Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation has released an investigation into how Sergey Surovikin, Russia’s top commander in Ukraine, makes money from war. Previously, Surovikin was in charge of Russia’s military operation in Syria, where his brutality earned him the nicknames “General Armageddon” and “The Butcher of Aleppo.”
According to the investigators, Surovikin's wife owns the Argus SFK sawmill in the Sverdlovsk region. It is through this company that Surovikin receives money from Gennady Timchenko, who is one of the main beneficiaries of the Russian troops' presence in Syria.
According to the investigation, Timchenko, Putin's closest friend – his sponsor, who also paid for the construction of a palace in Gelendzhik and a dacha in Biarritz for Putin's daughter, among many other things – began to seize everything that could be used to make money in Syria. Timchenko got contracts to build a pumping station to irrigate farmland, built gas processing plants, pipelines, and other facilities.
In early 2017, Bashar al-Assad ratified a contract giving Stroytransgaz, a firm owned by Timchenko, the right to extract and export phosphates from two Syrian fields near Palmyra. According to Navalny's, the deal was made on the condition that Stroytransgaz's subsidiary, STG Logistics, would receive 70% of the profits, while the Syrian government would get 30%.
However, at the time the contract was signed, the mine areas were mostly captured by IS. The “liberation” of the territories began to be handled by Surovikin and Russian mercenaries. By June 2017, the mines were fully “liberated,” and Timchenko's company began restoration works and preparations for the extraction of raw materials.
In addition, the phosphates extracted from the deposits near Palmyra are then exported to Europe under the guise of non-Syrian cargo. All parts of the logistics chain, as Navalny's team notes, are extremely vulnerable. The conflict and clashes in Syria are ongoing, and every link in the chain requires a huge number of guards – a constant armed escort. Those functions are performed by the Syrian army, the Syrian PMCs, the Wagner PMC and the Russian army that controls the port.
In 2020-2021, over the course of six months, STG Logistics loaned Surovikin's wife’s sawmill a total of 104 million roubles (close to $1.7 million).
The wife of Stroytransgaz top manager Mikhail Khryapov also gave Argus SFK a loan of 25 million roubles (close to $412,000), which the authors of the investigation believe was payment for military operations in Syria, which Surovikin led.
On top of that, Surovikin's current driver from the General Staff's motor pool became the head of the wood processing company at the same address where Argus SFK is registered.
On November 3, Rosreestr, Russia’s state registration and cadastre agency, completely classified the property of the Surovikin family. Records had previously shown “Russian Federation” instead of Surovikin or his relatives as the title holder – as of today, there is no real estate registered to them at all.