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POLITICS

Bolshevik Homeowner: A former Russian propaganda executive is still living freely in Spain

Until 2016, Alexander Ordzhonikidze was a key figure in Russian state propaganda. The great-grandson of a prominent Bolshevik and the son of a diplomat who advocated for the “destruction” of Ukraine, Ordzhonikidze led the National Media Group (and even worked alongside Alina Kabaeva, widely understood to be Vladimir Putin’s longtime romantic partner). Upon leaving the NMG, Ordzhonikidze took over a media business in Latvia from the Kovalchuk family (reputed to be Putin’s personal money managers), acquired Israeli citizenship, and purchased two luxurious villas in Spain.

Content
  • The media purge

  • Kovalchuk's nominee

The media purge

“He immediately told me to do as he said, promising to tolerate me if I complied. But eventually, he summoned the OMON [riot police] to prevent me from entering the studio. I was completely taken aback. Nowadays, you might think, 'So what, it's just the OMON,' but back then, it was a big deal,” recalls Olga Romanova, the former host of the news roundup on Ren-TV. Her removal from the airwaves was one of Alexander Ordzhonikidze's initial decisions as the channel's CEO in 2005.

Alexander Ordzhonikidze not only has an intriguing biography, but also a notable lineage. His great-grandfather, Sergo Ordzhonikidze, was a prominent Bolshevik and one of the top leaders of the Soviet state. He met Stalin in prison, where both were incarcerated on charges of banditry during the revolutionary years of the late Czarist period. When the former criminals seized power in the country, Sergo was responsible for establishing Soviet power in Georgia, occasionally resorting to force (with Lenin occasionally reprimanding him for his conduct). In 1937, his brother was arrested, and shortly thereafter Sergo either died of a heart attack or shot himself, depending on which of the varying accounts is to be believed. Sergo's grandson, Sergey Ordzhonikidze, graduated from the Suvorov Military School and then MGIMO, which is still Moscow’s chief diplomat training institution. Sergey went on to serve as Deputy Secretary-General of the UN and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia. Following the full-scale invasion, Sergey Ordzhonikidze called for the “destruction” of Ukraine as a “terrorist state.”

Following in his father's footsteps, Alexander Ordzhonikidze graduated from MGIMO, then worked as a manager in mining companies. In 2003, he became the CEO of NTV Plus, and in 2005, he took over Ren-TV — at the time, the last independent television channel critical of the government. Ordzhonikidze arrived shortly after a change in shareholders that saw the oligarch Alexei Mordashov become one of the owners of the media conglomerate. After the shakeup, political news faced increasing censorship.

A few years later, Mordashov consolidated his media holdings with those of Yuri Kovalchuk, giving rise to the National Media Group (NMG). Ordzhonikidze was chosen to lead the new conglomerate.

In addition to Ren-TV, NMG in its original form included Pyatyi Kanal (Fifth Channel) and the newspaper Izvestiya. Later, the group acquired a stake in Pervyi Kanal (First Channel), arguably the most influential network in the country. The absorption of these media outlets by NMG coincided with a political “purge” that effectively stripped its new assets of any remaining trace of editorial independence. Today, this media conglomerate, operating in the Kremlin's interests, encompasses dozens of projects.

From the very inception of NMG, Alina Kabaeva, the country's informal first lady, played a role in its activities. Initially serving as a member of the supervisory board, she later assumed the position of chairwoman of the board of directors after relinquishing her seat in the State Duma in 2014. As previously revealed by The Insider, she receives hundreds of millions of rubles annually from NMG.

According to an acquaintance of Ordzhonikidze interviewed by The Insider, the NMG head was once close friends with Kirill Kovalchuk. However, their relationship soured at some point due to a conflict between their wives.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

Ordzhonikidze and Kirill Kovalchuk in Jurmala, Latvia
Ordzhonikidze and Kirill Kovalchuk in Jurmala, Latvia

Kovalchuk's nominee

In 2016, Ordzhonikidze stepped down from his position as CEO of NMG and soon began acting as an advisor to Russia’s then Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky. However, as revealed by The Insider, he did not completely sever ties with the Kovalchuks, taking over ownership of Kirill Kovalchuk's business assets in Latvia after the latter was sanctioned by the U.S..

Kirill Kovalchuk faced sanctions from the U.S. at the end of 2016. Shortly thereafter, he relinquished his co-ownership of the company Dzirntaru 28, which owns an elite residential complex in Jūrmala, a coastal town not far from Riga that is popular among Russian nationals. Initially, Ordzhonikidze was a junior partner in the firm, but last year he became its sole shareholder.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

Park Residences
Park Residences

Initially listed as a Russian in Latvian documents, Ordzhonikidze is now registered as a citizen of Israel, with Spain indicated as his permanent residence.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

Dzintaru 28 registration data indicating Israel as Alexander Ordzhonikidze's citizenship and Spain as his current place of residence
Dzintaru 28 registration data indicating Israel as Alexander Ordzhonikidze's citizenship and Spain as his current place of residence

The Insider confirmed that Ordzhonikidze has indeed settled in Spain. In 2015, he and his wife Nata jointly purchased a villa near Barcelona, in San Andres de Llavaneras.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

This real estate is valued at €3.5 million. The house covers nearly 700 square meters, and the plot, which includes a pool, spans 2,100 square meters. The property is equipped with satellite television so that Ordzhonikidze can keep an eye on Russian news broadcasts.

In 2020, Ordzhonikidze purchased another Spanish villa, this time in Sotogrande, the famous resort town in San Roque. At €3.7 million, this property is even more expensive than the one in Barcelona.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

According to her Instagram page, Ordzhonikidze's 31-year-old daughter, Elizaveta, lives with her parents in Sotogrande. She has shared photos taken at the local golf course.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

Both the former CEO of NMG and his wife also appear at the golf club. Ordzhonikidze was photographed at an event there at the end of 2022.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

Ordzhonikidze (standing in the middle holding the phone) at an event at the local golf club in Sotogrande
Ordzhonikidze (standing in the middle holding the phone) at an event at the local golf club in Sotogrande

Ordzhonikidze's wife owns the Komondor veterinary clinic in the Gorki-2 settlement on Rublevka, a posh district west of Moscow that serves as the unofficial dacha district of the Russian elite. Previously the family lived in the nearby Nikolino settlement, where their mansion was recently put up for sale with an initial asking price of 1.5 billion roubles (approximately $16.25 million).

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

Olga Romanova describes Ordzhonikidze as “a reliable person you can trust with your wallet,” explaining why the Kovalchuks entrusted him with managing their business. Judging by his collection of European properties, it appears Ordzhonikidze has not forgotten about his own wallet either. And yet, European regulators seem to have forgotten about the former propaganda chief’s role in establishing a political dictatorship in Russia. Only Ukraine has included Ordzhonikidze in its sanction lists.

Alexei Mordashov

Owner of Severstal, Russia’s largest steel company. Mordashov sponsors United Russia (Russia’s ruling party), Vladimir Putin's ex-wife Lyudmila, and pro-Kremlin journalists in the West, such as Hubert Seipel.

Yuri Kovalchuk

Chairman and largest shareholder of Rossiya Bank. Close personal friend of Vladimir Putin. Reputed to be Putin’s “personal banker.”

NMG projects

The National Media Group’s ventures also include the TV channels 78, Domashniy, STS, and Che!, as well as the publications Delovoy Peterburg and Sport-Express.

Alina Kabaeva

Retired individual rhythmic gymnast, gold medalist at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. Mother of Vladimir Putin's illegitimate children.

Kirill Kovalchuk

Kirill Kovalchuk is the nephew of Yury Kovalchuk (“Putin’s personal banker”). He is the son of Kurchatov Institute President Mikhail Kovalchuk.

Vladimir Medinsky

Russia’s Minister of Culture (2012-2022). Currently an assistant to Vladimir Putin.

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