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Cherchez la femme avec government contracts. Head of Russian MinDigit is hiding his wife due to conflict of interests

The Insider has found out that Maksut Shadaev, head of the Ministry of Digital Development, has been hiding his de facto spouse in his tax declaration. She turned out to be involved in a business that has won multi-million-dollar government contracts.

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Many federal ministers have secret wives who are nominee owners of lucrative businesses and expensive properties which otherwise they could not have legally owned. Among them is Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Digital Development and Communications Minister Maksut Shadaev also keeps up with his colleagues, as The Insider has discovered.

The Ministry of Digital Development, Communications and Mass Media, headed by Shadaev, oversees Roskomnadzor, which fines and blocks online media engaged in free dissemination of information. So Shadaev can be called one of the country's main censors.

Shadaev has a passion for blocking not only socially significant information, but also information about his family life. According to his tax declaration, he has two minor daughters, but there's no information about his spouse. He may have avoided formally revealing his matrimony because such a revelation would inevitably raise questions about conflict of interests.

According to The Insider, Shadaev's secret wife may be 37-year-old Alexandra Melnikova. This assertion is backed by the following evidence. First of all, Melnikova drove the Minister's mother Liliya Meksutovna in her Volvo XC90 (license plate E8**EE77) to the summer cottage. Secondly, Shadaev himself was noticed in the passenger seat of Melnikova's previous car.

Thirdly, the car's parking charges were paid using the phone number of Sergei Kholkin, Shadaev's half-brother. See below for more information about this this person.

Fourthly, Melnikova is listed as «Sasha Parking Barrin» in the phone contacts of one of her acquaintances. Shadaev owns a 101.6 square meter apartment in the luxury apartment complex Barrin House worth nearly 100 million rubles.

The minister purchased the apartment in April 2019. At the time he was the vice-president of the state organization Rostelecom. Prior to that, the official at various times served as deputy chairman of the Moscow region government, advisor to the speaker of the State Duma, assistant to the head of the presidential administration.

And, finally, fifth. Shadaev and Melnikova fly together on vacations. The Insider obtained airline ticket booking data, according to which the minister flew with his girlfriend to Adler last year, to the Crimea the year before, and even before that to Yerevan and Riga.

As Shadaev was climbing the bureaucratic ladder, Alexandra worked in senior positions at Medialogiya LLC. The company monitors and reviews media outlets and social media using the system of the same name. Medialogiya has absorbed almost 3 billion rubles in government contracts, including those awarded by the MinDigit and the government of the Moscow region, where Shadaev had been in charge of information technologies.

It turns out that Shadaev awarded large government contracts to the company where his «girlfriend» held the leading position. Melnikova told The Insider she wouldn't comment on her personal relationship. «Between 2010 and 2019, I worked as a managing director [at Medialogiya]. I dealt with HR issues as well as employee comfort and safety. I had nothing to do with Medialogiya's contract performance,» she explained. Melnikova refused to name her next job. According to The Insider, she received a quarantine pass from the MinDigit in 2020.

Alexandra's father, Viktor Melnikov, worked at the Defense Ministry's Research and Testing Institute of Military Medicine. The one where the Novichok poisons had been developed. Her mother, Elena Melnikova, was an employee of the financial department of the Defense Ministry's military missions.

The Insider identified Minister Shadaev's stepfather. His name is Igor Holkin, he was previously the general director of Timostroi LLC, a company owned at the time by Alexander Volkov, co-founder of Medialogiya.

The minister's half-brother, Sergei Kholkin, is employed by Operator-CRPT, a company engaged in labeling goods. This business was given in charge of the oligarch Alisher Usmanov.

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