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CORRUPTION

Death metal: Russian Defense Ministry contractor close to Putin buys Maltese passport and French villa with money from weapons disposal

Alexey Zolotarev, whose scrap metal disposal company Translom enjoys an exclusive contract with the Russian Ministry of Defense, has been revealed to be a citizen of the European Union. Investigative reporting by The Insider’s Sergei Ezhov has uncovered that Zolotarev holds a Maltese passport — while his wife owns a luxury villa on the Côte d'Azur in France. In Russia, Zolotarev's connections to oligarchs Boris and Arkady Rotenberg, along with other figures close to President Putin, have reportedly facilitated his company's billion-ruble earnings from weapons disposal. And yet, Zolotarev has not been included on any sanctions list in the West.

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Alexey Zolotarev is one of Russia's most mysterious businessmen. Although he is the largest player in Russia’s scrap metal recycling market — his companies generate an annual turnover of around 200 billion rubles ($2.2 billion) — he is virtually unknown to the general public. Business outlets reporting on Zolotarev's commercial successes have not even published photos of him. The Insider has now been able to shed light on how this military contractor's corrupt connections helped him settle in the West.

The Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States.

As per UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the plant is a manufacturer of machine tools «which are widely used in the Russian defence sector and critical for the production of military equipment ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.»

For example, Valery Shalaev, CEO of the Zolotarev-owned RK Engineering LLC, used to head JSC Akron Holding, whose shareholder is Pavel Morozov, Boris Rotenberg's business partner in Tekhatomstroy.

Several years ago, Russian Federation Council Speaker Valentina Matvienko temporarily exchanged her luxurious Aurus state limousine — a vehicle also used by President Vladimir Putin — for a seat on a tram. The ride was part of a ceremony to inaugurate two new public transit routes in Taganrog, a city in southern Russia. Facial recognition software reveals that Zolotarev was there, sharing a carriage with her.

The Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States.

As per UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the plant is a manufacturer of machine tools «which are widely used in the Russian defence sector and critical for the production of military equipment ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.»

For example, Valery Shalaev, CEO of the Zolotarev-owned RK Engineering LLC, used to head JSC Akron Holding, whose shareholder is Pavel Morozov, Boris Rotenberg's business partner in Tekhatomstroy.

Alexey Zolotarev on a tram with Valentina Matvienko, the Speaker of Russia's Federation Council
Alexey Zolotarev on a tram with Valentina Matvienko, the Speaker of Russia's Federation Council

His presence should not have come as a surprise. The Taganrog city tram network is managed by Sinara-GTR, a private company co-owned by Zolotarev and Dmitry Pumpyansky, an oligarch who has been sanctioned by the UK and European Union.

One of Zolotarev's main assets is Transresurs, which specializes in supplying spare parts for railroad cars. Its clientele includes the state-owned Russian Railways and large private companies such as the Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK), owned by sanctioned oligarch Andrei Melnichenko. Transresurs provides repair services for SUEK's freight cars.

Another of Zolotarev's clients is the Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant, which is owned by the family of State Duma MP Valery Gartung (sanctioned by the UK, EU, Canada, and Australia). Transresurs also sources products from Uralvagonzavod, a company under sanctions and part of the Rostec State Corporation.

Zolotarev also owns Translom, Russia's largest scrap collector, which sources scrap metal — including obsolete military vehicles, armored personnel carriers, tanks, aircraft, weapons, and ammunition — from the country’s Ministry of Defense. Documents from the Arbitration Court reveal that the dealings between the Ministry of Defense and Translom LLC are governed by a decree from Vladimir Putin, dated August 2, 2019. This decree permits the Ministry of Defense to sell all scrap metals directly to Zolotarev's company, bypassing the tender process.

Zolotarev appears to have secured these favorable terms through connections within Putin's inner circle. Translom was cited by the business newspaper Kommersant as being linked to the interests of the Rotenberg family, prominent oligarchs close to Putin. The Insider has confirmed the links between Zolotarev and the Rotenbergs — the companies they own frequently feature common managers and co-founders.

Igor Levitin, Zolotarev's former business partner, has served as Putin's aide and advisor for the past 12 years. The Insider previously revealed Levitin as the owner of multiple luxury mansions worth more than 1 billion rubles ($11.16 million).

The Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States.

As per UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the plant is a manufacturer of machine tools «which are widely used in the Russian defence sector and critical for the production of military equipment ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.»

For example, Valery Shalaev, CEO of the Zolotarev-owned RK Engineering LLC, used to head JSC Akron Holding, whose shareholder is Pavel Morozov, Boris Rotenberg's business partner in Tekhatomstroy.

Igor Levitin and Vladimir Putin
Igor Levitin and Vladimir Putin

Interestingly, when Putin's decree effectively granted Translom a monopoly on military scrap disposal, Zolotarev had already acquired foreign citizenship. The Insider found that he — along with his wife and four children — were listed as recipients of Maltese passports in 2018.

The Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States.

As per UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the plant is a manufacturer of machine tools «which are widely used in the Russian defence sector and critical for the production of military equipment ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.»

For example, Valery Shalaev, CEO of the Zolotarev-owned RK Engineering LLC, used to head JSC Akron Holding, whose shareholder is Pavel Morozov, Boris Rotenberg's business partner in Tekhatomstroy.

Alexey Zolotarev and his wife Maria
Alexey Zolotarev and his wife Maria

As per The Insider’s findings, Maria Zolotareva, Zolotarev’s wife, owns a French firm called Olivula. Through this entity, she owns a villa in the commune of Grimaud on the Côte d'Azur on the French Riviera.

The Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States.

As per UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the plant is a manufacturer of machine tools «which are widely used in the Russian defence sector and critical for the production of military equipment ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.»

For example, Valery Shalaev, CEO of the Zolotarev-owned RK Engineering LLC, used to head JSC Akron Holding, whose shareholder is Pavel Morozov, Boris Rotenberg's business partner in Tekhatomstroy.

The Zolotarev's villa in Grimaud, France
The Zolotarev's villa in Grimaud, France

Olivula was once registered to Alexey Zolotarev himself, but in 2022, following Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, he transferred the shares in the company to his wife.

The Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States.

As per UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the plant is a manufacturer of machine tools «which are widely used in the Russian defence sector and critical for the production of military equipment ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.»

For example, Valery Shalaev, CEO of the Zolotarev-owned RK Engineering LLC, used to head JSC Akron Holding, whose shareholder is Pavel Morozov, Boris Rotenberg's business partner in Tekhatomstroy.

However, it seems that Zolotarev’s worries about falling afoul of sanctions were in vain. Despite his ties to Vladimir Putin's inner circle and his work on behalf of the Defense Ministry, Zolotarev has not yet faced any repercussions internationally, nor has he been included on any Western sanctions lists.

The Chelyabinsk Forge-and-Press Plant has been sanctioned by the United Kingdom and the United States.

As per UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron, the plant is a manufacturer of machine tools «which are widely used in the Russian defence sector and critical for the production of military equipment ranging from missiles and engines to tanks and fighter jets.»

For example, Valery Shalaev, CEO of the Zolotarev-owned RK Engineering LLC, used to head JSC Akron Holding, whose shareholder is Pavel Morozov, Boris Rotenberg's business partner in Tekhatomstroy.

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