Treasure Peninsula: Story Explaining Why It Is Sometimes Better to Keep Things Secret

Treasure Peninsula: Story Explaining Why It Is Sometimes Better to Keep Things Secret

28 April 2018 7948

In June 2017, SkyWay representatives began to promote actively the idea of using Skyway transport technology in Crimea. Taking into account the specifics of the terrain and the great potential to develop tourism, many SkyWay ideas could find a favorable ground in this region. Nevertheless, the Company was cold-shouldered quite actively and even met serious opposition from some regional media. We have received criticism not for the first time, but these cases seemed very strange, because no positive aspects of the technology were described, and the articles themselves manipulated facts too explicitly.

This overly negative reaction caused a natural question: who may need to distort deliberately the reality and “drown” the project. We conducted a small investigation, as a results of which we came to the conclusion ― business interests in Crimea are protected by lapdog media, ready to literally fight for their masters. Moreover, there’s a lot of money at stake. We offer the collected facts to your attention. It should be noted separately that this article is not intended to give a ready answer ― we have just collected facts and offer you the opportunity to draw conclusions on your own.

It is also important to point out that in this situation Crimea is only a vivid example, not conditioned by politics. Simply everything becomes visibly brighter during changes, and today’s life of the Peninsula gives the chance to examine perfectly many phenomena, which are poorly visible in other places.

The main characters of the investigation are prominent Crimean businessmen Oleg Nikolayev and Pavel Lebedev.

Oleg Nikolayev was the first to start an informational campaign against SkyWay, so we will start with him. Oleg Nikolayev is a businessman and a public figure. Since 2012, he is the CEO and one of the founders (in Russian) of LLC “Island Crimea”, which is engaged in tourism, catering and Internet projects. He is also the CEO of JSC “Sevastopol development Corporation” (SDC), the founder of which is Sevastopol’s Department for property and land relations. The declared activity of JSC “SDC” is the attraction and support of investors to promising projects. As the Crimean mass media “Forpost-Sevastopol” and “Sev.Life” (both in Russian) claim, Nikolayev owns the local edition “Primechaniya.ru”.

In early July 2017, just 5 days after the SWIG publication of the SkyWay route project along Balaklava-Sevastopol route, the portal “Primechaniya.ru” controlled by Nikolayev began a series of articles that read, for example, the following: “In the abundance of websites with Yunitskiy’s portraits and colorful 3D-model presentations, there is not a single video with a demonstration of an operating elevated transport design that is offered to invest.” Of course, local reporters could find it too costly to travel to Belarus to see the reality of the project. However, even then, they could find at least one of those 5,000 people who visited Ecofest-2017 just the day before the article’s release. At least, to watch a video report, in which everything is perfectly visible.

The most likely cause of such baseless attacks by “Primechaniya” is, of course, money. The fact is that at that time JSC “SDC” was already working on its project competing with SkyWay. The numerous offers (in Russian) from Nikolaev’s company included a cableway to Balaklava at estimated worth of 179.4 million RUB. This is more a tourist project of a very modest scale, but, apparently, the businessman has decided to play it safe. Or he failed to understand fully the scale of the idea promoted by SkyWay.

Another person involved in the investigation is Pavel Lebedev. The former Minister of defense of Ukraine, now a millionaire and a major Crimea’s developer, who is associated with several companies under the common name “Parangon”, notorious in the region with their buyback and building of environmental zones (in Russian). These companies include LLC “Management company “Parangon”, LLC “Operating company “Parangon”, LLC “Legal company “Parangon”, LLC “Security Agency “Parangon”. The founders (in Russian) of this series of allied companies, according to the portal “Crimea.Realities” (in Russian), are Lebedev’s relatives and offshore companies from Belize and the Virgin Islands. Through Lyudmila, Pavel Lebedev’s wife, and the group of companies “Parangon”, the businessman controls “Media Commander Group” (in Russian), publisher of the news portal “Lens Crimea”. The “Lens” released its material, essentially no different from that from “Primechaniya”, a little later, and now it’s no longer found online ― most likely, it’s been removed to avoid a court trial.

The answer to the question, why the construction magnate slanders the innovative project, is the same: it seems Lebedev protects his financial interests by all means, even by not the gentlest ones. Significant investments have been made in Crimea within the framework of the Federal targeted program for several years, and local oligarchs do not need an extra contractor claiming to implement them. However, local authorities and contractors cannot cope with the implementation of the budget and disrupt the timing (in Russian). Perhaps, it is reasonable to add a little competition, and the work on the development of the Peninsula will go faster?

It is important to point out that Crimea today is one of the most promising sites for the implementation of infrastructure projects in Russia. The GRP of the Peninsula increased (in Russian) from 185 billion rubles in 2014 to 341 billion rubles in 2017. Currently, a large-scale Federal targeted program of socio-economic development of Crimea and Sevastopol is being realized in the Republic. For instance, more than 650 facilities of industrial and public infrastructure worth above 800 billion rubles are being modernized semultaneously.

Such changes take place against the background of Crimea’s political and economic isolation, which affects negatively the interaction with foreign companies on the one hand, and on the other ― creates unique opportunities for such companies as SkyWay. This is due to the fact that due to the sanctions, many leaders of the transport industry cannot work on the Peninsula’s territory. Suffice it to recall the sensational story (in Russian) about the supply of Siemens gas turbines. In this situation, a Company from Belarus that has not joined the European sanctions and is not currently working on the European market, might obtain a carte blanche and would be able to do projects on more favorable terms.

Moreover, they do not spare funds to implement projects in Crimea ― according to the leading S&P Global analyst Yekaterina Novikova, revenues from the Federal budget exceeded 350 billion rubles (in Russian) for 3 years from 2014 to 2017. It is almost as much as it was invested for 5 years in one of the main subsidized regions of Russia ― Chechnya. Moreover, this figure does not take into account targeted programs, which get even more funds. For example, another 300 billion rubles were provided for the Crimean bridge and two TPPs from the Federal budget.

Infrastructure is not in the last place on the list of required expenses. As the Head of the Group of sovereign and regional ratings under the Analytical credit rating Agency Andrey Piskunov notes, not only benefits are important for investors, infrastructure sufficiency is much more important. According to him, they would be able to assess really the investment potential after regular transport services appear.

The confrontation between the Crimean oligarchs is a problem not only for SkyWay and not so much for it. Similar actions of media controlled by the business were also taken, for example, in respect to “Heraclean rocada” ― a major infrastructure facility of a great social importance. Wars for public opinion can lead to the situation, when truly valuable investment projects will begin to pass by Crimea, and this is certainly not in the interests of local residents.

So as no one damages the cause, it is better to keep it secret ― money loves silence. An active promotion of the project can provoke a strong negative reaction from the local business, which will perceive SkyWay as its competitor. As the regional Director Madinatul Fadhilah said at the Railwaytech Indonesia exhibition in Jakarta, SkyWay has no competitors, as Skyway transport is aimed at cooperation and organic addition to existing solutions, but not at their ousting.

It is better not to disclose some details of negotiation processes, pre-project preparation and development of new products until the contract is in your pocket.  SkyWay is now at a completely new stage of development, when a lot is at stake. We learn to work with major projects based on previous experience ― including the negative one, as it turned out with Crimea. In order to achieve success, the Company needs to compete successfully in the most difficult conditions and be able to manage information intelligently. This applies to every investor to a certain extent, because the Company’s image depends entirely on the people, who talk about it and promote its projects.

Artsiom Sapryka

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