Welcome to Investigative Stories from Ukraine, the Kyiv Independent's newsletter that walks you through the most prominent investigations of the past week.
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Top investigative stories
Ukraine yet to confiscate assets of Putin’s former right-hand man
Officials have yet to confiscate the valuable assets of Viktor Medvedchuk, a former Ukrainian politician and oligarch, who was widely believed to be Russian dictator Vladimir Putin’s right-hand man in Ukraine, according to Ukrainian investigative outlet Bihus.Info.
Despite being under sanctions, Medvedchuk, both personally and through his wife Oksana Marchenko, still owns vast assets in Ukraine, including two mansions in Kyiv, a spa hotel in the Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast, and a summer house in the Carpathian Mountains, according to the journalist investigation.
Ukrainian authorities arrested Medvedchuk for treason for the second time in April 2022 after he managed to flee from his initial house arrest. Five months after his recapture, he was sent to Russia as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for 200 Ukrainian prisoners of war. His wife, Marchenko, also fled to Russia following its full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
Most of Medvedchuk’s assets have been frozen but not confiscated, leaving the possibility that they may still come under the pro-Russian oligarch’s control in the future, according to Bihus.Info.
Medvedchuk and his wife own a massive car collection that seemingly “vanished” just before the full-scale invasion and has not been located by law enforcement, according to the journalist investigation. Bihus.Info journalists also identified a 5-hectare plot of land near one of Medvedchuk’s mansions owned by an associated company. The land has not been frozen and remains under Medvedchuk’s control, according to journalists.
According to Bihus.Info, Medvedchuk’s assets could be seized by the anti-corruption court through a simplified procedure since Ukraine sanctions him and his wife. Law enforcement officials told Bihus.Info that they are waiting for criminal proceedings against Medvedchuk to be resolved to seize any property.
Watch the full investigation in Ukrainian with English subtitles here.
Record numbers of conscription-age men in Ukraine enroll in universities, allegedly to dodge draft
Record numbers of conscription-age men enrolled in Ukrainian universities in 2023, most of them in fee-paying programs, according to an investigation by Ukrainian outlet NGL.Media.
Days after Russia’s full-scale invasion, Ukraine’s parliament passed a law under which men over 18 could be mobilized into the Ukrainian armed forces. Certain groups, including university students, are exempt from mobilization.
According to university admissions data, 70% of incoming first-year students in fee-paying programs are male. The number of male students over 30 increased twentyfold since the full-scale invasion.
The number of male fee-paying students doubled since the full-scale invasion, while the number of women remained the same, suggesting that many men are just paying for a mobilization exemption, according to NGL.Media.
For universities, the influx of paying students has been a windfall: they will earn Hr. 2.6 billion ($72 million) from male students in 2023, according to the journalist investigation.
Read the full investigation in English here.
Journalists identify commanders responsible for attacks on Ukrainian city
Journalists from the Ukrainian outlet Slidstvo.Info identified two commanders responsible for attacks on the city of Beryslav in the Kherson Oblast.
Beryslav came under Russian occupation on Feb. 24, 2022, and was liberated in November 2022 as part of Ukraine’s southern counteroffensive. The city lies just four kilometers from Russian-controlled territory in the southern part of the Kherson Oblast.
According to Slidstvo.Info, strikes on Beryslav in October 2023 killed a 13-year-old boy and injured at least three people. Russian forces also dropped a bomb on the city hospital, injuring two healthcare workers, which could amount to a war crime.
Slidstvo.Info identified Colonel Nikolai Myshkin as the commander of the Lipetsk air base from which Russian forces conducted attacks on Beryslav. Satellite imagery confirmed that Su-34 bombers, which had been used in these attacks, were stationed in Lipetsk.
Russian officers Alexei Repin and Alexei Bulanov commanded the artillery brigade responsible for attacks on Beryslav, according to the journalist investigation.
Read the full investigation in Ukrainian here.
Companies linked to local authorities awarded suspicious contracts by defense ministry
The military awarded suspicious contracts for the supply of food and clothing to companies with connections to local authorities in Mykolaiv, according to Nikcenter, an investigative media outlet in southern Ukraine.
Information about military procurement has been classified since the start of the full-scale invasion. Past leaks allowed journalists to show that the defense ministry was buying overpriced jackets and food, leading to scandals that eventually brought down former defense minister Oleksii Reznikov.
According to the journalist investigation, Trade-Prim, the company that will supply military uniforms, and S-Rostok, which will supply food, likely belong to Takhir Sadridinov, a member of the Mykolaiv regional council, and his brothers.
A military unit awarded Trade-Prim, which specialized in fruit and vegetable sales before the full-scale invasion, the uniform supply contract ahead of two well-established textile companies, even though it came with the highest price, according to Nikcenter.
Trade-Prim was sued for almost Hr 800,000 ($22,000) by a military unit in February 2023, likely for failing to deliver on a procurement contract, according to Nikcenter.
According to data from the parliamentary Accounting Chamber, the defense ministry paid two to three times more for basic food from S-Rostok compared to what the security services paid for similar products.
Trade-Prim’s director told Nikcenter that they do not have manufacturing capacity and are sourcing military uniforms from Turkey, which explains the higher price and is justified by superior quality.
A previous investigation by Nikcenter showed that Takhir Sadridinov likely owned a 550-square-meter house that he hadn’t listed on his asset declaration, which he was required to file as a city council official.
Read the full investigation in Ukrainian here.
Meanwhile, in Russia
Russia recruits criminals, migrants, financially vulnerable people for its war in Ukraine
Russia’s president ordered regional authorities to focus military recruitment on migrants, people with a criminal record, and financially vulnerable groups, according to independent Russian media outlet IStories.
A letter from the president’s office to regional authorities obtained by IStories detailed the plan to focus on socially isolated people.
Following manpower shortages, Russia conducted a wave of conscription starting in September 2022, marred by disorganization and disobedience. According to IStories, Russia does not plan another wave of conscription but will rely on regional authorities to find “volunteers.”
According to a lawyer who helps Russian men with questions about conscription, the government’s priorities show that they are looking for people who can be pressured into joining the army.
A Russian soldier told IStories that he feels authorities are trying to “eliminate marginalized groups.” Russian conscription heavily targets ethnic minorities.
To increase manpower, Russia has forcibly conscripted tens of thousands of Ukrainians from occupied territories, especially from the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, which amounts to a war crime.
Read the full investigation in Russian here.