Recipients of Putin’s Grants: Wife of Aksyonov and Propagandists

Children at the exhibition «Crimean residents – Heroes of the Victory» in Dzhankoi. Photo: press service of the Crimean Union of Veterans

«The Fund of Presidential Grants» of Vladimir Putin granted over 600 million Russian Rubles for 290 projects in occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. Some money were spent for educational, sports, children’s and family projects. Significant part of Putin’s grants was allocated to Russian propagandist and patriotic projects promoting «Russian world».

The Fund of social initiatives «Crimea-Moscow» headed by Pavlo Khrienko has been the first Crimean organization to receive money from the Putin’s Fund. In 2017, it has been granted half a million Rubles for project «I will call Russian my native language». As Russian propaganda cried at that time, Russian language needed protection in totally Russian speaking Crimea. The project conducted seminars for Crimean teachers of Russian language and competitions for pupils.

Pavlo Khrienko is the Ukrainian citizen, born in Dnipropetrovsk region. He has been professor of governmental and municipal administration in so-called «Crimean Federal University» (CFU), illegally created in occupied Crimea. Khrienko actively supported Russian annexation of Crimea and became member of various working and expert groups set up by Georgii Muradov, the Permanent Representative of Crimea under the President of the Russian Federation, and Volodymyr Konstantynov, the Head of «State Council of Crimea».

Collaborator Pavlo Khrienko. Photo: «RIA Novosti Krym»

Projects focusing on Soviet «Great Patriotic War» [the Second World War] have been regular recipients of Putin’s grants. Winners have been organizations, «preserving» memory about feats of «grandfathers and grand-grandfathers», participants of historical reconstructions and volunteers who take care of monuments.

For example, interactive exhibition «Crimean residents – heroes of Victory» received 4,2 million Rubles. It repeated the concept of Russian patriotic initiative of «immortal regiment»: stands with photographs, sensor kiosk, weapons and military uniforms. The project has been submitted by «Crimean Union of veterans and disabled war veterans, veterans of labor, military service and law enforcement bodies». The Union has been registered at the address – Ekaterynynska street, 18 (in 2022, Crimean «deputies» returned its Soviet name – Carl Marx street). It is the address of the Crimean parliament.

Since 2014 the Union has been headed by Georgii Dmytrovych Besstrakhov, the Ukrainian citizen and retired Colonel. Since 1990s, he has been the head of conscription commission in Simferopol. After the Russian occupation of Crimea, Besstrakhov became a member of «public council of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in the Republic of Crimea» and «a Council of All-Russian Organization of Veterans». 

Georgii Besstrakhov at the meeting of «public council». Photo: «Ministry of Information Policy of Crimea»

In 2021, project «The 51st Army. Crimean Front. Preserving the memory about events of the Great Patriotic War» received 3 million Rubles from Putin’s Fund. The project had to create website, make and broadcast a movie about the 51st Soviet Army on Crimean TV and in Crimean schools. Who has been the recipient of this grant?

The author of the project is non-profit organization «Russian Unity». Before 2014, «Russian Unity» has been political party. In 2010, then unknown politician Sergii Aksyonov bought it and used at the elections to the Crimean parliament. After the Russian occupation, the party has been turned into non-profit organization. It has been headed by Olena Oleksandrivna Aksyonova, the wife of Sergii Aksyonov, the «Head of Crimea». Now she is the head of supervisory board of «Russian Unity». Organization is registered in the center of Simferopol, Kirov Avenue, 27. Private company «Gals», co-founded by Olena Aksyonova, has the same address. This building is known as the former shop «Ocean» privatized by Aksyonov in 1990s. Today various trading companies lease its premises from «Gals». The net profit of «Gals» reached 115 million Rubles during last nine years.

Financial reports of «Russian Unity» indicate that it has not had income for many years before Putin’s grant. By the way, Olena Aksyonov has been a producer of movie made under this grant.

Olena Aksyonova and Sergii Tsekov, ex-First Deputy Head of political party «Russian Unity», current «senator of the Russian Federation from the Republic of Crimea». Photo: Natalia Somova

Movie festival «Saint Vladimir» received grants from Putin’s Fund two times – in 2018 and 2019. The fest has been founded by Olena Yuriivna Ivanichenko, Crimean journalist, a former reporter of Russian TV «First Channel» in Crimea. During Russian occupation of Crimea, Olena easily had an access to occupation authorities as she has been the journalist of Russian «First Channel». She was happy to tell about return to «our native harbor» and to lie about «total support» of Crimean residents of the «re-union with Russia». She has been awarded «For the Return of Crimea» medal by the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation. Later she has been replaced by another reporter – Russian citizen.

In 2015, Ivanichenko founded «Saint Vladimir» as «the festival of movies of high spiritual significance». It became the platform for Russian propagandists.

Russian priests have quoted Lenin, officers of the Russian Black Sea Fleet have danced «Yablochko» during fests. Icons, Russian flags and Soviet actors have been usual attributes of the festival.

Soviet actor Yurii Nazarov and Olena Ivanichenko. Photo from the website of festival

In project application, Ivanichenko described it in the following way: «Patriotic movies and movies about history and heroism of defendants of Motherland enjoy special focus of the festival. It is not surprising that the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation has supported festival «Saint Vladimir» since its inception». «Patriotic education of young generation of defendants of Motherland in cooperation with commanders of the Black Sea Fleet» was quoted by Ivanichenko as one of main tasks of the festival.

The festival has been conducted in «legendary» Sevastopol. It received over 4 million Rubles from Putin’s Fund.

Ivanichenko demonstrated its own movie at the festival – «Crimea: chronicles of Russian spring». Upon the order of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation, she made it with her colleagues operators Vadim Telichev and Denys Pogorely for the sixth anniversary of the Russian occupation of Crimea.

In 2022, the festival introduced new nomination called «From Sevastopol to Melitopol» for propagandist movies about full scale Russian-Ukrainian war. Ivanichenko asked visitors of the fest to make voluntary contributions and collect necessary stuff for participants of «the special military operation».

Ivanichenko also founded studio «Doka-production» and charitable fund «The Return». The latter has been created «to support Crimean residents who suffered from political repressions». Thousands of Crimean residents, Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars, suffered from political repressions of Russian law enforcement bodies. But Ivanichenko’s fund does not support them! It supports labor migrants from Asian countries. Russia flooded Crimea with them, in order to change demographic structure of the peninsula. Lawyers of the fund deliver them legal assistance to get permission for residence and work in Crimea and receipt of the Russian citizenship.

As Crimean mass media reported, fund «The Return» has been launched by the initiative of Ludmyla Lubina, ex-member of the Verkhovna Rada of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and ex-Ombudswoman of Ukrainian Crimea. She has been wanted by Ukrainian law enforcement bodies under suspicion of state treason. She has been present on many photos posted on fund’s account in Facebook, though her surname was not indicated as the founder of the fund. In 2019, Lubina told that the fund has been set up upon initiative of «Head of Crimea» Sergii Aksyonov, in order to support Crimean residents who have been imprisoned in Ukraine.

All legal entities, founded by Olena Ivanichenko, are registered at her address: Simferopol, Victory Avenue, 30, apt. 16.

Lawyers of fund «The Return» and labor migrants from Asian countries in occupied Crimea. Photo: Facebook account of the fund

Festival «Sevastopol Ball» has been among leading recipients of Putin’s grants. It won grant competition three times – in 2017, 2019 and 2021, and received 13 million of Rubles.

The first ball has been held in 2013 when Ukrainian ships have been still anchored in Sevastopol. It has been called «The Ball of Fraternal Fleets». The fifth ball, supported by Putin’s grants, has been devoted to the 235th anniversary of Sevastopol and Day of Russia. The seventh and eighth, also supported by Putin’s grants, were called «Ball of Victory» and «Symphony of Future». They honored the 75th anniversary of the victory in «The Great Patriotic War» and the 115th anniversary of Russian-Soviet composer Shostakovych and the 325th anniversary of the Russian Navy.

«Participants of the Ball are officers and civil pairs from all over Russia: best officers of the Black Sea Fleet with their spouses, officers’ pairs representing Baltic, Pacific Ocean and Northern fleets and Caspian fleet; representatives of civil society who honor traditions of the high Russian culture, sustainability and love of the Motherland», as described their project its organizers.

In 2018, the Ball became international, as insisted its organizers. It involved military attachés with wives from countries of Latin America, Africa, Near East and post-Soviet «Commonwealth of Independent States».

«Sevastopol ball». Photo from social media

Ekaterina Grafodatskaia is the organizer of the Sevastopol ball.  She graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations. She is the manager and co-founder of LLC and production agency with the same title «Sevastopol Ball».

Her limited liability company reported losses. It is surprising as the participation in the ball is paid. «Charitable contribution» for civilian spouses is from 12 to 20 thousand Rubles, for the pair of students – 6 thousand, for debutants – 5 thousand Rubles. Only pairs of navy officers can participate free of charge. As project organizers reported, they have trained 4,5 thousand people to dance during 7 years.

In 2019, Grafodatskaia was awarded the prize of the Russian Ministry of Defense. It has been founded by Minister Sergei Shoigu to highlight projects contributing to military and patriotic education and development of culture in the Russian Federation. Propagandist and war criminal Zakhar Prylepin, Soviet-Russian singers Josef Kobzon and Lev Leschenko have been recipients of this prize.

In 2021, Grafodatskaia told for unknown reasons that her project has never been supported by «any great fource» (she received two Putin’s grants by that time).

Co-founders of LLC «Sevastopol ball» Dmytro Platov and Ekaterina Grafodatskaia. Photo: Alexei Petrash

Putin’s Fund delivers a lot of grants to involve children into military sphere: military training camps, camps of young border guards, Navy, rescuers etc.

The Center of Journalist Investigations has already written about project of Sevastopol office of DOSAAF (Russian Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation and Navy) «Young drone operator», the recipient of grant of Putin’s Fund. Since the start of Russian full scale invasion into Ukraine, the geography of Putin’s grants has covered occupied Donbas, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions…