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Another mysterious woman in Putin's surrounding gets apartment from Russian state via a dodgy scheme

Elena Shmeleva, one of the leaders heading the list of candidates for United Russia in the State Duma elections, received an apartment in Moscow from the Presidential Administration. The Insider has discovered that the apartment was registered to her son, who, after taking possession of the property, donated it to his mother. As a result of the corrupt scheme, the state budget lost nearly 100 million rubles.

The talent and success of Putin's friends

«Shmeleva's influence is astounding. Ministers and CEOs of major companies would fly in for a meeting in Sochi upon her first invitation. She can call anyone. Shmeleva lives in Sochi but comes to Moscow often. She has her own office in the presidential administration building on Staraya Square,” says Vladimir Pozner introducing Elena Shmeleva to Channel One viewers.

According to The Insider, Shmeleva uses the Hyundai and BMW cars assigned to the presidential administration on a regular basis. In fact, Shmeleva has no grounds for getting an office in the AP building or an official car – she is not in the civil service, but only heads the (private) Talent and Success Foundation.

Talent and Success runs the Sirius Center, one of Vladimir Putin's favorite projects. The co-owner of the foundation is cellist Sergei Roldugin, a close friend and custodian of Putin's offshore wealth. Shmeleva, on the other hand, has been referred to as the «administrator» of financial flows. With support from the authorities, Sirius has become the largest real estate owner in Sochi, having acquired hotels, ice arenas, many buildings and land plots for free. According to The Insider's calculations based on official reports, the property of the foundation and its subsidiaries is valued at over 71 billion rubles.

In addition, the foundation patronized by Putin has won budgetary support and state contracts. Talent and Success and Sirius University have received 31 billion rubles in subsidies. The money comes from the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Sports, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Science and Higher Education. The foundation, together with entities under its control, has earned 823 million rubles in government contracts. For example, the maintenance of territories within the Olympic Park in the Imereti Lowlands cost 172 million rubles under a contract with the Sochi Mayor's Office. Court Bailiffs rented their premises from Sirius for 3 million rubles. Putin's love for the private Roldugin-Shmeleva foundation was so strong that Sirius was turned into a separate federal territory with its own governmental agencies and budget.

How to get a State Apartment

Technically, Shmeleva as a person has nothing to do with any of the expensive properties owned by the Talent and Success Foundation. On her way to the Duma, she declared a relatively modest annual income of 9 million rubles, an apartment in Moscow and another one in St. Petersburg. As The Insider discovered, Shmeleva owns luxury real estate in downtown Moscow that she wouldn't have been able to afford with her official salary. But she didn't have to pay anything for it - she got the apartment in a prestigious location as a result of a combination involving state property. «I have a son, he's 20 years old now,» Shmeleva told RT in 2018. The interview focused on the work of Putin's headquarters during the presidential election, which Shmeleva co-chaired. The Insider has learned the name of Shmeleva's son: his name is Maxim Nikolaevich Malkov (he uses his father's surname).

It so happened that just a few months after the election, Maxim Malkov, an ordinary university student, received a free apartment from the presidential administration. According to an extract from the Russian Registry Office, a year later he gifted the apartment to his mother, and it currently appears in her pre-election declaration.

Shmeleva's apartment is part of the Dom na Tishinke housing estate, not far from the Russian Government Building. Its construction was ordered by the presidential administration; the advertisements say the estate is guarded by the FSO (Federal Guard Service, the agency tasked with protecting the highest-tier state buildings and civil servants). Based on six different proposals (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) for the sale of apartments of comparable living area in the residential complex, we estimate the average value of Shmeleva's property - which she got for free - to be 100 million rubles.

Shmeleva was not entitled to a luxury apartment: neither she nor her son were civil servants. Moreover, Shmeleva already had living quarters in Moscow - a 54-square meter apartment on Fersmana Street. Conversely, that apartment reverted to state ownership (The Insider has in its possession a corresponding statement evidencing the transaction). If it was an exchange, it appears to be unequal - her old apartment is worth only about 13 million rubles.

The Insider asked Shmeleva to explain on what grounds and under what conditions her family received the expensive apartment from the state. «Everything, of course, is legal,» was all she said promising to provide a more detailed comment. However, she thereafter stopped answering phone calls and messages.

Some experts call Shmeleva a Russian Robin Wright
Some experts call Shmeleva a Russian Robin Wright

Elena Shmeleva has worked for United Russia since the noughties. She is currently Co-Chairman of the United National Front and is running for the State Duma as number 4 on the United Russia list of candidates, right after Shoigu, Lavrov and Protsenko.

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