There is not much infor­ma­tion about Sergei Korolev, the new­ly appoint­ed first deputy direc­tor of the FSB, in the pub­lic domain: he was head of the Eco­nom­ic Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice (ESS), and before that, the FSB Direc­torate for Inter­nal Secu­ri­ty (FSB). That is, in fact, all that the pub­lic is «sup­posed» to know. ISto­ries decid­ed that fel­low cit­i­zens are enti­tled to more com­plete infor­ma­tion about an impor­tant official.

The author of the inves­ti­ga­tion, Roman Anin, stud­ied the mate­ri­als of sev­er­al high-pro­file crim­i­nal cas­es in which Korolev is men­tioned, and found in the biog­ra­phy of one of the most secre­tive lead­ers of the Russ­ian secu­ri­ty ser­vices a lot of things that were not includ­ed in its offi­cial part. For exam­ple, his ties to sev­er­al lead­ers of the crim­i­nal world who were accused of dozens of mur­ders and kidnappings.

In addi­tion, the mate­r­i­al, in my opin­ion, gives a clear idea of how bureau­crat­ic careers are made in Putin’s time — noth­ing hap­pens there by chance. The jour­nal­ists found out that Koroly­ov-father was a friend of Vik­tor Zubkov and hunt­ed togeth­er with him, which appar­ent­ly con­tributed to the first steps of Koroly­ov-son, who start­ed his career in St. Peters­burg under Zubkov’s wing. In the ear­ly 1990s, Zubkov served as Vladimir Putin’s deputy in the St. Peters­burg City Hall’s Com­mit­tee for Exter­nal Rela­tions, became Deputy Min­is­ter for Tax­es and Duties in 1999, took over as Prime Min­is­ter of Rus­sia in 2007, and head­ed Gazprom’s board of direc­tors in 2008.

The author quotes the opin­ion of Korolyov’s col­leagues: they are con­vinced that despite hav­ing «good con­nec­tions» Koroly­ov made his career on his own because he is «a very savvy oper­a­tive» (one of the high­est forms of praise in the law enforce­ment com­mu­ni­ty): before he became first deputy direc­tor, he worked for the FSB as head of a unit, head of a divi­sion, and head of a department.

The thing is that, first of all, in my view, the law enforcers’ opin­ions should be divid­ed by ten — they them­selves have repeat­ed­ly demon­strat­ed how eas­i­ly they can lie, under­state, or exag­ger­ate their own suc­cess­es in the name of some «high­er inter­ests», unknown to their fel­low cit­i­zens. And, sec­ond­ly, curi­ous in this regard and con­tra­dic­to­ry is assess­ment of Korolev’s activ­i­ties dur­ing his time in the ser­vice of eco­nom­ic secu­ri­ty (SEB) UFSB of St. Peters­burg and the Leningrad region on the part of his col­leagues from relat­ed law enforce­ment branch­es. This once again demon­strates the tra­di­tion­al­ly «uneasy», if not hos­tile, rela­tion­ship between the police and the KGB (Fed­er­al Secu­ri­ty Ser­vice), espe­cial­ly exac­er­bat­ed under Putin, when the FSB took from the «cops» bread-and-but­ter places for pro­tec­tion. Korolev’s tasks, among oth­ers, includ­ed com­bat­ing orga­nized crime and super­vis­ing law enforce­ment agen­cies. Jour­nal­ists recall the war for influ­ence between the police and the FSB and, in par­tic­u­lar, between Sergei Korolev and Vladislav Piotro­vsky — at the time head of the city’s crim­i­nal police and lat­er head of the St. Peters­burg and Leningrad region Depart­ment of Inter­nal Affairs. I once inves­ti­gat­ed a crim­i­nal case against Arkhangel­sky, a busi­ness­man from St. Peters­burg. And in that case the fig­ure of Piotro­vsky «loomed» quite clearly.

Obvi­ous­ly, the stum­bling block for Korolev was the case of Oleg Makovoz, a native of Irkut­sk region, who was detained by St. Peters­burg Police Crim­i­nal Inves­ti­ga­tion Depart­ment. Accord­ing to police inves­ti­ga­tors, Makovoz, nick­named MacLeod, was one of the mem­bers of a Bratsk crim­i­nal group. (In 2009 Makovoz was sen­tenced to 23 years in prison for the mur­der of Rus­tam Rav­ilov, the leader of the «Kazan» gang, kid­nap­ping and extor­tion.) Check­ing the cir­cle of Makovoz acquain­tances, oper­a­tives found that the ring­leader of Bratsk crim­i­nal group close­ly com­mu­ni­cat­ed with Sergei Korolev. The nature of this rela­tion­ship, in their opin­ion, «was sim­i­lar to a mutu­al­ly ben­e­fi­cial coop­er­a­tion». In the view of Korolyov’s col­leagues, who were inter­viewed by ISto­ries, Makovoz was «a valu­able source of infor­ma­tion, and the rela­tion­ship between the oper­a­tive and the source is one of the most com­plex, even philo­soph­i­cal, prob­lems in the work of the spe­cial services.

In any case, it was in the midst of the Makovoz inves­ti­ga­tion that Korolev sub­mit­ted a report about his trans­fer to the Fed­er­al Tax Ser­vice (FTS) under the wing of its then-head, Ana­toly Serdyukov, son-in-law of the afore­men­tioned Vik­tor Zubkov. Lat­er, Serdyukov became the head of the Min­istry of Defense, and Korolev became his advi­sor. In his new posi­tion he, in par­tic­u­lar, super­vised the GRU. Since I remem­ber well the old days, I can say with con­fi­dence: «there had nev­er been any­thing like this before and here we are again»: an advis­er to the Min­is­ter of Defense became a man who has close ties with the gang­sters. More­over, in his new post, ISto­ries writes, he, in par­tic­u­lar, super­vised the GRU.
How­ev­er, as fur­ther events showed, the con­nec­tion to the crim­i­nal world of St. Peters­burg did not go any­where either. The author of the inves­ti­ga­tion stud­ied the mate­ri­als of the Span­ish police, which in 2008 con­duct­ed a large-scale spe­cial oper­a­tion «Troi­ka», result­ing in the arrest of, in the words of the Span­ish media, «lead­ers of the Russ­ian mafia». Among those arrest­ed was Gen­nady Petrov, a St. Peters­burg busi­ness­man with crim­i­nal past. Jour­nal­ists take us back to the wire­taps of Petrov’s con­ver­sa­tions with high-rank­ing Russ­ian offi­cials pub­lished by The Insid­er. By the way, the same ones — Zubkov and Serdyukov (Vitya and Tolik fra­ter­nal­ly call them Petrov). From these con­ver­sa­tions, the read­er learns curi­ous details about the appoint­ment of Alexan­der Bas­trykin as head of the Inves­tiga­tive Com­mit­tee. And also, about a mys­te­ri­ous char­ac­ter by the «name» of Boltai-Noga (swing­ing foot). ISto­ries estab­lished: Boltai-Noga, like Korolev, worked as an advi­sor to Ana­toly Serdyukov; Boltai-Noga, like Korolev, is named Sergei; Boltai-Noga, like Korolev, had a rela­tion­ship with the FSB: Petrov remind­ed in the con­ver­sa­tion with his son not to for­get to con­grat­u­late Boltai-Noga on Decem­ber 20, Secu­ri­ty Agents Day; Boltai-Noga, like Korolev, was born on July 25.

Why is the top­ic of «peter­ski­je» (offi­cials orig­i­nat­ed from St Peters­burg) once again raised in the inves­ti­ga­tion of ISto­ries impor­tant? Because the sys­tem they cul­ti­vat­ed even­tu­al­ly spread over the entire coun­try. This once again con­firms: the Russ­ian gov­ern­ment is com­plete­ly crim­i­nal in nature.

Final­ly, the strength of the sto­ry lies in the unre­solved mys­tery of Sergei Korolev’s per­son­al­i­ty. No mat­ter what ties he was caught in, each time he not only got away with it, but it seems to have only strength­ened his author­i­ty among his col­leagues. Work­ing on this text, the author of the inves­ti­ga­tion repeat­ed­ly asked his inter­locu­tors: «How could Korolev be appoint­ed deputy direc­tor with so many acquain­tances among the lead­ers of the under­world» Both friends and for­mer ene­mies of the new deputy FSB direc­tor answered more or less the same thing: «And who is not with­out sin? At least he [Korolev] has nev­er been involved in * [beast­li­ness or betray­al]. And the pres­i­dent appre­ci­ates such people».

In this sense, the jour­nal­ist con­cludes, the president’s per­son­nel pol­i­cy bears lit­tle resem­blance to the prin­ci­ples prac­ticed in a state gov­erned by the rule of law, but rather resem­bles the per­son­nel log­ic of crim­i­nal boss­es, where loy­al­ty is the candidate’s main virtue.

Sergei Korolev did not answer the ISto­ries ques­tions. At least, not yet.

Search tech­nolo­gies used by the authors: work with our own sources; search through open sources (The Insider’s pub­li­ca­tion with wire­taps); use of offi­cial inves­tiga­tive mate­ri­als, includ­ing from anoth­er coun­try (Spain).

Tech­niques used: inter­views, analy­sis of all the infor­ma­tion obtained.

Expert Analy­sis and Assessment
Григорий Пасько
Григорий Пасько
Соучредитель и Директор фонда 19/29
Ask a ques­tion
Pub­lic Value
100 /100
Entire­ty of the Investigation
80 /100
100 /100
80 /100
Reli­a­bil­i­ty of Sources
80 /100
100 /100
Strengths & Weaknesses
A large amount of mate­r­i­al from var­i­ous sources is col­lect­ed and worked through; video illus­tra­tions; qual­i­ta­tive analysis.
The absence of expert opin­ions; the opin­ions of inde­pen­dent lawyers and busi­ness­men, who were pressed and cov­ered up by «brat­ki» and the secu­ri­ty ser­vices, are not given.

The orig­i­nal text of the arti­cle is Russ­ian. Trans­lat­ed by arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence systems.