Who did the prime minister of Russia tickle the ivories for (at a minimum on a grand piano) and sing to? Whose tune did Sharon Stone, Alain Delon, Mickey Rourke, Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel, Kevin Costner, Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell march to (the only Russians present were the band VIA "Zemlyane" [Earthlings] – N. P.) and other people famous throughout the world? Do they themselves know about this?
But the main question is: who made money on the appeals to help terminally ill children? We have not yet finished adding up the final amounts. But the participants of the event maintain that the amounts were in the seven figures, and the physicians and parents insist that not a kopeck has been received for the treatment of the children, 70% of whom (my apologies to mothers for having to say so) never recover anyway…
Who was the prime minister playing for?
The scandal with the "lost" money raised at the celebrated charity event in the Northern Capital is perhaps entering into its end phase. However, it is absolutely certain that its investigation has not even begun. There are questions which hang in mid-air: Who is the main actor in the situation – the Federation fund, which appeared just before the concert and dissolved like a phantom after it, which had been set up for the collection of funds? What are these new forms of work that it has? Why did this event take place? How much money was collected in the end? Under what pretexts? And where did they go? How much was there? There are either no answers, or they are unclear, murky, illogical or unlawful.
But something else is quite obvious. The fact that after the scandal three clinics, one in Moscow and two in St Petersburg, will at last, I hope, receive equipment is the achievement of a single mother living on a very small salary who has a terribly sick girl. The achievement of a woman who has no support network at all. And she has nowhere to make a retreat to…
Olga is a hero
"I am only the mother of a seriously ill child whose treatment requires colossal funds each month just so she can live. Lisa is the only thing I have. I have nothing to lose besides her, therefore I speak frankly about everything." There are no tears in the eyes of 37-year-old Olga Kuznetsova, her voice is full of determination.
Almost all the others – physicians, parents of the little patients of oncological clinics and departments, representatives of the charity funds and healthcare system bureaucrats, are afraid. For themselves, for their dear ones, for the job, because of unexpected problems, etc. Therefore for three months EVERYONE has been silent. Although now the physicians, and the mothers, and the charity representatives recognise (do not hide) the following:
"Bewilderment, doubts and suspicions were seething from the very beginning. We simply did not believe that something good would come out of this affair. Things were simply done so strangely…"
"Please understand," the mother of a five-year-old girl sick with cancer explained to me, "all of us are afraid that the physicians will show us the door together with our child if they are reprimanded due to someone's careless words."
Olga was not afraid:
"For the three years that I have been seeking treatment for my daughter, I have seen plenty of children in the oncological departments who didn’t manage to recover. There is nothing I am more afraid of."
Good luck charm to the rescue
Three years ago the oncologists discovered that 13-year-old Liza Kuznetsova had a rare blood disease. Since then, the child's life has had a quite precise price: the expensive medication alone is 150,000 roubles a month , not to speak of other necessities.
"Every jar of immunoglobulin (50 mg)," Olga Leonidovna shows one to us, "contains the blood plasma of more than 100 donors. My daughter needs 20 such jars a month – the blood of more than 20,000 donors."
When Sharon Stone visited Liza in her ward in the city Children's Hospital No 31, (the American actors visited the clinic on 8-9 December, and performed on the city's stages on the 10th-11th. – N.P.), and when she heard of this, she broke down in tears. The actress took a good luck charm off her neck:
"I will never forget you," she said to Liza. "Five years ago I suffered a stroke and survived, this good luck charm saved me (a beautiful handmade article, with dozens of jewels, stones and coins woven in – N.P.), let it help you now."
Sharon broke into tears several times more, when after leaving Liza and going through the other wards she held the tots in her arms – thin, bald, with deeply sunken in, thoughtful, hopelessly sad eyes. Before she left she asked the physicians:
"What can I do personally?"
"Donate blood," they answered her.
"And that's it? So little?"
At this point we do not know what Sharon Stone limited herself to (a letter has been sent). But it seems that only blood reached the children. And the good luck charm…
We are in shock
During the first days of March, Olga Kuznetsova sent an open letter to the president of Russia. The woman summarised what the visits of the foreign performers and the charity event had ended with.
"There are a very small number of funds which provide us with real assistance," Olga wrote. "The parents and physicians know each and every one of them. The Federation fund, which collected money in St Petersburg is not present on any list. It is not registered anywhere, it has no site, no one has ever heard of it. Some sort of otherwordly fund for some sort of purposes of its own. Celebrities took part in the concert, and Putin sang. It was said that the event would collect large funds which would be allocated for aid to children and the construction of a new research centre. Where are they? Three months have gone by. There is neither money, nor aid, nor a fund. I know that people are ready to do a lot in order to grab a piece for themselves. But tell me: who makes money off of terminally ill children?"
Dmitry Medvedev did not answer anything then.
However, on the next day (4 March), the PR-manager of the innovation and charity fund Federation, Kristina Snickers commented on Kuznetsova's appeal, which she had posted on the Internet:
"Our Fund is not engaged in collecting material or financial aid for sick children. I was just sent a link to this mother's letter – we are in shock. Because we did not collect any money. No tickets were even sold to the concert…"
How Federation was started
The grandiose charity event in St Petersburg from the 8th to the 11th of December 2010 was distinguished by powerful and almost rocket-fuelled PR, although it would not have remained unnoticed even without that. On 30 November (when the preliminary press conference was held at RIA Novosti), the initiator, the investment and charity fund Federation had not even been registered. Even now it still has not been possible to find information on the registration of the fund. There is no information on the charity organisation anywhere. The location and fax number of its office are secret. According to employees, as of March 2011, the fund does not even have a bank account.
But work it does!
Already on 8 December the star-studded delegation descended from the stairs of the aircraft at Pulkovo-2 airport in St Petersburg. At the same time, in the centre of Moscow and throughout St Petersburg, huge billboards were displayed in prestigious expensive locales with the names of the icons and the promises of aid to sick children. Experts estimate that each billboard on the streets of the Northern Capital cost 50,000 roubles or more. The following was written in black and white on the billboards, and also on the press conference invitations (both before and after the event), on the tickets to the Ice Palace and to the St Petersburg club XXXX (the stars performed at two sites): "The purpose of the events is to collect money for sick tots." Quotation: "All of the funds collected will be given to aid children's oncology and ophthalmology centres to purchase needed diagnostic equipment, medical instruments, necessary medications, etc."
On 30 November, Vladimir Kiselyov, the inspiration and leader of the charity program presented in the Federation fund project made an even more specific promise to journalists:
"We have decided upon 5–6 medical centres, which we have visited. The funds collected will be given to the centres before the event, so that no one will have cause to write that we collected money that we then later took for ourselves for organising things. The funds will be there before this. Unlike other funds, and this is our priority condition, already before the event we will go to the children's institutions, and before the event we will try to do everything to help those children and clinics that we chose before the event, and it is significant that 10 December will be a red letter day for us in making children's dreams come true. All the children will write… No, in order not to wound the little kids, we will try to do this with them not directly, but let the clinic administrators write to us about what the children are dreaming of. And I hope that envelopes with children's dreams will be waiting on the tables at our event. All of our guests, each of them who wishes will take this envelope and without advertising it will voluntarily make the little dream that this child has written come true. And as much as possible, we will try to make what the clinics themselves wrote directly come true."
So that was his speech.
But for the children – soap bubbles
The speech melted as it was pronounced. Not in one St Petersburg hospital was even one little envelope sealed. The mothers and the physicians told me that the visits of the stars to two St Petersburg inpatient hospitals had an accidental character. At City Children's Hospital No 1, the staff were warned two hours in advance about the arrival of an impressive delegation (actresses, their guards, two dozen correspondence with cameras and just as many without them, the employees of the Federation fund etc.). At City Children's Hospital No. 31, it was just 30 minutes in advance.
Sharon Stone gave the tots Lego sets. Mickey Rourke managed to buy Chinese toys and soap bubbles in the nearest supermarket. Alain Delon had a few boxes of pears, apples, bananas and tangerines.
"Of course the visit caused distress for the children," noted Andrei Dombit, director of the Children's Health and Future charity fund, which cares for 10 to 50 patients at a time with difficult diseases (including from Children's Hospitals No 1 and No 31). "It is strictly forbidden for outsiders to enter the oncology department – the children are in a most grave condition, with IVs, after operations, after chemotherapy. If this is done, then there should be a clear explanation: what are these sacrifices being made for? Personally, I am in shock that such a high level event could be such a failure."
Neither the children sick with cancer, nor their parents, nor even the physicians were invited to the charity concert.
The three-hour performance of celebrities in the Ice Palace on 10 December was broadcast on the nationwide television channels. Here is the information provided by Vladimir Kiselyov: "Channel One responded at the first request." You bet they did! Vladimir Putin was the guest of honour at the Ice Palace. The prime minister walked out onto the stage and sang the song Blueberry Hill with a jazz band, and then, accompanying himself on the grand piano, he sang the achingly familiar "Where does the Motherland begin?" And on 11 December in the club XXXX there was a charity dinner and concert with the participation of the same celebrities and an auction of celebrity belongings.
As Federation's Press Secretary, Larisa Serebryannikova informed journalists in December, almost immediately after the events, the funds arrived from the sponsors to the fund's account, which means that the purpose was achieved.
Free of charge, that is, for free
By the way, organising the massive event did not cost the Federation fund ANYTHING. At the press conference at RIA Novosti (the agency retains the video recording), the inspiration and main organizer of the project, Vladimir Kiselyov, stated that everything was being done at the expense of the sponsors – the companies SOGAZ and Rostelekom. St Petersburg hotels accommodated the stars for free.
As Larisa Serebryannikova stated to Novaya Gazeta, none of the famous guests received even a rouble or a dollar as a fee.
"You should have seen," added Vladimir Kiselyov, "the Western stars had such a desire to participate, and more than that, in response to suggestions of a fee or payment for their services some of them said, on the contrary, ok, if you provide them, we will give these monies to your fund. There are several such ones among the names present…"
According to Kiselyov, the fund also did not earn anything from ticket sales:
"We have not made tickets the main priority," Vladimir Vladimirovich brushed the issue aside, "although I believe there is some sort of sales just for souvenir purposes. Because there are just not that many seats."
For information: The Ice Palace has 12,300 seats, or 1000 tables (if one takes away part of the sides and moves some of the stands). At club XXXX there are 40 tables, but more than half of the visitors purchase tickets and do not sit at a table.
Who makes money?
The new form of charity
In a telephone interview, Kiselyov refused to answer the questions from Novaya Gazeta. He was sent an official request. However, Larisa Serebryannikova stated by telephone that Vladimir Vladimirovich had authorised her to answer all my questions. I asked: how much money did the Federation fund collect?
"The project is absolutely non-monetary. Simply a PR event. If something was written in the booklets, then these are just rubber stamped phrases. There is no meaning in them.
There is a new form of charity," Larisa tried to interpret it for me, "a structure wishes to donate money for something for the hospital. But they are not looking for PR, they do not say anything nice about themselves, they do not even want to have themselves made. We know of hospitals which need assistance, and we establish contacts of a certain type so that the structures can make one or another type of donation to the hospital.
After the charity events, on the second day we conducted an auction at the XXXX club, where they wanted to collect money. Someone may have donated something. The actress Ornella Muti sold a bag, and some sort of disk was also sold. Just now I found out for you the sum which was raised: the entire sum was 80,000 roubles. We bought equipment for the St Petersburg City Children's Hospital No 1 for this sum already back in December. Of course one can understand this girl's mom: she has a sick child! But if only 80,000 roubles were collected…
Please believe me, money was not specially collected," Serebryannikova assured me. "Kiselyov will confirm this for you. It is just that someone would like to think so. Because this really was a powerful project in its PR promotion. But neither seats nor tickets were sold. Invitations were simply given out. People were invited in order to attract attention to the format of charity."
"I spoke with people who paid money."
"If you have such facts – you are lucky."
After this conversation, Serebryannikova's line was no longer in service. Then I had quite a bit of luck. Not at first. The businesspeople invited to the Ice Palace first for some reason agreed to talk with me, then they thought better of it. I got lucky with the chairman of the commission on youth policy with the regional political council of the ruling party United Russia in St Petersburg, Dmitry Gryzlov, who on 11 December 2010 was at the "charitable dinner, concert and auction" (this is just how it was stated in the ticket) at the XXXX club.
"The management of the club called me and suggested I come," Gryzlov said. “I asked: ‘What was the approximate price?’ They answered: ‘The tables next to the stars (in particular – Ornella Muti and Mickey Rourke) – from 500,000 to 1 million roubles a seat.’ I refused: I was not ready to pay such money. Later (the prices changed in two days: at first they ran up very high ones) they rang from the club and said that they will give me a table with a discount – for 50,000 roubles. And it was the current Deputy Minister of Justice Viktor Evtukhov who was sitting next to Mickey Rourke and the other stars. I also ran into the Zenit goalie Vyacheslav Malafeyev and many highly placed and famous people there. The event itself was positioned as a charity evening – this was even written on the tickets and on the posters. Food had already been placed on the tables (usually one has to pay for food at the club). They were divided into ordinary tables (on average 150,000 roubles per seat) and VIP places near the podium (from 500,000 to 1,000,000). The main sponsor was the vodka brand Czar’s Gold.
According to Dmitry Gryzlov, around 500 people came to the evening at the X's on 11 December. The administration of the establishment also does not deny that those who had organised the charity event proposed that the club hold the party four days before the appointed day, and that several deposits were sold for 100,000 - 150,000 roubles. The largest number of tables was occupied by the participants of the Ice Palace.
The tracks lead to Kremlin
According to the assurances of the organisers, the figures of the political, cultural and business elites got into the concert at the Ice Palace FREE OF CHARGE – by invitation. Among these was Vladimir Putin. By accident?
It emerged that members of United Russia were involved in the creation of the Federation fund. An address from the speaker of the State Duma Boris Gryzlov and the member of the Federation Council, the United Russia member Andrei Khazin is published on the site of the Centre for Assisting Socially Oriented Programs, which is the sole founder of the fund. They welcome the establishment of the new structure.
When attempting to establish the actual charity sponsors, the agency for journalistic investigations bumped up against a widespread scheme for business organisation – the "nesting doll." The fund was organised by the Ñentre, the ñentre by the non-commercial partnership (NP) Monastyrsky, Zyuba, Semenov and Partners, the NP by another NP – the Republican Centre for the Development of Entrepreneurship and OOO Kirsan, etc. In the final link, one of the co-founders is none other than the member of the general council of United Russia, Andrei Khazin.
And that is not all the connections.
The main charity sponsors, Kiselyov and Serebryannikova, are close to the authorities in their own way.
Vladimir Vladimirovich Kiselyov is well-known to the general public as the artistic director of the Leningrad group VIA Zemlyane and as the producer of musical groups (St Petersburg, Russkiye, Passazhiry and Everest). To a more narrow group he is known as a person figuring in the notorious case of Aleksandr Malyshev (one of the Petersburg criminal bosses who was convicted twice of murder and who is now under investigation in Spain). In the 90’s, Kiselyov was detained by the investigative authorities in a case on the sale of a large shipment of video recorders, and also due to the fact that Malyshev had been documented as a general labourer at Kiselyov's firm. But the investigators let Vladimir Vladimirovich go.
In the middle of the 90’s, Kiselyov organised VIP tennis tournaments in the city on the Neva River. It was at these sporting competitions that he came together with the local political crowd, most importantly with the current administrator of the affairs of the Russian president, Vladimir Kozhin.
In 1999 it was this administration, led by Kozhin, which created the Federal State Unitary Enterprise Kremlin. It was headed by Kiselyov. And Larisa Serebryannikova was hired as the PR director of Kremlin under the Administration for Presidential Affairs. This appointment was not hindered by the fact that already in 1997 the Lithuanian national office of Interpol had issued an international search warrant for Serebryannikova. According to data from the Russian Ministry of the Interior, in the middle of the 90's, the native of Vilnius and journalist at the local newspaper, Larisa Serebryannikova and her husband Dmitry Sharin created the financial pyramid DILAR (abbreviated from the names Dima and Larisa). According to investigative information, in less than a year the spouses had made a fortune. The law enforcement authorities accused the woman of the fraudulent possession of depositor funds totalling more than 1 million dollars. In June of 2002, Larisa Serebryannikova was arrested in the centre of Moscow. Pursuant to Lithuanian legislation, she faced up to eight years in prison. Nevertheless as Serebryannikova herself informed the Novaya Gazeta:
"I have never been convicted. The case had no real foundation. I do not want to return to this."
The State Unitary Enterprise Kremlin, acting on behalf of the Administrator for the Presidential Affairs (at that time Vladimir Putin was the president) organised mass cultural and entertainment events in Moscow and St Petersburg, and while it existed it ended up being involved in several unflattering affairs, but it got out of all of them like a duck out of water (that is, dry). Which is proven by Kiselyov's extremely successful current concert activities.
One question remains for V.V. Putin: Did he know where he was going on 10 December?
While at the same time, somewhere…
Olga Kuznetsova could not sleep and was worried for several days. Not from fear (although there was cause for it), but from insult:
"They marched over the heads of our children. And we still haven't been able to understand: why? We simply did not receive anything. Then I began to search for information and to analyse it. And I did not need to think anything up. It all came together like a puzzle. And I was taken for a fool…
The physicians were worried. At first they would not speak to me at all: they protected themselves "just in case." And then they started to call them to the administration office frequently. But in the end, not hiding her joy, this week the chair of the oncological and haematological Department of the City Children's Hospital No 31 Margarita Belogurova shared the following:
“Everything is excellent. No scandals. We have now sent an extensive list of equipment to the Federation fund and we are waiting that it will be supplied.'"
The same thing was confirmed by Vladimir Putin's Press Secretary Dmitry Peskov: two St Petersburg hospitals (No 1 and No 31) will receive equipment, and his boss is in no way related to this affair. By the way, it is good that Peskov (the Prime Minister) intervened. Maybe something will come the children's way.
… Now I must confess that I am not Olga. I am afraid for many people, and therefore I cannot say much about many things I know. But, oh ye masters of good works, you also know this. It was clear throughout that they did not choose their line of conduct immediately. It seems that they sorted things out along the way. Maybe they decided: how much (what portion) do we have to give to the kids? It seems to me that this is not the sort of case where haggling is acceptable. I am convinced: they need to give everything that they are earned on it. If you would like – we can reconcile the accounts.