Kyiv, despite having two active criminal cases opened against a company it owns, Kyivshliakhbud, for stealing public funds.

After coming to power in Odesa, expenditures for road constructions have unproportionally soared, with Rost winning the majority of tenders. Oleksiy Chornyi, head of the local Anticorruption office, in an interview to NV.UA explained this by a network of Trukhanov’s accomplices in the Council. Chornyi also accuses Trukhanov of extorting money by bribes from small and medium businesses and fostering other creative ways of stealing money from the city budget.

Greek and Russian passports?

But corruption in the construction business isn’t Trukhanov’s only connection to the criminal world. The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project published a report on Ukrainian organized crime by Italian police, where they detail Trukhanov’s connection to well-known mobster Leonid Minin, who sold Ukraine’s abundant stashes of armaments to hotspots around the globe after the USSR’s collapse, and was charged with arms trafficking and illegal possession of diamonds by Italian authorities in 2001, according to a report by Amnesty International.

The abovementioned report by Italian police mentions that Trukhanov was in possession of a Greek passport by the name of Gennadios Ouzopoulous, something that Trukhanov denied in a comment to Slidstvo.info. It is rumored that Trukhanov also holds Russian citizenship. Accusations had come up already in 2014, when Ukrainian MP Volodymyr Ariev published records from Russia’s migration authorities showing that Trukhanov held a Russian passport. The documents showed that on 24 March 2011, Trukhanov obtained a replacement passport required at the age of 45 from the Sergiev Posad branch office (the same town as his address of convenience listed in the Panama Papers).

ДЕЛО О МЭРЕ: Внутренний отчет итальянской полиции говорит о Труханове-мафиози и содержит скан его греческого паспорта на имя Геннадиоса Озопулоса

Trukhanov’s Greek passport. Collage by nv.ua

Trukhanov denied having a Russian passport, which was suggested by the Panama Papers, calling it a provocation by political opponents, and published a letter dated April 14 from the Russian Consulate in Odesa stating that he “has not acquired Russian citizenship” and “is not a Russian citizen.”

Given the corroborating evidence, “the topic of Trukhanov’s reported Russian citizenship (which gives a citizen of the aggressor country access to Ukrainian state secrets) requires a separate, careful examination,” the activists implore. Having more than one passport is illegal by Ukrainian law.

Protest ignored by media and dispersed

The open protest against Trukhanov was ignored by many media outlets, the majority of regional outlets being under Trukhanov’s control, assert the activists.

“In April, citizens of Odesa came to an open protest against the mayor and organized a permanent non-stop Anti-Trukhanov Maidan. Which, unfortunately, is deliberately ignored by many media outlets. On April 26, the beating of the Maidan activists and the destruction of their property occurred. Several criminals were caught quickly, but the investigation is going slowly and essentially has been sabotaged. The press conference of the activists in Kyiv and their protest near the Presidential Administration on May 19 were hardly covered on TV. It is obvious that Trukhanov enjoys the undeserved support of some influential persons. Public opinion is being suppressed – at least 20 local TV channels in Odesa are under the control of Trukhanov and his allies, and are ignoring or falsifying the information.”

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The signatories of the letter appeal to the President and international embassies to investigate Trukhanov’s activities.

“Please contribute to an objective, international investigation of Trukhanov’s deeds and those of the criminals associated with him, which will eventually lead the case to legal consequences. Making Trukhanov liable for crimes is a necessary condition for improving the situation in Odesa. Ukraine should not be a lawless country run by thieves anymore. The Euromaidan was not in vain!”

Signatories: Vladislav Balinskyy (chemist, biologist, the member of the journalistic-experts’ “May 2 Group”), Stas Dombrovskiy (poet), Sergey Ermoshkin (civil activist, lawyer), Mikhail Golubev (chess grandmaster, journalist), Shorena Kiknadze (civic activist), Oleg Mykhaylyk (civic activist, company chief executive), Vitaliy von Nordheim (citizen of Odesa), Leonid Shtekel (editor-in-chief of Odesa Daily) Roman Vlasov (teacher, translator)

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