The invisible gas pipeline of Alexey Miller

Gazprom invest paid one and a half billion rubles for a gas pipeline, which is not there.
President Vladimir Putin heard about the gas pipeline “stolen” in the Leningrad Region during a press conference in December 2018: according to the documents, a 129-kilometer pipeline from St. Petersburg to Priozersk was built and paid for, but in its place there was only a half-grown clearing. The stolen has not yet been found. And after the president expressed surprise at the press conference, money was again allocated for the construction, and it continued.

We can say that the Leningrad Region was lucky with this gas pipeline. But Kostroma, alas, not very. They did not talk about her at a press conference.

As Novaya Gazeta found out, a similar story happened with the gas pipeline between the cities of Galich and Sharya in the Kostroma region: according to Gazprom documents, the gas pipeline was practically built and paid for, but gas is not running through it. Although the pipe is larger in diameter and the route is longer, no gas is expected in Sharya in the near future.

Virtual gas pipeline

An 182-kilometer gas pipeline would go from Galich through Parfenyevo, Neya and Manturovo to Sharya and provide 80 thousand inhabitants with gas. The story began 13 years ago when Gazprom asked for permission to carry out design and survey works. In 2011, Gazprom invest Zapad (now Gazprom invest) entered into a general contract for 2.7 billion rubles with St. Petersburg LLC Omega. The same "Omega" a couple of years later received one and a half billion rubles for a nonexistent gas pipeline near Priozersk, which was told to the president.

According to plans, gas was to appear in Parfenyevo in 2012, in Her in 2013, in Manturovo and Sharya in 2014. But he did not wait anywhere.

The entire project was divided into four sections, each of which should have a gas distribution station (GDS). According to documents at the most remote site - from Manturovo to Sharya - the work did not start and was not paid. And this is the only section of financial reporting that you can trust: nothing really is built there.

Judging by the acts of acceptance of work and the money received by the Omega accounts, in the first three areas the work was completed and paid on average by 83%. It is assumed that there is an access road along the gas pipeline, there are three gas distribution stations with staff houses ready for operation. A repair and maintenance base (EW) was built near Ney. For all this, 1.6 billion rubles were transferred from the accounts of Gazprom Invest to the accounts of Omega. Judging by the drawn up acts, people from Gazprom saw all this, were satisfied and signed the documents without comment. Which is strange, since there is nothing in the Kostroma forests besides a littered clearing.

We went to places where the gas pipeline should be, and we offer a kind of virtual tour.


The first section of Galich-Parfenyevo, according to the signed documents, should be almost 90% ready. On the spot it is clear that the pipe is really laid.

But instead of cleared clearings and access roads - deaf thickets. In place of the control and measuring points (instrumentation) there are water pits; these instrumentation instruments themselves were either not installed or were looted without supervision. According to the agreement, the pipe must have electrochemical protection (ECP) - this is a system in which a weak electric current is supplied to the special coating of the pipe, which prevents oxidation processes. No ECP is observed there. There are no signs of power supply.

In places, the pipe was laid directly in the swamp. This in itself is normal: the project stipulated that on heavily boggy sections of the route the pipe is laid directly in the water in a special protective concrete box. But, according to representatives of Omega subcontractors, no additional ducts were used during construction. There is no gas distribution station in Parfenyevo. Today in its place is a growing area. Nearby there is something similar to an unfinished house for the operator (without the provided garage), but local residents say that it was installed after the Omega left the project, who built it and why is not clear.

Not me

On the way between Parfenyevo and Ney, the pipe is lost. In order to establish exactly where, an all-terrain vehicle or a helicopter is needed. It’s impossible to drive through the overgrown clearing even on an SUV.

In Her, in addition to the gas distribution station, a repair and maintenance base was to appear: this is a rather serious construction with production workshops, a garage, a checkpoint with a barrier and its own diesel generator station. Despite the fact that Gazprom invest paid for such construction works, it is impossible to detect them. In their place is emptiness.


In Manturovo, the planned and paid gas distribution station was also not found, as well as the pipe itself. There is only an abandoned half-rotten sod road, a windbreak and a forest abandoned after deforestation.

How much paid

It is difficult to say exactly how much money was spent on the construction of a gas pipeline in the Kostroma region, and how much was spent in an unknown direction. According to a rough estimate, the cost of the work actually done by Omega may not exceed half of the paid 1.6 billion rubles.

According to experts, a pipe that was not in operation without electrochemical protection, laid five years ago in the ground (and in some places in a swamp), cannot be used to transport gas. The clearing, of course, remained, but after years it seems that it will have to be cleared again. And not only from the new growth, but also from the consequences of the barbaric methods of work. According to current standards, commercial wood after cutting down a clearing for industrial needs should be transferred to the Federal Property Management Agency, which sells it at auction. Felling residues should be disposed of. According to the documents, everything was done and even paid for. But on the route of the future gas pipeline are rotten logs, and in some places - impassable windbreak.

Optimism of local government

The gas pipeline construction customer is Gazprom invest. But, in theory, the Kostroma region should be the most interested party, whose residents and enterprises are waiting for gas to come to them. The project was prepared in accordance with the cooperation agreement and the gasification agreement between Gazprom and the administration of the Kostroma region.

In the department of construction, housing and communal services and the fuel and energy complex, we were advised to contact the deputy governor, department director Andrei Dmitriev, with questions about the non-existent gas pipeline. But he said that he was too busy, and did not find time for comment.

Judging by the local press, the region’s leadership is optimistic about the gas pipeline. In 2011, they assured that the gas would be in Sharya three years later. In 2015, the deadline moved to 2017. And then he drove off by 2020.

The news of 2019 is that the implementation of the project in the Kostroma region is just beginning, and the work will be completed "by 2023". The reason for the long-term delay is the “project adjustment”.

Where did Gazprom invest

In Gazprom Invest, after the gas scandal, some changes occurred: in October 2018, CEO Mikhail Levchenkov left. Today he is the president of Root Development Holding with an authorized capital of 10 thousand rubles and zero balance. The company does not have a website. The holding said that Levchenkov is now on vacation, but they promised to transfer a request for comment to him. At the time of publication Levchenkov did not answer questions.

Under the contract of Gazprom Invest with Omega, as well as under most of the acts of completion and reconciliation, is signed by Deputy General Director of Gazprom Invest Igor Lozovsky. But he left his post after the chief, and nothing was reported about his future career.

The current general director of Gazprom Invest Vladislav Tyurin did not comment on the situation.

In especially large

A particularly large-scale fraud case against the former Omega CEO Vitaly Ermolaev was initiated only in March 2019 by the Main Investigative Department of the St. Petersburg Ministry of the Interior. There is one episode in the case - with the Priozersk gas pipeline. Apart from Ermolaev himself, no one was involved as a suspect or accused. According to investigators, 836,990,400 rubles were stolen. Ermolaev is now on a federal wanted list. The figure is quite colorful. The head of the large construction company, still owned by his father, Ermolaev loves expensive cars, large motorcycles, all kinds of extreme sports and was better known as the “biker Yerema”.

He first got into news reports in 2013, when, near the village of Vaskelovo near St. Petersburg, his Bentley drove into the oncoming lane and collided with Volkswagen in the forehead. The driver and passenger of Volkswagen died on the spot. The Bentley driver hid from the scene of the accident. Later it turned out that Ermolaev was allegedly not driving, and that he lent his car to a friend who was much inferior to Ermolaev in social status.

Even before the initiation of the criminal case, but after the story of the Priozersky pipe became famous, Ermolaev managed to visit Syria. In the pictures posted on the Web, he poses against the desert in combat camouflage and with weapons.

In the summer of 2018, the biker Yerema fell into another adventure. On July 13, on Olkhovaya Street in St. Petersburg, a police outfit stopped two men who were suspicious. One of them rushed to run, firing a pistol towards the patrol, and managed to escape. The second was detained on the spot, in his bag he found two pistols with silencers (Walter and CZ), and in the next entrance - a store from a Luger pistol with fourteen rounds, a wig and gloves.
The man who escaped by firing was detained the next evening. It was Vitaly Ermolaev. But the most interesting thing happened in October 2018 in the Primorsky District Court of St. Petersburg, which considered the case of armed resistance to the police and, for some reason, the case of non-payment of salaries to Omega employees.

The police of the separate battalion of the PPSP Regional Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Primorsky district, Alexei Markov and Denis Lobaznyuk (not like the Moscow Rosgvardeytsy) showed surprising generosity. They filed motions asking them to dismiss the case against Ermolaev,

since the damage was compensated to them: the defendant, shooting at them, apologized. The prosecutor immediately supported the petition of the victims. And the judge dismissed the case, releasing the defendant from custody. The conviction, however, still took place: under the article on non-payment of salaries to employees of Omega. Ermolaev was awarded a fine of 100 thousand rubles.

True, a few days later the prosecutor promised to appeal the verdict and even appealed, but soon recalled the complaint. Novaya Gazeta asked the St. Petersburg prosecutor's office to comment on this position of the prosecution. There is no answer yet.

After initiating a criminal case on fraud, Ermolaev apparently did not visit the investigator on the summons and was put on the federal wanted list. Novaya contacted Ermolaev through one of the online forums on which he is registered. Ermolaev initially responded, but did not agree to a detailed conversation.


During the construction of the gas pipeline in the Leningrad Region, according to investigators, more than 800 million rubles were stolen. When building in the Kostroma region, judging by the missing, but paid for objects, about the same. The same amount could have been spent on laying the pipe, which has rusted for six years in the swamps near Galich. There is no one to recover this money from. Omega is in the process of being liquidated; no assets were left with the company.

Vitaly Ermolaev’s announcement on the wanted list allows the investigator to suspend the investigation until the accused is discovered, provided, of course, that Ermolaev single-handedly performed this operation under the nose of unsuspecting Gazprom Invest managers. Residents of Kostroma Oblast left without gas will probably have to send a messenger to the next press conference of the president.