North Russian region of Arkhangelsk spends hundreds of millions on aid to occupiers of Melitopol

By - April 24, 2024 The Independent Barents Observer
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On June 14, 2023, the Governor of the Arkhangelsk region, Alexander Tsybulsky, and the head of the occupation administration of Ukrainian Melitopol, Galina Danilchenko, signed a cooperation agreement. The region promised Melitopol to help restore infrastructure, promote the development of science, education, tourism, culture, sports, and other fields, the regional government said in a statement published on its social media page.

“Arkhangelsk is all dirty. You can’t put your own place in order! This is only window dressing,” a first critical comment from a reader of the news read. And the text did not even mention how much the help to the “sponsored” city would cost.

A few days later, on June 19, a non-profit organization “Directorate of Social and Infrastructure Projects” was founded in Arkhangelsk with Alexander Anufriev as its head. At that time Anufriev was in charge of the Department of Capital Construction of the Arkhangelsk regional government. The Directorate lists ‘provision of social services’ as its main activity. However, as the Barents Observer found out, it is through the Directorate that hundreds of millions of rubles are spent on aid to Melitopol – on new boiler houses, facades and service networks.

 

Alexander Anufriev in Melitopol. Photo: Melitopol-news.ru

 

Directorate’s operations are paid from region’s coffers. Regional government meeting reports from 2023 reveal that the organization was financed from the region’s reserve fund (example 1, example 2).

In 2024, the process became more streamlined – now there’s a corresponding expenditure item in the region’s budget. For example, a subsidy of 42.5 million rubles (€427,000) was allocated to support the organization’s activities. These allocations are made through the Ministry of Property of the region, but other departments also participate in financing the directorate.

For example, the Directorate is slated to receive 198 million rubles (€2 million) in 2024 and 201 million in 2025 through the Ministry of Construction. Add to that 60 million this year and 25 million next year through the Ministry of Culture. Subsidies of 18 and 75 million will be provided by the Ministry of Education. Finally, the Ministry of Labor, Employment and Social Development will give the organization two grants for social services for the population and organization of recreation for Melitopol children. The total for these allocations will be upwards of 30 million rubles.

All told, the organization should receive 342 million rubles for its work in 2024 and more than 300 million in 2025 from the regional budget.

However, it would be safe to assume that this is not the final figure. In April, a resolution was published on the portal of legal acts, granting the Directorate an additional 6 million rubles. This will be made possible by cutting funding for the construction and upgrade of skate parks and for payments to health workers for mentoring young specialists.

 

Renovation of the Center for social and psychological rehabilitation of children in Melitopol paid for by the Arkhangelsk region. Photo: Melitopol administration

 

Not a penny of this money is spent on the Arkhangelsk region. The Directorate works exclusively in Zaporozhye, says its head Alexander Anufriev.

“I also go on business trips every month to implement projects and exercise control. Accordingly, specialists from my entity will be sent there to identify objects for the coming years. We have close cooperation with the Ministry of Construction of the Zaporozhye region, with the administration of the city of Melitopol, with the head of the city, with the deputy head of the city. We are constantly in touch, we constantly coordinate our actions so that we do not have any problems during the implementation of our events,” he says in a video published in “Zaporozhye News Feed on VK.

The money from the budget of the Arkhangelsk region has made it possible to implement several projects in the occupied region of a foreign state. Governor Alexander Tsybulsky reported to Vladimir Putin last December that his subordinates had overhauled facilities of the healthcare and the fuel and energy sectors, launched three multifunctional centers with yet another one under renovation, restored social facilities, and organized summer holidays for children from Melitopol.

 

Opening of the renovated multifunctional centre in Melitopol. Screenshot of the video on the Melitopol administration social media page

 

The official page of the Melitopol administration speaks about this in more detail – three schools, two kindergartens, two cultural centers and a children’s intensive care unit in the hospital have been renovated at the expense of the Russian subsidized region.

In addition, in 2023, boilers and auxiliary equipment were replaced at two boiler houses and construction of a new gas boiler house was started in the city. According to Natalya Sorvanova, Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy Complex and Housing and Communal Services of the Arkhangelsk Region, plans for 2024 include major repairs of apartment buildings, including roofs and facades, and replacement of water supply networks.

Arkhangelsk funding has also helped vocational schools in Melitopol get access to electronic libraries, while the local children’s hospital received mobile complexes for transporting infants and young children, transport monitors, anesthesia machines, ventilators and ultrasound machines. 

All information about planned and implemented projects is published on the Melitopol administration official social media page or in Zaporozhye’s social media groups. The official information resources of the Arkhangelsk region don’t mention any of the large-scale work in a foreign region. Even the governor’s report on this topic to Putin was posted on the Melitopol administration’s public page; it cannot be found on Tsybulsky’s or regional government’s pages. This is striking as officials usually use any opportunity to demonstrate their closeness to the “top figure,” and even more so to brag about the work they have done.

Judging by official reports from officials of the Arkhangelsk region, cooperation with Melitopol comes down to collecting books for the library, organizing children’s recreation, helping to develop a concept for urban improvement and the participation of Ukrainian children in a patriotic forum. And Governor Tsybulsky bought New Year gifts for three children from Zaporozhye.

 

Alexander Anufriev handing a gift from the governor of the Arkhangelsk region to a child in Melitopol. Photo: Melitopol-news.ru

 

The regional government says very little about Directorate of Social and Infrastructure Projects. From the posts on the government page, you can only learn that the organization collects “humanitarian supplies”. 

In the same fashion, the regional authorities preferred to keep silent about allocating 800 million rubles on aid to the “sponsored” region. It can be assumed that this is the same money that is spent through the Directorate. In addition, as we said earlier, grants of more than 640 million rubles have already been allocated for 2024 and 2025. According to Sergei Dementey, Deputy Minister of Fuel and Energy Complex and Housing and Public Utilities of the Arkhangelsk Region, a cooperation plan with the occupied region covers the period to 2028. Obviously, the actual volume of allocations will be significantly higher.

It is easy to understand this lack of promotion for the non-profit which receives abundant funding from the regional budget. Residents of the Arkhangelsk region criticize officials for their lack of attention to the region even under “positive” social media posts. For example, this is a comment under the news that the region will spend 359 million rubles on the development of unmanned aerial systems:
 

    When will there be roads in the Zeleny-1 district in the city of Koryazhma? There have been no roads for 14 years! There is no water supply! There is no sewerage! Lighting is only partial! Plots for large families are in an open field with no infrastructure at all!”

– writes Koryazhma resident Sergei Shishov.

The man is referring to the area where land plots have been given to large families for the last 13 years; the government has still not built the utilities there even though it is obligated to do so by the law.

In the meantime, people write on the Ministry of Health page that they cannot get an ultrasound scan. “We’ve been waiting for 5 months. Surely it may be too late?!” — a resident of Arkhangelsk is indignant. It is not surprising that officials are in no hurry to tell how they purchase ultrasound machines for the Ukrainian city.

The Barents Observer has tried to contact the head of the Directorate. Alexander Anufriev read the journalist’s message on Telegram, but did not respond.

BO wrote earlier about how subsidized Russian regions spend hundreds of millions on the war and its aftermath. In addition to assistance to the “sponsored” republics, these costs also include payments to the mobilized and their families, and the purchase of housing for Ukrainian refugees. Earlier, Novaya Gazeta published an investigation into how money from the budget of the Komi Republic goes to the city of Rovenki in the occupied Luhansk region of Ukraine.