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A deep dive into Kherson’s occupation ‘government’

Ex-official of the Federal Security Service and an infamous People’s Deputy of Ukraine’s Rada — we investigate the members of the new “government”

Nastya Gordiuk , exclusively for Novaya Gazeta. Europe
Nastya Gordiuk , exclusively for Novaya Gazeta. Europe

Photo: Celestino Arce / NurPhoto via Getty Images

On 4 July, the occupation “authorities” of the Kherson region announced the formation of the new regional “government”. According to Vladimir Saldo, the man who calls himself the “head” of the Kherson “military-civilian administration”, the “government” includes both Russian officials and the Kherson region residents. “The integration of the Kherson region into the governmental environment of Russia and the Russian government paradigm is ongoing,” reported Saldo.

Out of the four new officials, only one is a region native. The other three are Russians. Novaya Gazeta. Europe investigates who is who in the self-proclaimed government.

A 51-year-old Russian native Sergey Eliseev, first Deputy Governor of the Kaliningrad region, was appointed “head of the government”

Sergey Eliseev. Photo: 39rus.org

Eliseev was born in Stavropol on 5 May 1971. In 1993, he graduated from Kalmyk State University, and later, in 1998, from the Academy of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation. From 1993 to 2005, he served in the Federal Security Service.

Eliseev was appointed first deputy governor of the Kaliningrad region in July 2021, immediately after Alexey Rodin, who had been working together with the regional governor Anton Alikhanov, had resigned. Before, from 2016 to 2017, Eliseev served as Rodin’s deputy. Before he moved to Kaliningrad, Eliseev had worked in the Russian city of Vologda, as deputy head of its administration.

According to his official biography, he is the recipient of the Order of Courage (awarded for selfless acts of courage and valour — translator’s note), of two medals of the Order “For Merit to the Fatherland” (1st class and 2nd class), and the medal “For Valour”.

According to Eliseev’s tax declaration, in 2021, the year during which he worked as the main federal regional inspector, and later, as deputy governor, his income amounted to 4,341,000 rubles (€69,065). The documents state that he owns a 123.4 square metre apartment, a 22.7 square metre garage, and a BMW X5 XDRIVE30D. His wife owns a 70.5 square metre apartment and allegedly earns 10,000 rubles (€159) per month.

A 33-year-old Ukrainian native Alexey Kovalev, ex-Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the 9th convocation (the Servant of the People faction), was appointed “deputy head” for Agriculture

Alexey Kovalev. Photo from social media

Kovalev was born in the city Hola Prystan of the Kherson region on 19 January 1989. In 2011, he graduated from the Odesa Law Academy, where he specialised in “jurisprudence”.

For several years, Kovalev worked in the agriculture field. For example, he is the director of the agriculture company ARKADA-UGSTROY, established in 2016. Kovakev also worked as legal adviser in a geriatric home in Hola Prystan (2011), director and founder of the company Agrarians of Kherson (2017), and director and co-founder of LK-AGRO (since 2018).

In 2019, for Rada’s 9th convocation, he was elected People’s Deputy in constituency No. 186 (Kherson region) as a nominee of the Servant of the People party. His mandate lasted three years — at the beginning of May 2022, Kovalev was expelled from the parliamentary faction in connection to his cooperation with the Russian forces.

From the beginning of the Russian invasion, Kovalev took a pro-Russian side. In particular, he talked about his meeting with First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko and once said that Russia was in the Kherson region “to stay and has serious intentions”, meanwhile “the integration with Russia has already started”.

At the end of June, Kovalev became a presence in the news: several media wrote about his “death”, which ended up to be fake. On 22 June, there was information on Kovalev having died after his car had been blown up. The news spread after the Rada deputy Oleksiy Honcharenko had published a video featuring a car with serious damages visible. Afterwards, both Honcharenko and Kovalev refuted his “death”.

After the start of the war, Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigation opened a case against Kovalev, accusing him of wartime collaboration. Law enforcement says that the companies under Kovalev’s control deliver alimentary products to Crimea and later sell them in Russia, while also bringing in oil and lubricants from Crimea to the Kherson region.

A 64-year-old Russian native Mikhail Rodikov, previously Deputy Head of the Kashirsky district administration in the Moscow region, was appointed “head” of the Ministry of Science and Higher Education

Mikhail Rodikov. Photo: kashira.org

Rodikov was born in the town Ozyory, Moscow region, in 1958. He graduated from the Kolomna Pedagogical Institute, Kutafin Moscow State Law University, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, and received the degree of Candidate of historical Sciences.

Additionally, he found the time to work as deputy head in the administration of the Ozyorsky district, Moscow region, and as the Moscow region Ministry of Education’s Child Upbringing Department director.

In 2015, Rodikov became the head of the Sevastopol Education Department, this appointment led him to be included in the Myrotvorets list (Myrotvorets, or Peacemaker, is a Ukrainian website that publishes personal information of people who are considered to be "enemies of Ukraine” — translator’s note). He resigned from that post in 2018, after mass poisonings took place in several children’s camps. That summer, 16 children and five counsellors from the camp Laspi ended up in an infectious diseases hospital. According to Russia's Consumer Rights Protection Regulator (Rospotrebnadzor), severe health and safety violations in the kitchen were the cause. There was also a spread of an interstitial infection in the children’s camp Chayka, 21 people ended up in a hospital. According to the Department of Health, the infection — norovirus — was spread by children from the city of Perm.

“Mikhail Leonidovich previously — from 2015 to 2018, adapted the education system of Sevastopol to fit Russian realities, and he did that work brilliantly,” were the words to describe Rodikov’s achievements used by Vladimir Saldo in the message about the formation of the new “government”.

After his resignation, Rodikov served as deputy head of the Kashirsky district administration.

A Russian native Vladimir Bespalov, first Deputy Minister for Municipal Development and Domestic Policy of the Kaliningrad region, was appointed “deputy head” for Domestic Policy

Vladimir Bespalov. Photo: sniper39.ru

There is far less information available about Bespalov. He was appointed deputy minister for Municipal Development of the Kaliningrad region in June 2017. Before that, the post had been vacant since October 2016. Before starting at his new position, he worked as director of the Information and Analysis Department in the regional government.

Bespalov used to be a research scientist in the Baltic regional Information and Analysis Centre of the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (Kaliningrad), he also received the degree of Candidate of historical Sciences. The topic of his dissertation — “The West-Berlin transit in the system of international relations: 1945-1971”.

Kherson has been under de-facto Russian occupation since 2 March. On 26 April, the entire region came under control of Russian troops. New “mayor” and “head” were appointed: ex-mayor of Kherson Vladimir Saldo was appointed as region’s “head” and former KGB agent Alexander Kobets as “mayor” of Kherson. Russian TV channels are transmitted in the region, Ukrainian Mobile Service Providers no longer work, meanwhile the ruble circulation has been implemented.

#Kherson Region #goverment
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