Pavlo Burlakov: Ukrainian public official at the service of Russian «Combat brotherhood»


Article below is the first part of investigation about Russian para-military organizations, companies and people fighting Ukraine within Russian Armed Forces. Our investigation focuses on the first Russian drone brigade called «GROM Kaskad».

Dmitrii Sablin, member of Russian State Dume and First Deputy Head of Russian organization of war veterans «Combat brotherhood», is the initiator and commander of drone brigade.

His long time «right hand» is Pavlo Burlakov, former First Prime-Minister of Crimea within governments of Vasyl Dzharty and Anatolii Mogylyov, and two terms member of Ukrainian parliament from Party of regions.

As the Center of Journalist Investigations found out, Ukrainian high rank public official Pavlo Burlakov has worked as top manager in business empire of Sablin after Russian occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. He has headed dozens of companies and earned billions on agricultural lands stolen from former Soviet collectives (kolkhoz). He has actively participated in military patriotic events of «Combat brotherhood».

Pavlo Burlakov came to Crimea in 2010 as a member of team of Vasyl Dzharty (Head of the Crimean Council of Ministries in 2010-2011). His previous career included the following positions: secretary of Donetsk oblast committee of komsomol (Youth wing of the Communist Party of USSR), assistant of Mayor of Makiivka (city in Donetsk oblast), assistant of the Head of Donetsk Oblast State Administration, deputy head of headquarters of pro-Russian «Party of regions». He has been elected twice to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine as a candidate from the electoral list of the Party of Regions.

Burlakov was perceived as strong and effective manager. As the First Deputy Head of the Crimean Council of Ministries, he has administered the work of Crimean government. When Vasyl Dzharty got seriously ill and after his death, Burlakov has been acting Head of the Crimean Council of Ministries. However, he failed to become the Head of Crimean government. Anatolii Mogylyov, ex-Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, has been appointed as the successor of Vasyl Dzharty.

Pavlo Burlakov, the First Deputy Head of the Council of Ministries of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea (03.2010 – 02.2014). Photo: Council of Ministries of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea

Before the Russian occupation of Crimea, Pavlo Burlakov dispatched people to «Anti-Maidan» in Kyiv from Crimea and organized political rallies in support of then President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych in Crimea.

«There should be peace and order in our country. People should work and Ukraine should flourish. Crimea is also Ukraine. Our people came here to confirm it. We will build Europe here, in Ukraine and Crimea», as said Burlakov in an interview after political rally in Crimea. He brought in thousands of members of Party of regions and employees of governmental institutions from all over Crimea to that rally.

Crimean Minister of Social Protection Olena Semychasna openly supported fake public movement «Stop Maidan» whereas Vice-Prime-Minister Burlakov attended rallies of «Euromaidan Crimea», held daily on the square near the building of Crimean government, and conducted discussions with their activists. Members of pro-Russian Party of regions argued that these activists were «messengers» from Kyiv Maidan, not residents of Crimea. Burlakov followed propagandist line of his party and put the same question to activists of «Euromaidan Crimea» Sergii Kovalski, born in Sevastopol, and Vasyl Ovcharuk, resident of Simferopol…

Members of pro-Russian para-military groups sometimes assaulted rallies of «Euromaidan Crimea». Police did nothing to prevent these rude illegal attacks. Fans of Crimean football club «Tavria» provided protection of «Euromaidan» activists…

After Russian occupation of Crimea and resignation of the Head of Crimean Council of Ministries, Burlakov disappeared. Media reported that he kept residing in Crimea, doing business and visiting airport of Simferopol.

He received taxation identification code from the Russian occupation authorities in Crimea (910207455936). In April 2017, Burlakov headed nine companies from «ROTA» Group of Dmitrii Sablin, member of the Russian State Duma and Deputy Head of Veteran’s organization «Combat brotherhood».

Dmitrii Sablin in Crimea – benefiting himself and Russia

In February 2019, Pavlo Burlakov and Olena Semychasna, former Ukrainian public officials, were appointed as managers of Sevastopol office of Russian political party «United Russia».

Why did they appear in Sevastopol? The answer is related to the political fight between local «heroes of Russian Spring» and Moscow appointees on the eve of elections to «Legislative Assembly of Sevastopol». Dmitrii Sablin was sent by senior «Moscow comrades» to suppress the resistance of «local heroes» and secure the electoral victory of «United Russia». Sablin’s team included former members of Crimean office of Party of regions and generals from «Combat brotherhood». Semychasna was appointed as acting head of executive committee of Sevastopol office of «United Russia» and Burlakov – as her deputy.

Candidates of «United Russia» received majority of seats in Sevastopol «Assembly» (15 from 24 seats).

Collaborators Pavlo Burlakov (right) and Dmytro Belik at the conference of «United Russia» in Sevastopol, 2019. Photo: forpost 2019

Dmitrii Sablin also pursued his personal business interests in Sevastopol. In 2014, he disclosed in his public asset declaration that he owned office premises, land plot for construction of resort and space for yachts in Crimea.

His business interests in Crimea go back to 2000-s when «Combat brotherhood», headed by Russian General Boris Gromov (Sablin has been his deputy), cooperated with Sergii Kunitsyn, ex-Prime-Minister of Crimea and Head of State Administration of Sevastopol.

In 2007, Ukrainian LLC «Balaklavamegabud», registered in Simferopol, illegally acquired piers # 247 and 248 in Balaclava (they were initially owned by the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine) and two buildings on Tavriiska waterfront. Access to the sea was illegally blocked by hotel «Balaklava-Mria-club», also owned by above mentioned company.

Yachting club «Mria», Balaclava. Photo:

Dmitrii Sablin has been among final beneficiaries of these illegal transactions. «Balaklavamegabud» has been owned by another LLC called «Pivdenny budivelny investytsiiny holding». In its turn, the latter was owned by two legal entities. Cypriot company was owned by Sablin whereas the second company was owned by family of Temirgalievy. Rustam Temirgaliev has been an assistant of Kunitsyn and was used at that time as fake owner of many assets in Crimea and Sevastopol.

Ukrainian courts have considered illegal privatization of piers of the Ministry of Defense until Russian occupation of Sevastopol.

«We have worked on these illegal transactions during several years. Five-six piers have been illegally privatized», as reported Roman Buchko, head of the department within Ukrainian Military Prosecution Office in 2013. 

After Russian occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol, Russian courts have also considered these illegal transactions. Last year they satisfied the lawsuit of municipal company «Proekt razvitia Balaklavy» [Project of development of Balaclava] and forced Sablin’s company to pay 3.5 million Rubles of penalty.

How did Sablin and Burlakov become friends? Their cooperation is rooted in the period before the Russian occupation of Crimean peninsula. Dmitrii Sablin was born in Ukrainian city of Mariupol. He moved to Moscow and made successful military (he is Reserve Colonel), business and political career in the Russian Federation. He has been informal Russian «supervisor» over Crimea, Donbas and Mariupol.

As the Deputy Head of Russian «Combat brotherhood», he used «brotherhood» to strengthen horizontal links with Ukrainian organizations of veterans in Crimea. Before the Russian occupation, he has also conducted a number of «round tables» between pro-Russian Party of regions and Russian leading political party «United Russia». Burlakov has been Deputy Head of the Crimean office of Party of regions. He actively participated in launching cooperation with «United Russia».

«I think that everybody will agree that Crimea is an example of friendship between regions of Ukraine and the Russian Federation, between Party of regions and «United Russia», as told Pavlo Burlakov at the round table «Crimea – bridge between Ukraine and Russia» in October 2012.

Pavlo Burlakov and Dmitrii Sablin at joint event of the Ukrainian Party of Regions and «United Russia», Simferopol, 2012. Photo:

Rustam Temirgaliev prepared that «round table» as the representative of Crimean government. He abandoned his initial patron Sergii Kunitsyn and joined Party of regions. Prime Minister Mogylyov delayed his appointment but «Moscow politely insisted», as Temirgaliev later recalled.

One month before the Russian occupation of Crimea, Temirgaliev and Konstantynov, speaker of Crimean parliament, met Russian «Orthodox oligarchs» Sablin and Malofeev in Simferopol, Mogylyov refused to meet them.

What did Pavlo Burlakov do at that time?

In 2019, Sablin had to justify invitation of former Ukrainian public officials into the management of Sevastopol office of «United Russia». He characterized Burlakov in the following way: «It is true that Pavlo Burlakov has been Vice-Prime Minister of Ukrainian Crimea during last five years. But he has been among initiators of «Stop Maidan» project. I know him for many years. He evacuated wounded people from Cherkasy region. Many people forgot about his contribution (Sablin refers to the case when bus with Crimean participants of «Anti-Maidan» was stopped by inhabitants of Cherkasy oblast on the way to Kyiv. Russian propagandists launched fake story that Crimean participants were killed by Ukrainian nationalists – ed.).

In his another interview, Dmytro Sablin told about Burlakov and Semychasna as «top level professionals who contributed a lot to make Crimea and Sevastopol part of Russia».

Burlakov as manager of Sablin’s businesses in Russia

Sablin praised Burlakov’s managerial abilities, as Burlakov has headed dozens of Sablin’s companies in Moscow region and participated in projects of «Combat brotherhood». Companies, headed by Burlakov, have been final owners of numerous agricultural, land and construction assets of Sablin and his wife Alla Nalcha. They form Sablin’s «ROTA» Group. Pavlo Burlakov has been appointed as the Head of Board of Directors of «ROTA-Agro», part of Sablin’s business empire.

«We are serious agro-industrial holding. We are among the largest agricultural enterprises of Moscow region», as told Pavlo Burlakov.

Pavlo Burlakov, Head of the Board of Directors of Dmitrii Sablin’s «ROTA-Agro», 2021. Photo:

Burlakov played prominent role in launching agricultural part of Sablin’s business group.

First, Sablin privatized former Soviet agricultural collective named after Gorki on dubious grounds. He built residential complexes on agricultural lands.

Then, Sablin with the help of Burlakov privatized agricultural collective named Lenin. Its board has been headed by Pavel Grudinin, who unsuccessfully ran for Russian presidency from the Communist Party of Russian Federation in 2018. Despite large political scandal and protests of local peasants, Sablin succeeded in maintaining his ownership and control. As an outcome, «privatized» lands became the pearl of his agricultural holding.

«Did you see robbers who were involved into production of milk and wheat», as reacted Burlakov, Head of the Board of Directors, to accusations of robbery and illegal privatization.

When did Pavlo Burlakov move to Moscow and become Russian politician?

We already mentioned that Russian State Register of Legal Entities registered Pavlo Mykolayovych Burlakov as the head of nine limited liability companies on April 17 and 18, 2017. They were part of Sablin’s «ROTA» Group.

It seems that Burlakov moved to Moscow earlier. It was reported that Burlakov’s son and daughter from the first marriage reside in Ukraine whereas his second wife Ludmyla, son Mykhailo and daughter Anastasia live in Moscow.

In January 2015, Russian senator Dmitrii Sablin, leader of Russian propagandist biker’s movement «Night wolves» Aleksandr Zaldostanov, Russian writer and chauvinist Nikolai Starikov and other Russian ultra-nationalists, connected with Russian intelligence services, created movement «Anti-Maidan».

Photo below shows Mykhailo Burlakov, son of Pavlo Burlakov, at the meeting of «Anti-Maidan» activists with Zaldostanov-«Surgeon» in Moscow in April 2015.

Mykhailo Burlakov (in the hood) at the meeting with Russian biker Aleksandr Zaldostanov-«Surgeon», 2015. Photo:

In 2013, Mykhailo Burlakov has been student of Kyiv National Economic University. After Russian occupation of Crimea, he moved to Moscow and plunged into the activity of organizations, connected with «Combat brotherhood» and «United Russia».

As a rule, Mykhailo Burlakov has participated in propagandist events with Anton Sablin, son of Dmitrii Sablin. They have become activists of youth wing of «Combat brotherhood» – «Volonterskaia rota» [Volunteer company].

Anton Sablin (left) and Mykhailo Burlakov at the event of «Volunteer company» of «Combat brotherhood», 2021. Photo:

Mykhailo Burlakov has participated in Russian patriotic marches (see him at the event «Immortal regiment» on the Red Square in Moscow. As an activist of «Volonterskaia rota», he was involved into events on civil protection by the Russian Ministry of Emergency Situations in Moscow and round table of the Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs on «fighting extremism and terrorism».

In spring 2021, Anton Sablin and Mykhailo Burlakov have been called «assistants of Dmitrii Sablin» by the official website of «Combat brotherhood».

Anton Sablin and Mykhailo Burlakov (second and extreme right), assistants of Dmitrii Sablin, 2021. Photo:

Burlakov-father has also participated in the events of «Combat brotherhood». In 2017, he has been called as head of coordination council of center «Tochka opory» (within «Combat brotherhood») at the round table of this center. He was often called as «an assistant of Sablin». In 2021, he was called «politician» at the presentation of the third issue of Russian propagandist book «Ordinary Fascism».

Presentation of «Ordinary Fascism» included Russian politicians, propagandists, representatives of Russian intelligence services and Ukrainian traitors: Kyrylo Vyshynsky, head of Russian spy network in Ukraine, Sergii Kolbin, ex-head of Sevastopol «Berkut», involved into the shooting of civic protesters at Maidan and blocking access to Crimea during Russian annexation of Crimea, and Pavlo Burlakov.

Pavlo Burlakov at the presentation of book «Ordinary fascism» by D.Sablin and M.Grigorjev, 2021. Photo: Facebook

«It is funny when European leaders say about human rights. It is good bunch of flowers on the grave of democracy. Their democracy died, they buried it», as told Pavlo Burlakov in his speech.

After Russian full scale invasion into Ukraine, Burlakov has kept participating in the events of «Combat brotherhood». In September 2022, propagandists demonstrated large «flag of victory» in Moscow at the opening ceremony of military sports competition «Tropa Boevogo bratstva» [Path of Combat brotherhood]. They said that it was delivered from occupied Mariupol.

Pavlo Burlakov (highlighted by red frame) holds «flag of victory» brought from Mariupol. Novaya Moskva, 2022. Photo: screenshot of video Youtube

We studied hacked Russian databases of air flights and found data about joint travels of Burlakov with senior managers of «Combat brotherhood». In 2022, Burlakov flew from Moscow to Vladikavkaz together with Reserve Lieutenant Generals Ivan Ageenko and Yevhenii Zubarev, deputy heads of organization. In July 2023, he flew again with Ageenko and Ivan Vanhanen.

Ivan Vanhanen is another former Ukrainian public official recruited by Sablin into his team. Vanhanen has held several positions as Ukrainian public official in Crimea. His last appointment has been the Head of Republican Committee on Transport and Communication.

Since 2018, he has been general director of Moscow LLC «Troy» (part of Sablin’s business empire). Anton Sablin has been officially employed by this company (deputy general director) when he has been elected as a member of Novo-Peredelkino municipal council.

Ivan Vankhanen, General Director of Russian LLC «Troy» (company from «ROTA» Group of Dmitrii Sablin). Photo: social media

It is interesting that Vanhanen has been manager in same Sablin’s companies where Burlakov worked as director. Both can be called top managers of Sablin’s business empire. Residents of Moscow region, protesting against Sablin’s projects, call Burlakov and Vanhanen «Ukrainian organized criminal group».

Unfortunately, we were not able to contact Pavlo Burlakov by any available phone numbers. If he reads this material or watches video, we ask him to contact the Center of Journalist Investigations and realize his right for the answer.

It is remarkable that in 2024 there have been no online references to the activity of Pavlo and Mykhailo Burlakov. We do not know precise reasons for such a silence. They are still alive as their individual taxation codes are acting.

It is doubtful that Pavlo Burlakov suddenly decided to leave Sablin’s business empire after so many years of successful career.

It is feasible that he has been transferred to secure the activity of drone brigade «Grom Kaskad».

Another suggestion is that he has been sent to temporary occupied territories of Ukraine – to represent business interests of Sablin.

Then, he has final option. Pavlo Burlakov has not been subjected to any sanctions (international or Ukrainian)! He can easily travel around the world with Ukrainian passport. He and his son can settle in Europe or USA as Ukrainian refugees and serve Sablin and Russia there.

As we have often pointed out, there is huge problem with Ukrainian sanctions about Ukrainian traitors or Russian physical and legal persons.

For example, sanctions, imposed on «Combat brotherhood» by the National Defense and Security Council of Ukraine in 2018, have been already cancelled as they were valid only for three years! They were not renewed though «Combat brotherhood» created Russian drone brigade «Grom Kaskad» killing Ukrainians every day.

We will cover activity of this brigade in the next part of our investigation.