Before the Christmas holidays, Infrastructure Minister Vladimir Omelyan reported: The “Boryspil Express”, connecting Kiev and the capital’s main international airport, completed the first thousand flights, and already 30 thousand passengers used its services. The timetable is observed at 99.6%, and for 20 days from the moment of its launch, only four breakdowns occurred. But what! Passengers embarked diesel trains ran with suitcases through the snowdrifts in order to catch the aircraft.
The fact that the ambitious project, started under President Viktor Yanukovych and completed in November by the current government, started with breakdowns, not by accident. The government of Vladimir Groysman completed the project in a hurry, with limited budget funds, so it limped to all wheels at once. Why did this happen? Indeed, in 2011, the “Air Express”, as the project was originally called lyrically, was intended by the government to invest $ 372 million borrowed from China. It turned out that “investing” does not mean spending it. Where the borrowed finances have gone, nobody still knows, including the current government, which nods predictably to the previous one. They were stolen, they respond with a characteristic phrase to this question on the sidelines of the Verkhovna Rada.
Criminal cases and courts related to the sale of Chinese money continue to this day, but the perpetrators are not punished and the fate of a third of a billion dollars is unknown. “Vesti” found out who and how could plunder the budget of the train to the airport. And why has the new government still not dealt with this, but chose to simply “close” the subject of the express at the expense of taxpayers.
“There are tickets without a seat, buy them at a special box office. The e-ticket purchase service does not work, we are sorry”, — the conductor-controller spreads his hands at the entrance of the only train of the “Boryspil Express”.
At the same time, the state invested UAH 21 million in the development of a ticket service. The questions are caused not only by the solid cost, but also by the fact that it essentially duplicates the main ticket online resource of the “Ukrainian Railways”, developed in 2017, but still remains inaccessible.
In a company with “Vesti”, there are two students from India, a married couple flying away to celebrate a Catholic Christmas in Italy and a football player from the youth team of one of the largest Ukrainian clubs. Ukrainians explain to the Indians on their fingers: in order to buy the ticket, you must hurry to the ticket office. When buying tickets for an express train in the building of the station, there is no rush, therefore, “Vesti” soon find themselves in the waiting room on the platform between tracks 13 and 14.
Only express passengers can enter here through special turnstiles. In the improvised hall chairs are installed, there is a location for children, sockets, Wi-Fi and a Christmas tree is full of lights.
Five minutes later, the landing is announced. Announcements on the speakerphone in the train are barely audible, but the passengers understand: the lineup is about to move. When the landscapes of snow-covered Kiev begin to flash outside the window, the train becomes animated. Traditional queue is appearing near the toilet. “Vesti” is looking for an outlet and find — the only one — behind the luggage rack.
The path from Kiev to “Boryspil”, fortunately, passes without breakdowns. A flight is like the usual one, if you don’t know what money was invested in this “miracle of technology” and that it should have appeared in Ukraine seven years ago.
The route of the “Air Express” was originally planned to be launched on the previously built “rail” — to complete another 20 km to the existing gauge of 17-odd kilometers. In December 2011, the State Agency for Investment and National Projects Management, which was headed by Vladislav Kaskiv, solemnly announced the express. The train had to go on its first run in exactly two years.
But they didn’t even start the works. Negotiations with the Export-Import Bank of China dragged on for a year and a half. The first tranche — $ 52 million — from the Middle Kingdom came only in June 2013. And only after the Ukrainian side paid approximately $ 40 million of insurance premium.
According to estimates, the tranche was to go for design, purchase of land and preparatory work, and the remaining $ 320 million — for construction. Costs were controlled by Gosinvestproekt and the Chinese bank, and the general contractor was the Chinese state-owned company for the machine industry and complex contracts. Only $ 14 million of the total $ 52 million went to the accounts of the state enterprise “Air Express”, and the Chinese contractor received $ 34.5 million as an advance.
A month later, the South-Western Railway (SWR) began to prepare the construction. According to the information in the “Public Procurement Newsletter”, the South-Western Railway received UAH 33 million, or about $ 4 million, at the exchange rate for the preparatory work.
But already at that stage skeptics began to doubt the project self-sufficiency. They say, despite the large passenger traffic of the “Boryspil” airport — about 8 million people — only 20–30% of passengers will get to the airport by an electric train, albeit a fast one. So, the project will not collect cash.
Suitcase without a handle
Even more ambitious plan corrected 2014. After the victory of Euromaidan, Sergey Yevtushenko, the former head of the structural division of Gosinvestproekt Invest Ukraine, replaced Kaskiv.
After the Maidan and the beginning of the war in Donbass, the passenger traffic of “Boryspil” dropped to 6.8 million passengers. Technical problems also surfaced suddenly: it turned out that the electric train, which is supposed to run to the terminal D of the airport, will cause interference in the operation of the navigation equipment. It became obvious that the launch of the train to the airport frankly stalled, but mostly not for the above reasons.
In 2014, Infrastructure Minister Maxim Burbak reported that a $ 50 million Chinese loan “someone had already used up somewhere” and law enforcement agencies must answer this question. In Gosinvestproekt parried: they say that all credit funds went to the accounts of the Chinese general contractor.
“The money is in the account of the Export-Import Bank of China, except for the amount of $ 14 million. It was transferred to the account of the “Air Express” company and was spent on payment for the design work of the Ukrainian design institute “Kievgiprotrans”, said Kirill Bondar, deputy head of the State Investment Agency. The confirmation of these words is the Treasury transfer to a Chinese company discovered by “Vesti”.
Nevertheless, the “Air Express” project melted like an air castle. At first, the authority transfers it from the Gosinvestproekt to the Ministry of Infrastructure. And in September 2015, Minister Andriy Pivovarsky declares: the country does not need the “Kiev – Boryspil” passenger rail bus at all!”
Ukraine begins negotiations with China on redirecting money from the express to other projects, however, as it became known to “Vesti” from sources in law enforcement agencies, shortly thereafter the State Financial Monitoring Service conducted an audit of the expenditure of funds for the “Air Express”.
According to its results, which are not officially published, a $ 14 million Chinese loan went to the accounts of dubious firms. And simply put, melted like smoke from a train. Former Deputy Infrastructure Minister Vladimir Schulmeyster appealed to the Prosecutor General’s Office with a request to check the version of the theft of funds.
However, since he did not have concrete evidence, information about this was not included in the Unified Register of Pre-Trial Investigations, explains a source in the security forces. And all these years, the Chinese side has for some reason not made claims to Ukraine. «Maybe the Chinese get a share?» — suggests a source of «Vesti», close to the leadership of the «Ukrainian Railways». “I think no one will ever know.”
After checking the State Financial Monitoring Agency, NABU nevertheless opened a criminal case on appropriation of property through abuse of official position (part 5 of article 191 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code) and fictitious business (part 2 of article 205 of the Ukrainian Criminal Code). According to “Vesti” sources in NABU, according to the State Financial Monitoring Service’s audit, out of the missing $ 14 million loan, $ 10.25 million (UAH 82 million) were revealed on the deposits of LLC “Sapphire Finance”. Another $ 3.12 million (UAH 25 million) settled in ProFin Bank accounts. In 2015, the NBU liquidated the bank, and the location of “Sapphire” is still unknown.
In turn, the investigation found out: lawyer Ivan Radik founded the company “Sapphire Finance”. And ProFin Bank declared insolvent and lost its license just a few weeks after placing the deposit of “Air Express” in it.
In both cases — both “Sapphire” and the bank – Acting Director of «Air Express» Gennadiy Dyachenko signed the documents on the withdrawal of funds from the company. Moreover, Gosinvestproekt appointed him acting as for the period of these operations, after which he was immediately dismissed.
“Law enforcement officers were able to persuade them to cooperate with the investigation of the founders of a number of fictitious companies, to which the money of the Chinese loan was withdrawn”, — says a source in the law enforcement system. “Thanks to this, information was obtained”.
Dyachenko is now on the international wanted list. And the episode in which Radik appears, has been considering the court since 2017. He is still in custody, but law enforcement officers suspect that this is temporary. “He is trying to feign psychic abnormalities in order to be released”, — says the source.
In fact there is another interesting point. According to the investigation, in May 2014, the State Enterprise “Air Express” acquired three land plots in Boryspil district for a project for UAH 46 million. Although before that, intermediaries who sold land bought it at a price 20 times cheaper. One can only guess in whose pockets the difference by more than UAH 40 million has fallen.
In 2017, Prime Minister Groysman makes a new attempt to reanimate the “Air Express”. Then the government discussed three alternatives. The first is a light metro – the construction of the land branch from the metro station «Krasniy Hutor» or «Boryspilska» to Boryspil with a branch to the airport. Approximately this project would have cost $ 200 million.
The second — the tram-train — was even more expensive. It was supposed to connect the tram network of the capital with the railway Kiev-Poltava-Kharkov near the Georgiy Kirpa station and leave as a separate branch to the airport. The third option won — «lightweight» and the shortest — high-speed rail bus.
Its weak point was considered to be rolling stock, or rather its absence. In the future, the government promises to buy a diesel train for the route produced by the Kriukiv Railway Car Manufacturing Plant. But the «railway» has no money for this. To finally launch the express, “Ukrainian Railways” removed Polish Pesa wagons from other road sections, which had been working there for 10 years.
As a result, the authorities presented a new express, “Boryspilsky”, implemented with minimal investments. “We have laid a new route ahead of time, having spent UAH 580 million of our own funds on the project”, — “UR” reported.
The result of a hasty and budgetary start is already known. Rail buses broke and stalled. The locomotives-tractors were used for taking passengers to the airport. The Ministry of Infrastructure could only complain about the age of the rolling stock.
Meanwhile, according to Vladimir Datsenko, head of the project “Zalіznitsya without corruption”, purchases for the “Boryspil express” for almost UAH 130 million spent the regional branch of the South-Western Railways. Experts call his leadership close to the head of UR Yevheniy Kravtsov, since after his appointment, the heads of the South-Western Railway changed, unlike other branches of the road.
And as contractors for the performance of services, “Rileid”, “Petro Service” and a few other companies like them, which are “registered” in the places of the so-called mass registration, were selected. For example, the company “Rileid” settled in the panel apartment of Shevchenkovsky district of Kiev and, according to Youcontrol, has more than a modest authorized capital – only 100 UAH. However, this did not become an obstacle to the victory of the company in the procedure for the procurement of its services for the organization of communication between the capital and the airport for a total amount of about UAH 30 million.
With this money, “Rileid” from the panel apartment made a really extensive range of works: it made railings, galleries and a carport for the passenger platform, laid plumbing and put up road signs, marked up and greened up the area.
According to open data, “Petro Service”, which is located in Kharkov, managed to get a direct contract for the arrangement of the access control system for the passenger area before boarding the rail bus for UAH 3 million without a tender. Although neither before nor after this, the company has not received government contracts.
“All this money could bring more benefit if new passenger wagons were purchased for “UR””, — said Alexander Kava, an expert in transport issues, adviser to the head of the State Agency of Automobile Roads of Ukraine.
According to him, the rolling stock of the rail bus is really not new — 2008 release. Previously, it traveled on rural routes in the Sumy and Poltava regions and did not undergo proper maintenance. “Therefore, it would be an exaggeration to call the current “Boryspil Express” a fundamental solution to the problem of Kiev’s communication with its main air gates”, — Kava concluded.
When asked to comment on the situation around the “Air Express” and the “Boryspil Express” trains, at the time of the submission of the article by the Ministry of Infrastructure and “UR”, “Vesti” did not respond. However, this position is occupied by the majority of the authorities. Otherwise, the secret of a stolen Chinese loan, by the way, issued for a period of 15 years and at 6.5% per annum, would have been revealed long ago, and the perpetrators of the theft would be held accountable.
Author: Andrey Egorov