Tag Archives: Russia

Abramovich didn’t buy his girlfriend an Italian restaurant

The oligarch’s press secretary denies rumors of acquiring the restaurant for $5.5 million

Italian newspapers were all over the latest sensation — Roman Abramovich bought his girlfriend, Darya Jukova, a restaurant opposite Castel Sant’Angelo in a charming corner of Rome on the shore of the Tiber. The purchase reportedly cost the oligarch $5.5 million.

Abramovich’s wealth is estimated at an astounding $24 billion with assets as varied as Millhouse Capital and the Chelsea Football Club. For the oligarch, buying such an establishment is about the same as the ordinary Joe purchasing a lighter at a convenience store. However, the billionaire’s press service denied the deal had gone through.

The purchase under question isn’t as curious as the fact that international media have pinned more and more whimsical buys on the oligarch as of late. Less than two weeks ago, the tabloid said Abramovich had spent $500 million on a villa on the French Riviera, which turned out to be untrue. It’s also unclear if the oligarch purchased a sculpture by Swiss artist Alberto Giacometti ($15 million) and a painting by British master Lucian Freud ($33.6 million)…

Of course, Abramovich can afford almost anything. He’s so wealthy that Western journalists see him as the mastermind behind all hefty purchases made by foreigners abroad. If a Russian purchases anything over several million dollars — say no more, it was Abramovich. For Europe, all Russia’s oligarchs have merged into one face. And Abramovich has forced the Western world to learn his tough-to-pronounce last name by heart.

On the other hand, big boys like big toys, and Abramovich doesn’t like to go without them either. At the end of the day, though, it’s just one more restaurant, or one less castle…

Abramovich probably laughs while sipping his morning coffee, reading about the latest rumors that the international media have thought up.

Nikolay Gerasimov

At the Same Time

In a telephone conversation with KP, Julian Cafe Director Fabio Stortsi admitted that the deal had in fact been made.

“I confirm everything that’s being said about the restaurant’s purchase by the Italian press; 3.5 million euro ($5.5 million) was paid,” he said.

Stortsi stressed the purchase was “a kill” for the price — dining halls with 40 tables in a 17-Century building with the head chef, waiters and other kitchen staff. But the director avoided mentioning Abramovich or Jukovaya.


VIP pimps killed Russian model Ruslana in New York? Part Two

KP journalist traveled to New York to find out if Ruslana Korshunova’s death was suicide or murder

Why don’t the police think it’s murder?

All Ruslana’s friends and acquaintances say she didn’t have any enemies. They also describe her as a kind and caring person. Of course, people probably envied her as she had made a wonderful career for herself. But it’s unlikely she was killed as a result — especially in such a professional manner without leaving any evidence behind. Regardless, her mother and friends say a more detailed investigation must be conducted. Not all the pieces of the puzzle in the official version fit together.

Ruslana’s apartment rests behind a white door. Inside things are slightly disarranged. Her mother recently came and packed up everything that would remind her of her daughter. There is a plush Cheburashka on the sofa. The doors to the wardrobe are propped open and dresses are poking out.

Her balcony: A key piece of the puzzle

“Ruslana was afraid of heights,” said her ex-boyfriend Artem Perchenok. “She even smoked standing on the threshold to the balcony. But she’d never actually go outside. Look here.” He pointed to cigarette butts lying on the ground. “These are a man’s cigarettes. Ruslana only smoked thin, lady’s cigarettes. Why didn’t the police pay attention to this?”

To the right, I saw the fence between Ruslana’s balcony and the neighboring building that is under construction. Here is the hole that she allegedly climbed through onto the construction site, according to the police. I’m a man and it’s very difficult for me to climb through. It’s possible, but difficult physically (see photo). In addition, one actually has to jump from her balcony to the construction site. The distance is about one meter. One would have to have a real desire and reason to struggle through the fence and leap to the next building.

“I think it’s possible Ruslana was pulled over there and thrown off,” said Artem. “I can’t believe she just wanted to say goodbye when she came to see me the day before she died. Why didn’t the police interrogate me? They didn’t interrogate Mark either, Ruslana’s boyfriend, and he was the last person to speak with her!?”

I learned later how the New York Police Department is structured and why they decided straight off why Ruslana had committed suicide. First Ruslana wasn’t a U.S. citizen. Second the police weighed the evidence about a possible suicide and murder. They understood the case wouldn’t get far, so why should they start to begin with? I was bit upset by the news, but this is what I was told by people who were born in the U.S. and know the system. The myth about the wonderful U.S. police soon faded away.

Version 5: Criminal motives

Ruslana’s death in many ways look like a suicide. But who would want to kill her? Her ex-boyfriend Artem would be a suspect. Maybe he was jealous? But I saw the way he talked about her, and it’s clear he still loves her. He also has an alibi. He was at home with his parents the whole day. Another version is her last boyfriend Mark Kaminskiy killed her. He’s a rather closed person and has had problems with the police.

“I swear I saw copies of the police records,” said Ruslana’s close friend. He doubts the official version and has his own connections in the New York Police Department. “Kaminskiy’s ex-wife issued a restraining order against him in 2001. He was arrested for illegally possessing a firearm and marijuana in 2003 and 2005.”

Officially, the New York Police Department hasn’t confirmed the information.

Mark actively promotes his hardcore lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll. Given the circumstances, this leaves plenty of room for the imagination. Maybe Ruslana lent him money and then he couldn’t repay her? But the concierge says no one went to see Ruslana before she jumped off the building. And it’s impossible to enter through the backdoor unnoticed. The intruder would have to walk by the concierge either way.

Today Kaminskiy says he sells elite automobiles in Brooklyn. But none of the high-end dealers know him in this area of the city. And he refuses to speak with journalists.

“Komsomolskaya Pravda? If you print even one word about us we’ll sue!” said Mark’s friend. He’s unshaven with baggy pants. There are plenty of criminals that look just like him at the bazaars in Moscow. Mark is standing nearby. He looks shaken and is nervously smoking a cigarette. They came to Ruslana’s farewell ceremony in New York. Mark spits, turns around and walks away.

Version 6: Mafia?

“I know you’re investigating the story,” I heard after receiving an unexpected call from Moscow several days later. “Call me Maksim. I’ve been in the modelling business for a long time. And my wife is also a model. This is just to let you know that I know my way around the business.” I listened silently.

Maksym continued: “Kaminskiy is the right-hand man of Petr Listerman, a matchmaker who sets up wealthy men with models. Petr has a show on MUZ TV called ‘Beauties and the Beast.’ In one episode he and Kaminskiy went to Milan to find young models.”

“You think Ruslana may have fallen under the influence of these dubious characters?” I asked.

“I’m not saying anything,” Maksym said. “But here are some facts for you. Several years ago I held a casting session at a Moscow club. Kaminskiy stood in the doorway. Listernman called me that evening and demanded I give him one of the models who had gone to the club. He said we could make big money if we delivered her to the bed of an oligarch during his trip to Kurshevel. And there was real pressure — with threats and promises to earn unheard of cash.”

“You think this could have happened with Ruslana?” I asked.

“I’m not saying anything. But if some rich man paid for Ruslana, then Listerman would have been on her like a bulldog. They give a lot of money for that. I’d guess the starting price would be around one million dollars. Mark is a professional pimp. He’s the macho who works in the girls and does the pre-sale preparation.”

Version 7: Depression?

Now let’s think about how the events could have unfolded based on what we have learned about Kaminskiy.

Ruslana was a deeply generous, impressionable person — like a child.

“She would cry for any, even trivial reason,” Artem’s parents told me. “She took everything so personally.”

Not long before, Ruslana had broken up with Artem. And she couldn’t go to see his parents, who were like her second family, to cry on their shoulders. Remember, Ruslana wound up in the modelling business in New York at 15 years old with few friends and her mother in far-way Almaty.

Shortly after their break-up, Mark appeared. Could he have made her fall in love with him and then started pressuring her? She may have understood the real reason behind Kaminskiy’s courting before her death. Ruslana left a message on his Odnoklassniki.ru page that said: “You’re an animal. You scare me.” It’s clear something was going on.

That’s the only way I can explain why Ruslana went to see Artem the night before she died. She wanted to see her family and felt drawn to their warmth. Her break-up with Artem also seemed idiotic. She loved him, too.

A key piece of the puzzle is Mark’s call to Ruslana shortly before she committed suicide. It’s unclear what they talked about. Mark says they agreed to go to a party later that evening. But they could have talked about anything. Maybe he began pressuring her about offering sex services for big money? Why not? It’s obvious something shattered deep inside her after the conversation, and there was only one way to remedy the situation.

What condition do you have to be in to climb through a balcony and jump to a neighboring building despite a fear of heights? Maybe she was taking drugs? It’s feasible Mark could have gotten her on addicted. But Ruslana’s friends say she didn’t even drink. She couldn’t handle even small volumes a alcohol, they say. In that case, her weak physiology would have led to a seriously misconstrued perception of reality should she have taken drugs, said Moscow-based narcology expert Pavel Kuchuk.

But again this is just another a version. A complete analysis of Ruslana’s blood at the moment of her death will only be ready in mid-September. READ MORE

His foster parents wanted to give Dima the world. But he died instead…

The foster father who left Dima in his car in the sweltering heat is undergoing therapy at a mental hospital

An American family adopted the two-year-old Dima Yakolev last March from the Pskovsk Regional Orphanage. The boy died when his father stopped by his office and left him in a parked car all day long.

It was boiling hot on the street. The temperature had reached 30 degrees Celsius and 55 degrees inside the vehicle. The child died and his foster father Mike Harrison wound up in the hospital after a heart attack. Harrison is managing director of the consulting firm, Project Solutions Group.

Dima had made a long journey from Russia’s Pechor Pskovsk region to the U.S. His new family lived in Herndon, Virginia outside Washington DC. First, it seemed that fate had dealt the boy a second chance. His biological mother had put him up for adoption immediately after his birth — even though she too was raised in an orphanage. Dima was moved straight from the labor ward to the Pskovsk Regional Orphanage for children with a damaged central nervous system.

“We received Dima in 2006 straight from the labor ward,” said Natalya Vishnevskaya, the head doctor at the orphanage. “His 18-year-old mother signed a refusal of the child and disappeared. It’s unclear where she is now. She is a mentally disabled, lonely young girl who was also raised in an orphanage.”

Dima’s parents could have been Russian, but the potential foster parents reconsidered due to problems with his health. The boy had a cardiac murmur. However, the condition isn’t severe. Doctors report the medical condition can be found in one of two babies during a detailed health check.

“The doctors discovered a heart murmur,” Vishnevskaya said. “And although the boy was sweet, it was likely this diagnose together with his background that frightened the Russian couple. But the Harrisons agreed to adopt Dima.”

The Harrisons entered Dima’s life in the spring. The 45-year-old mother Carol and 49-year-old father Michael arrived to Russia from the U.S. to pick up their bundle of joy. They gathered all the necessary documents and Dima flew to a new country, family and home. He also received a new name. The Russian “Dima” became the American “Chase.”

On that misfortune day, Michael’s father was supposed to take his child to the nursery. But he decided to stop by work. He left the boy locked in his car in the parking lot with his seat belt fastened. He parked the off-road vehicle beneath the windows of his office. Michael lost track of time, and his heart skipped a beat when a passerby noticed “something” in the car. When the vehicle was opened, Dima was no longer breathing. His father tried to resuscitate the child and someone called the police.

After the tragedy, Carol requested that no one interfere with their personal life and restricted herself to: “We’re mourning.”

Michael ended up in the hospital. He fell into shock and had a heart attack. He was transferred to a private mental hospital. He is charged with manslaughter and faces up to 10 years in prison.

“I had a very good impression of the pair. They were absolutely normal people who were ready to become parents and take care of their child,” Vishnevskaya said. “The boy was friendly, calm and good-natured. And he wasn’t capricious at all. He was almost completely healthy when he was adopted.”

How could a responsible adult who achieved such success have forgotten about his child? It’s also hard to believe that 376 children have suffered a similar death in the U.S. over the past 10 years.

Interestingly, the boy died Tuesday — one week ago. But news of the tragedy reached Russia only several days later. Employees of the Russian Embassy in the U.S. only learned what had happened from the papers. READ MORE

Bishop Hilarion of Vienna reflects on Chukotka’s Diomid, opening the doors to other faiths

In recent weeks, the word has spread about a possible schism in the Russian Orthodox Church organized by Bishop Diomid of Chukotka. Some refer to the bishop as a bomb threatening the unity of the Church or a fighter for a purer faith. Others call him an Orthodox ayatollah and provocateur. In late June, the Bishops Council of the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate suspended Diomid from his episcopate.

We asked Bishop Hilarion of Vienna, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative branch in European international organizations to comment on the situation.

KP: Bishop, please explain why so much excitement is giving way right now due to the Chukotka letter published 1.5 years ago?

Bishop Hilarion of Vienna: There wasn’t only one letter. There were several open letters and appeals signed by Bishop Diomid and his clergy, as well as interviews and videos containing his appeals. So we’re talking about an enter series of public statements that are circulating on the Web and in other mass media. Bishop Diomid accuses the Russian Orthodox Church and all its higher clergy, including the Holy Patriarchy, of so-called “heretical ecumenism,” as well as other “digressions from the pure Orthodox faith.”

Q: Diomid backs his accusations with quotes from the holy fathers. I must admit I don’t know much about theology, like many of our readers. But I think any position needs to be supported by quotes from the Bible, Gospel, apostles and other theological works taken from their context and time frame. Just like Soviet literary critics flogged each other with quotes from Lenin…

A: I already had the occasion to talk about the materials signed by the bishop that are spreading on the Web and in anti-Church press. Both on their own and all together, they are provocative, aim to split the Church and plant mistrust in the hierarchy. These materials have been built on lies and disinformation. They target people who know little about the Church.

Q: What is ecumenism? Please explain for our readers.

A: The so-called ecumenical movement — a movement bringing together Christians of various confessions — has existed around 100 years. The Orthodox churches have participated in the movement since the late 1940s. But they refute the opinion of those protestants who believe there is a hidden international church and all orders (Catholics, the Orthodox, Protestants) are branches. The Russian Orthodox Church rebukes this “branch theory” outright. We believe the Orthodox Church is the only true church.

However, our conviction in the truth of the Orthodox Church doesn’t prevent the higher clergy from meeting with representatives from other Christian confessions. Of course, these meetings are held within the frameworks outlined by the Church canons. We aren’t allowed to worship together. This is prohibited by the canons. But we’re allowed to site together at a round table to discuss issues that worry us — for example, the demographic crisis.

Q: It would be strange and absurd if we only spoke with like-minded people — the Orthodox among themselves.

What would the Church’s mission be if it didn’t make contact with other confessions?

A: Sometimes they say: “The Orthodox faith needs no missionary work. The faith testifies to the truth by the fact it exists.”

This phrase gives peace of mind. But I think if the apostles had been inspired by such an ideology and sat behind closed doors at the Holy Cenacle, testifying to Christ’s existence by “the mere fact that he exists,” and not speaking with believers of other faiths, then Christianity wouldn’t have spread across the world.

We must testify to our beliefs everywhere we can, including with other Orthodox confessions.

Q: Return the lost sheep to the herd?

A: You could put it that way. But we don’t only need a dialogue with other Orthodox confessions; rather with all other believers. And they tell us to close the church doors to other Orthodox confessions and faiths. They say don’t let them in or you’ll break the cannons by praying with heretics.

Let’s remember the story of the baptizing of pagan Rus. Prince Vladimir sent his envoys to different countries so they would pick the true faith for the land.

Patriarch Constantinople who was wiser than other theologians of the day let the convoys into the temple even though they were pagans. The beauty of the service impressed them so strongly, they felt: “This is the truth. God is here.” After returning to Kiev, the messengers told the prince that “God is at the temple and speaks to the people.”

Let’s ask ourselves. What if they hadn’t let the envoys into the church as the Orthodox isolationists demand today? If the Patriarch had placed silently obeying the canons above missionary aims? The answer is simple. Rus wouldn’t have become Christian.

Q: Maybe there just aren’t any Catholics or Protestants in Chukotka…

Q: There are other places in Russia where only Orthodox live. Many of our bishops live in the West and they are always in close contact with representatives of other Christian confessions. We can’t ignore them and isolate ourselves.

Many among our parish are in “mixed marriages.” One of my parishioners in Vienna is married to an Englishman. She is Orthodox and he is a member of the Church of England. Their children are baptized and raised in the Orthodox manner. Some Sundays, the entire family comes to our church. The wife and children take communion and the husband prays. Other Sundays, they go to the English church located on the same street. The husband takes communion and the wife and children pray. What’s so bad about that? But if you adhere to Bishop Diomid’s ideology, then I should forbid them from doing this. He says it’s an infringement of the canons and “praying with heretics.” And generally speaking “marrying an Englishman is a sin and lechery.”

An Orthodox believer can enter another church that has sanctuaries esteemed by all Christians. The believer can also enter the church during the service. Thousands of pilgrims from Russia, Greece and other Orthodox countries go to the Catholic church in Bari everyday and pray to Saint Nikolay.

But joint services don’t take place. It’s prohibited by the Church canons.

Q: Why?

A: Joint service would create the illusion of unity between the Orthodox faith and Catholicism, or Orthodox faith and Protestantism. But this unity doesn’t exist. READ MORE

Sex slaves to the model industry

The noise around the recent tragedy isn’t getting any quieter. Last month, the 20-year-old star model Ruslana Korshunova jumped from a ninth-story window in New York. Foreign press have recently reported the “Russian Mermaid”was without work, fell into depression and let herself go. Dark circles could be seen under her eyes in her home photographs. Her face looked tired and sad. Ruslana attended seminars in Moscow to help heal her mental breakdown. But her career troubles were accompanied by an unhappy love life. The result was a tragic suicide.

Foreign media have also wrote about the modeling industry’s “New York-Paris-Moscow” shadow mafia that forces Russian models to work for miserly pay, uses them and tosses them out like garbage. Korshunova’s friends were surprised that her agency didn’t even offer to pay for her funeral. Her loved ones had to collect money themselves.

We decided to find out more about the dubious “international model trade,”and to tell our readers the tricks often used to lure and keep innocent young women captive.

Trick One: Debt

Today, it’s impossible for a girl to break into the international fashion industry straight off the street. An entire network of modeling agencies exists in Russia that looks for young girls to send abroad. It’s easier for Western companies to deal with agencies that have an arsenal of beautiful women. So it’s hard for girls to make it in the business without an agent as everyone wants their cut.

Modeling agencies receive payments to their accounts and pay the girls after all the expenses have been accounted for. On the one hand, it’s easier to make a name in the business with the help of an agency. On the other hand, most models don’t become financial successes overnight and quickly fall into debt as they are rarely able to cover the expenses their modeling agencies incur.

We called the Russian model Vanya in Paris to learn more about the situation. She’s 17 years old and has worked abroad two years.

“Ruslana Korshunova was part of the same agency as I am in Moscow — ‘Black Model Management,'” Vanya told KP. “We have the same agent, Aleksey Kalinin. He has a lot of experience and huge connections abroad. Aleksey was her Russia-side agent until the very end. His agency takes a cut from all our work done abroad — something like 10 percent. The agency that represents us abroad also takes a cut — about 20 percent. Taxes are also deducted before we see any money — and taxes are huge in the U.S. Expenses for food and pocket money are also taken out of our salary as the foreign agency pays all these expenses in advance.”

Vanya said Russian girls usually work themselves into a debt within several years.

“I’m not in the ‘plus’ yet either, although I’ve already been working abroad two years,” Vanya said.

The models only receive $100 per week for food and transport. As a result, many models take the metro to get to fashion shows that may be held several times per day. Cosmetologists, hairdressers, masseuses and fitness experts are needed, too. They’re also quite expensive.

“Foreigners come up with all sorts of expenses and present models with astronomical bills,” said another model working in Paris. “For example, my agency made me make new photographs. But they prohibited me from using any photographer but their own. It turned out he charged me far more than the market price. The agency also overcharged me for other services so they could deduct the costs later.”

One model told us how a Moscow agency had played her for a fool after sending her to Tokyo. The Tokyo agency wired the money she had earned (before deductions) to her Moscow agency, which shut down immediately after. The directors opened a new agency within a matter of days.

How much do models earn? Beginners make $100-300 per fashion show (before deductions). Top models earn over $1,000 per show, but reaching that level takes time and few get there. Many young models starve abroad less for the sake of their waistline than bank account.

Trick Two: Health

Models have bouts of depression for two reasons — when they’re out of work or have too much work. The girls have to run around to all sorts of shows. They always need to look good and they start taking stimulants and drugs. And they run the risk of collapsing due to the crazy rhythm of life.

“Nervous stress is part of the package for new models,” Vanya said. “I was first sent to Tokyo at 15. I wound up in a strange country, without knowing the language and without any moral support. What happened to me occurs with all new models abroad. I started going to night clubs to relax and get rid of my nervousness. I drank, smoked and tried to save myself from my depression and stress. I started missing castings and went to some of them inebriated. I couldn’t sleep, called home and yelled: ‘Get me out of here. I don’t want anything anymore!’ But my parents weren’t rich enough to go to Japan to get me. And the agency wouldn’t let me go. No one wanted to give me work after seeing how I looked. I gained 8 pounds from going to all the night clubs. I was really out of shape. I remember my booker in Japan called Aleksey and complained. He said I was too young and didn’t know anything, I was acting horribly and he didn’t know what to do with me! But luckily they gave me a second chance. I went on a diet and lost weight. And now I’m in Paris. I’ve talked to other models and learned we all go through depression. It’s the school of life.”

“How do you fight depression now?” we asked.

“Sometimes I take sedatives and other times energizers. My stomach is ruined from all these diets. But I have to keep in shape. I hope I achieve everything I’ve set out to accomplish,” Vanya said.

“What can depression do to a model?” we asked

“It can drive her to suicide in Ruslana’s case! I’m just lucky nothing like that has happened to me,” she said.

But agents also say they take risks. When they pay for a model’s food and housing, they’re placing a wager on the likelihood that she’ll succeed. READ MORE

Elderly woman orders own murder

On that sunny summer day, Valentina Tarasovna, a retiree, decided to hang herself. She cleaned up a bit, went to see her relatives and told them to come around in the evening. “Why?” they asked. “Come over and you’ll find out for yourself!” she said.

When Tarasovna got back from the bathhouse, she put on something nice and clean. But on her way home, a black cat crossed her path.

“That’s a bad omen,” she thought. Tarasovna felt worse, but decided against postponing the evening’s event. She pulled out the white noose out from under her mattress and hung it from the ceiling.

Tarasovna was known as a pleasant, talkative woman in her small village of Krasnoborsk in the Arkhangelsaya region. But at the age of 80 or so, she began to feel burdened by the discomforts of aging, and sadness came over her. Her husband had died shortly before. She also lived apart from her daughter and son-in-law.

Tarasovna lived alone in a large, wooden home that had once been confiscated from a priest. There used to be many icons scattered about the home, some in gilded gold frames. But several years earlier, she had gathered them and tossed them into the Northern Dvina River.

“That’s a mortal sin,” her relatives said when they learned what she had done.

“But I want to die,” she said explaining her actions. “What good is living when your health keeps going downhill. I don’t want you to have to waste your time on me. When I get around to ending it all, the money is in my chest. Take it.”

Suicides occur often in Krasnoborsk. Statistics show the Arkhangelsk region is among Russia’s leaders in terms of the crime. Hangings are the most common form of suicide.

Tarasovna’s relatives and neighbors told KP the following stories about recent local suicides.

Shortly before Tarasovna’s death, another local retiree went missing. Her friends and family thought she had gone to the city. But soon after, a soldier found the old woman hanging from a branch in a thicket. One shoe had fallen off and a single black toe protruded from her torn stocking. At the same time, another old woman came home from the hospital after an orderly had told her she likely had cancer. She cried and wrote a note to her daughter: “Eat when you get home from work. There’s soup waiting for you. Then go into the shed.” Her daughter ate and then went into the shed to see her mother hanging there… Sadly, the autopsy showed the woman didn’t even have cancer. And Krasnoborsk has lost count of how many men have hung themselves. One man was transporting apples in his car in the autumn when the vehicle flipped over. So the driver hung himself so he wouldn’t have to pay for the damages.

And so, on that sunny summer day, Tarasovna came back from the bathhouse, hung the noose, stood up on her chair, fixed her hair and started pulling the rope around her neck. But at that moment, her neighbor walked in…

“Thanks to that black cat! Darn omens!” Tarasovna said. “I guess I’ll just have to go and drown myself in the river like Nurka did not long ago.”

But her relatives told her not to drown herself. They wouldn’t find her body in the swamp and couldn’t visit her in her grave.

“But they found Nurka!” she retorted.

For some time, Tarasovna’s relatives didn’t take their eyes off her. They gave her medication and she seemed to calm down.

But the situation ended up unfolding so strangely that KP decided to head out to the region to study the chain of events.

Soldier back from the war

Vasily Buldakov, a native of these gloomy lands, returned from Israel at 40 some-odd years old. He had served in the Israeli special forces and fought the Arabs. His body had been scarred by shrapnel and scalpels. And his soul was so hardened that he even cursed young salesgirls who served him rudely. “They wouldn’t even let you and your cow of a mother work as toilet cleaners in Israel,” he would say.

But Buldakov wound up in Israel by happen chance. His second wife was a Russian Jew with two children and they decided to move to Israel as her whole family had emigrated. But it wasn’t long before the couple began having problems. Buldakov grew tired of fighting for the Jewish people and went back home. His oldest son (from his first marriage) rented a room at a local dormitory. And so, the Israeli soldier moved in with him.

Buldakov was a hired farmhand like many others in the area. He loved to put away the booze and didn’t get on well with his employers or the other villagers. He had been to jail twice for hooliganism and many feared him.

Two lonely people

Tarasovna had trouble getting to the store, but never walked with a cane like her relatives suggested. She didn’t want to look old. And so one fateful day, Tarasovna slipped on wet clay outside her home. And it just so happened Buldakov was nearby. He helped her up and the two soon became friends. Buldakov began visiting her regularly to drink tea and chat. And when his son brought his girlfriend home, Buldakov spent the night at Tarasovna’s apartment.

Tarasovna’s relatives advised her to keep away from him. They said she didn’t “know what to expect from Buldakov,” and she also had a sizable pension and savings. But Tarasovna threw caution to the wind. When Buldakov didn’t visit her for a long time, she went to see him herself.

Tarasovna didn’t care about money. Once she had paid local Roma to remove a curse from her home after she had received her pension. But the Roma went through her things and stole half her money. Her daughter insisted she file a police report. Tarasovna did and shortly after the thieves returned what they had stolen. But it wasn’t long before another Roma visited Tarasovna, pretending to be a girl scout. And she stole everything Tarasovna had. This time, Tarasovna refused to report the incident to the police. She simply told her relatives the Roma needed the money to live. That’s the type of person she was.

When visitors came to see Tarasovna, they often saw Buldakov sitting behind her table drunk, crying and rattling on about his cruel fate and fighting on the Arab-Israeli front. He said life wasn’t worth a damn.

“Did you kill anyone?” she asked her guest.

“Of course!” he said.It’s unclear how Tarasovna convinced Buldakov to help her leave this empty world. But the criminal case shows Buldakov initially refused and begged Auntie Tarasovna (case files say he referred to her as “auntie”) to live longer.

Retiree looked for a killer

When Tarasovna was found dead, no one knew she had been killed. She was lying on the sofa with her arms folded on her chest in a clean shirt (after going to the bathhouse). Only afterwards did the doctor find a small wound nearby her heart.

Baldakov was arrested the same day. According to investigator Pavel Vlasov and lawyer Nikolay Lukyanov, Buldakov confessed immediately. He said he didn’t want to kill Tarasovna, but she had insisted that he help.

Although one might think Buldakov killed Tarasovna for another reason and simply lied about her pleas to lessen his sentence, her relatives — even her daughter — are sure the accused is telling the truth. Her relatives say even before meeting Buldakov she tried to hire someone kill her on numerous occasions. She was told there just “aren’t any killers in these parts.”

When the two finally agreed, Buldakov told Tarasovna he’d have to get drunk before committing the crime. She gave him money for booze and placed 5,980 rubles on the table.

Afterwards, Tarasovna went to the bathhouse and changed into clean clothes. She waited at home, but Buldakov was nowhere to be found. Tarasovna then went to see him at the dormitory. Later she went home and Buldakov followed shortly after. According to investigators, Buldakov used a military hold to help Tarasovna lose consciousness. He then used a kitchen knife to take her life. He carefully placed Tarasovna’s body on the table.

Buldakov didn’t search her apartment as his fingerprints were nowhere to be found. About 80,000 rubles were left in Tarasovna’s jacket pocket for the funeral. Buldakov only took the 5,980 rubles that she had left him on the table as payment, a pack of macaroni, the victim’s comb in memory and a knife. Tarasovna’s neighbors watched as he headed home across the street with the macaroni and knife. READ MORE

Former Sachsenhausen concentration camp prisoner Adolf Burger: “I’ve counterfeited 133 million pounds sterling”

Burger recounts his days counterfeiting pounds, rubles and stamps at a Nazi factory for KP

More than half a century ago, bags of counterfeit dollars, pounds and Soviet rubles passed through Adolf Burger’s hands. Today he is 92 years old. Fascists forced the prisoners from all over Europe to make the counterfeit money. Burger is the only remaining living worker from the “devil’s factory.” He wrote a book about his experience that served as the basis for last year’s film, “Counterfeiters,” which won an Oscar for Best Foreign Film.

In Dr. Mengel’s grip

Burger: I was arrested in 1942 in Slovakia. I’m a printer. I helped Jews falsify documents to keep them out of concentration camps. And as a result I wound up in a camp together with my wife.

KP: It was Auschwitz…

Burger: They split us up at the station — women to one side and men to another. Only a year later I learned that my wife had been sent to the crematory on the very first day. Auschwitz was a genuine hell. I’ll never forget it. Dr. Mengel experimented on prisoners, and I wound up on his list. I was given a typhus vaccine. I was near death for 40 days. My friends hid me in the hay in our barracks. Five others who received the same vaccine were sent to the ovens.

KP: How did you become part of the counterfeit-money team?

Burger: They started looking for people at Auschwitz who had printing experience in 1944. A chancellery big shot who had previously only referred to me as “prisoner 6440” suddenly said: “Mr. Burger, the Reich trusts you with a mission for the Fatherland.”

“Only a select few knew about us…”

Burger: Me and three others were sent to Sachsenhausen. There were two barracks behind two layers of barbed-wire fence and internal security. When they took us to the showers, they locked everyone else in the barracks. No one was supposed to see us or know what we were doing.

KP: Who was in charge?

Burger: Bernard Kruger came in the first day. He was an important SS officer who ran the counterfeit-money operations and personally reported to Himmler. He explained what we needed to do and said death awaited anyone who tried to sabotage the operation. He was a very cruel individual guilty in the deaths of many.

KP: What was your relationship with the Nazis?

Burger: What kind of relationship could exist between the victims and the executor? We were, though, granted certain privileges. We were fed better, allowed to grow our hair out and even given cigarettes at times. But many SS officers wanted to get rid of us as quickly as possible. Some of us were taken outside and shot — simply out of anger for losing the war. And one day in 1945, everyone just left…

Soviet identity cards from bench leatherette

Burger: Your workshop also counterfeited pounds sterling?

KP: We made almost everything. Soviet rubles, but in a smaller quantity… Soviet documents… I remember once we had to falsify 200 identity cards of Soviet People’s Commissariat Security employees. It turned out the red leather we were brought was the wrong color. It was too bright. So Kruger came and took 10 men from our barracks. He said: “If the identity cards aren’t ready by the day after tomorrow, we’ll shoot these 10 men.” Of course, we had to save our friends. You know what we came up with? There were benches in our barracks upholstered in red leatherette — the same color we needed. So we stamped the initials for the Soviet People’s Commissariat Security on them and then made covers for the identity cards.

KP: Was it hard to counterfeit pounds sterling?

Burger: It was difficult to make the paper for the money. It was made from tissue, and we just couldn’t make anything that looked like the original. And then one of my friends accidentally took an ordinary dirty rag…! It turned out the British made their paper from dirty tissue. But the Nazis were bringing clean tissue from Turkey. So when we finally learned how to make the paper, everything was fine. My friends and I made bills amounting to 133 million pounds sterling — 40 percent of Britain’s money supply!

KP: Why did the Nazis need so much counterfeit money?

Burger: The Nazis divided our pounds into three categories. The first were impeccable counterfeits. Germany made payments at banks in Switzerland and Scandinavia and made currency operations with this money… The second were bills with flaws that were only visible to specialists. They were used to pay German agents in Europe. They didn’t know they were getting paid with fake money. And the third had noticeable flaws and were dropped above English towns by plane, so people would pick them up, pay with them and ruin the British economy.

Poking at the king

Burger: We also counterfeited English postal stamps, besides money. Instead of the king’s portrait, we put Stalin and the Star of David.

KP: But why?

Burger: German agents in England glued them on the envelopes instead of genuine stamps. The workers almost didn’t notice, used the stamps and sent their post. The Nazis thought when people saw Stalin and the 6-pointed star, they’d start to hate the Communists and Jews. But people just started hating the Nazis even more.

KP: Was your counterfeit money really just like the original?

Burger: Even the Bank of England approved the counterfeits as “original.” At the time, pounds sterling were unique in that they were very big — 13 cm by 21 cm. They weren’t carried in wallets, but rather attached by a pin to the inside of your pocket so they wouldn’t fall out. We poked holes through the portrait of the British monarch. We knew the British didn’t do that and that’s the only reason why some of the money was retrieved after the war. If all our pounds had ended up in circulation in Britain, the economy would have collapsed.

KP: Are you serious?

Burger: Yes. England even requested that this go unmentioned at the Nirenberg trials. Two years later, Britain changed all the bills up to 5 pounds (which were the ones we counterfeited) and the danger the economy would collapse disappeared.

Secret at the bottom of the sea

KP: What happened to Kruger? And the counterfeit money?

Burger: Bernard Kruger, who was guilty in the deaths of many of my friends, wasn’t even tried. He lived in the Federal Republic of Germany and died 20 years ago. And the money… The Nazis drowned the printing presses, boxes of money and safes with information in Lake Toplitz in Austria. Expeditions have been held trying to find the remnants. People often die as a result. I don’t believe in mysticism, but I know counterfeit money won’t bring anyone happiness. READ MORE