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Divide and embezzle: How ex-FSB and ex-Rostec employees left Moscow Region’s Podolsk without heating

The wave of central heating collapses that engulfed Russia in early January has left thousands of Russians freezing in their apartments and affected critical facilities such as hospitals. However, despite almost mirroring the ruin of Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, Russian heating pipes and boiler stations have not fallen prey to enemy drones or missiles: even the authorities have only named the anomalous temperatures and the resulting excessive load on the infrastructure as the main culprits. Frail equipment, embezzlement, and criminal negligence also played their part; investigations and arrests are underway. The Insider looked into the accident in Podolsk near Moscow, where the collapse of a boiler station at the Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant, a private defense enterprise with ties to security services, Rostec, and organized crime, had cut off heating in almost 200 apartment blocks, resulting in a city-level emergency.

Content
  • Criminal cases involving the ammunition plant

  • From a gangster CEO...

  • ...To FSB shareholders and their grandmas

RU

The city of Podolsk near Moscow has just survived a communal service collapse: according to TASS, residents of 173 apartment blocks in the Klimovsk District were left without central heating at the height of winter. Heating in residential buildings and critical facilities such as hospitals was cut off on January 4, when the night temperature dropped to –24°C (–11.2°F). The city administration declared an emergency, and Governor Andrei Vorobyov was forced to interrupt his vacation.

The collapse was caused by a burst heating main due to improper operation of the boiler station. The Investigative Committee has already begun criminal proceedings to look into the provision of services that do not meet safety requirements. As alleged perpetrators, the Investigative Committee has named the managers of the private company owning the boiler station, without specifying who they were.

As The Insider found out, the owners of the boiler station in Klimovsk, whom the official version currently places abroad, have a background in national security (the FSB). The collapse of the boiler station on the premises of the Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant left as many as 150,000 city residents without heat or water while temperatures dropped to –20°C (–4°F). Meanwhile, the plant and the boiler station itself had already been featured in at least four criminal cases of embezzlement. Putin ordered to seize the plant from its owners and hand it over to state-owned defense corporation Rostec, but the owners and managers of the plant already had connections to Rostec (as well as to the FSB and the Golyanovo gang), so the residents of Podolsk will likely continue to freeze.

Criminal cases involving the ammunition plant

The boiler station that supplies heat to tens of thousands of Podolsk residents belongs to the Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant (KSPZ). A high-profile military enterprise and one of the key executors of government defense contracts, the plant produces and supplies ammunition and Jager sniper rifles. Among its major clients are the Federal Security Service (FSB) and the Ministry of Defense. In 2023, the plant came under U.S. sanctions for supplying arms and ammunition to Russian forces in Ukraine.

Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant (ZAO KSPZ)
Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant (ZAO KSPZ)

Initially a state-owned enterprise, the plant went private in 2001. The names of its shareholders are not disclosed. The full name of the plant, the Andropov Klimovsk Specialized Ammunition Plant, commemorates Yuri Andropov – the former KGB chairman. It is therefore of little surprise that its owners simply had to have ties to state security.

Despite strict government oversight of all military enterprises, KSPZ executives have been implicated in the embezzlement of budget funds more than once. The Insider has unearthed at least four criminal cases: intentional bankruptcy in 2002, embezzlement by deception in 2010, and fraud and abuse of authority in 2011. The 2011 case was related to the ill-fated boiler station. Procuring natural gas for the boiler station, the plant's management withdrew the money to a company controlled by one of the top managers instead of paying Gazprom. Most recently, in 2023, the plant’s CEO was charged with forgery of documents.

Plant executives have been implicated in the embezzlement of budget funds more than once

In 2008, Elvira Nabiullina (the then Minister of Economic Development) ordered the transfer of a blocking stake in the enterprise from the Federal Agency for State Property Management to the State Corporation Rostec. However, it turned out there was nothing to transfer because the previous owners of the plant had retrieved a 25% stake from the federal agency in a lawsuit.

From a gangster CEO...

Although the composition of shareholders is concealed, one can deduce who controls the plant from the background of its public representatives: the CEOs. In 2023, the CEO post was offered to a certain Igor Kushnikov, who replaced Igor Rudyka, a former FSB special forces fighter and officer of the Federal Presidential Security Service. Agents.media calls him one of Vladimir Putin's guards.

As Radio Liberty pointed out, Igor Kushnikov is the full namesake of a most colorful figure of Russia's 1990s underworld: an FSB colonel who was also the head of the Golyanovo organized crime group, one of Moscow's most brutal gangs. The Insider learned that the head of the plant is indeed the very same Colonel Igor Kushnikov, former deputy head of the analytical department of the FSB in Moscow and Moscow region. In 2002, he was accused of murder and abuse of power in the interests of the Golyanovo gang and was partially found guilty but was released in the courtroom since the statute of limitations had expired.

The plant's CEO was accused of murder and abuse of power in the interests of the Golyanovo gang

It remains unclear who invited an FSB colonel with ties to organized crime to run a military plant. Most likely, one of the co-owners who also had a connection with the special services is involved.

...To FSB shareholders and their grandmas

As The Insider learned, Boris Gimbatov has been a KSPZ shareholder since 2002. In the 1990s, he served in the FSB alongside Colonel Kushnikov. In 2005, after his dismissal from the special services, Gimbatov became involved in a money extortion scandal in the Tarussa District of Kaluga Region. Former FSB colleagues detained Boris Gimbatov and his accomplice, a village head, charging them with extortion for the return of a car stolen in late 2004. Gimbatov got off with a suspended sentence.

After the scandal with the transfer of shares to Rostec, Gimbatov's name was no longer mentioned in connection with the KSPZ. In 2009, he changed his name to Krasnov and continued litigating with the plant up to 2014 to restore his shareholding rights. Even being on a federal wanted list since 2011 for fraud with the company's shares did nothing to deter him.

In reality, the Gimbatov family still has a hand in running the enterprise. Two other individuals with the same surname surfaced in the plant’s legal disputes: Mikhail Gimbatov, born in 1984, and Maria Gimbatova, born in 1932. Both used to share the official residence address with Boris Krasnov-Gimbatov. One of the court decisions mentions that Maria Gimbatova was recognized as incapacitated, with Mikhail Gimbatov, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of the plant in 2023, appointed as her guardian.

Another beneficiary of the plant is Maria Sakharova, whom businessman Vitaly Poletaev named as its main shareholder in 2023. One of the investors of the KSPZ, Poletaev chaired its board of directors until March 2022, when he entered into conflict with the management and began publicly criticizing the plant. The Insider has verified Poletaev's version.

While there’s nothing on Maria Sakharova in KSPZ corporate data, a 2014 federal lawsuit against the plant mentions the late Kupava Sakharova, born in 1927, as a shareholder. She was registered at the same address as Maria Chernykh, who changed her name to Sakharova in 2013.

Another court decision mentions that a certain “Sakharova, M. A.” joined the plant's board of directors in 2021. The Insider found out that Chernykh-Sakharova had also served in the FSB in the early 2000s. The case files in one of the lawsuits also mention Sakharova's son, Maxim Chernykh, his wife Irina Pivovarova, and his brother-in-law Igor Pivovarov among the recipients of KSPZ shares. As of 2022, Sakharova's son was also on the board of directors.

As The Insider established, Sakharova, Gimbatov, and Irina Pivovarova were previously listed as employees of the FSB's Test Center (TC). It is located in Podolsk, and its legal address matches the location of the Klimovsk Ammunition Plant. The Test Center forms part of the Central Research Institute of Precision Machine Building JSC (TsNITOCHMASH), controlled by State Corporation Rostec. It serves as a research institute laboratory, specializing in technical testing of weapons, explosives, and non-lethals before they are delivered to the troops.

The connection between the Klimovsk Ammunition Plant and TsNITOCHMASH is indicated by the fact that the research institute directors have been on the KSPZ board of directors at least since 2016: namely former FSB officer Dmitry Semizorov and Rostec executive Albert Bakov (filmmaker Nikita Mikhalkov's son-in-law), who has occupied high-ranking posts in multiple Rostec entities.

As it turns out, several KSPZ executives – Igor Rudykа, Igor Kushnikov, and Dmitry Semizorov – served in the FSB. Among the owners of the plant were Maria Sakharova and Boris Gimbatov (Krasnov), former employees of the FSB’s Test Center, which was most likely located on the premises of a Rostec-controlled high-security research institute. Therefore, the nationalization of the plant, which was recently announced by Vladimir Putin, and its transfer to Rostec may not fundamentally remedy the situation for the residents of Podolsk who are freezing in their homes. Rostec already controls the ammunition plant, albeit through nominal owners.

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