Russian sailors get to work abroad and are often there in prison on charges of transporting illegal migrants. How have you organised this scheme, and found out about DW.
In Russia recruit sailors for illegal transportation of refugees in the EU. Men find recruiters through Internet ads, promising legal work on a yacht in Turkey. After that, they are trained instructors in Montenegro or Turkey. Many of those who found work this way, then find themselves in Greece. There they face prison sentences and multimillion dollar fines for the illegal transportation of migrants. Among caught in such a situation many immigrants from Russia and Ukraine.
Recruiters in Sochi and Anapa
A particularly active network of recruiters who offer the Russians a well-paid job in the tourist yachts in Turkey and supposedly the official employment, operates in the Krasnodar region. This follows from the stories of sailors and their families.
Recruiters place ads on the search of personnel to work on yachts in Turkey at the popular job site – Avito, Headhunter and others – as well as talk about the opportunity to earn the young men with whom they “accidentally” meet in airports and other public places.
It is through such a “casual” friend about the earning potential in Turkey learned two professional sailors from Ussuriysk Aleksey Malenkov and his partner Roman Smirnov. Its the story of Alex, who is now in custody on the Greek island of KOs, told DW by phone.
Living in Sochi recruiter Alexander, which Alex and his partner Roman turned at the beginning of October 2019, assured that the work in Turkey will be official, with a salary of 200 thousand rubles per month. Flight to Turkey, hotel accommodation and driving instruction yachts, also paid for by the employer. Employment contract promised to issue on the spot.
Alexei Malenkov went to the Turkish town of Bodrum. There he spent about a month at the Okyanus hotel with Belgorod Novel Belenko, who was to become his companion on the yacht called “Daniel Wilwinson”. Turkish captain who introduced himself as Ahmed, a regular visitor of Russians in the hotel and left them there money for food, about 150 pounds (about 1500 rubles) per person, says Alex.
He recalls that after the first weeks at the hotel he began to have doubts. But to give up and return home he did not dare: since the employer paid for the ticket to Turkey and staying in a hotel. Alex considered that “is in a debt situation.”
DW correspondent in Turkey went to this hotel to find out there remember the two Russian men who have lived in a hotel for a month in October 2019. However, the hotel representative said that they stopped only older people, “the hotel is more like a nursing home,” and the two Russians he does not remember. Other information about the property, in particular, about who pays for the accommodation of Russians there could not be obtained. Failed to communicate with the recruiter Alexander, the mobile number is not responding.
According to Alexei Malenkov, he and his partner feared for their own lives and the lives of their loved ones. “We were told that we have to work with spent money with us. Because they (the recruiters. – Ed.) made out our tickets to Turkey, they had our passport details and addresses,” says Alex.
In November 2019, after Alex was in a Greek prison, his wife, Evgeny Malenkov addressed in FSB with the statement which indicated the names and phone numbers of well known recruiters. The woman demanded to find the organizers and facilitators of the crime of which the Greek authorities accused her husband. This statement was forwarded to the Department of the FSB in Krasnodar region. A copy of the document is at the disposal of edition.
Recruitment through intermediaries
Vladimir Ivanov from Novosibirsk (the name was changed by the editor at the request of the seafarer) was recruited in a similar way. As told Vladimir DW ad for the part time sailor in yacht tourism in Turkey found on the Internet his friend. It was about the transportation of tourists from Turkey to Greece, Italy and Montenegro. The announcement, to which he responded, posted on the Internet entrepreneur by the name of Oleg. When Vladimir called Oleg, who gave him a phone number of some Novel. Then Vladimir came in contact another mediator, Artem. DW tried to contact each of them, but the only one who had answered the phone, was Oleg.
Oleg told DW that lives in Anapa, and in the selection of personnel for yachts engaged just a few months, looking for people to work exclusively on pleasure yachts in Sochi and Novorossiysk. He stressed that “for the first time hears” that the Russian sailors are in Greek prisons. About the further fate of those sailors that Oleg helped to find work, he also “knows nothing”.
Meanwhile, for Vladimir Ivanov information that the Russian sailors are in Greek prisons, was salvation. After spending a week in Bodrum waiting for some of the English-speaking instructor, Vladimir accidentally learned from another sailor about what had happened to Alexei Malenkov. He hastily left the hotel, waiting for a flight spent two nights at the airport and returned to Russia. Subsequently, one of the Russian negotiators of the Turkish employer, with whom Vladimir had talked before the trip to Turkey, called him a few times and persuaded to return, “not to let customers”, promising to give him for this “five” (five thousand euros). The recording of this conversation, Vladimir made as a precaution, he was put at the disposal of edition.
The role of instructors in Turkey and Montenegro
The investigation showed DW, along with recruiters, a special role in this scheme played by the Russian-speaking instructors who prepare arrived overseas candidates to put to sea. Places where the preparation, are, in particular, the Turkish Bodrum and the town of Bar in Montenegro.
Training course in Montenegro was held, for example, 23-year-old mechanic from the Belgorod region Alexey Igumnov and his friend, Nikita Shatalov. Now both are in custody in the Greek city of Nafplio. DW is not able to communicate with them personally. The story of the sailors stated DW is the mother of Alexei, Svetlana Igumnov.
According to her son learned about the opportunity to work as a seaman “for the season” from a friend. It was about the transportation of tourists on the boat from Turkey to Italy. Experience not required, training in necessary skills the employer promised to hold for its own account in Bar. August 22, Alexey Igumnov and Nikita Shatalov went to Moscow, where he flew on a Charter flight to Montenegro.
It tells Svetlana Igumnov, the rate of learning seamanship at the Bar, after which the young people hoped to get the international rights to operate the yacht, took about a week. At this time Russian-language instructor Alex walked with the young people on the yacht along the coast and taught them to stand at the helm, pull the ropes and raise the sail. This was reported by Svetlana igumenova her son. After that, the Russians announced that the promised international law on the management of the yacht, they will receive in Turkey, which should now be sent by sea accompanied by the same instructor Alexis.
In Turkey, they several times went to sea with an instructor on an empty boat, after which they determined the mechanics of the boat under the control of two Russian-speaking men, who introduced themselves as captain Nicholas and his assistant Stanislav. No additional information about the personalities of these people, the mother of Alexey Igumnov no.
Escaped the captains and prison in Greece
Sailor Alexei Malenkov instructor is not required. According to Malenkov, he was only trained to deploy the sails. When this course was completed, the Russians, along with captain Ahmed came in the first voyage from the port of Bodrum. Alex says that soon the boat approached two inflatable boats, and the Turkish captain was threatened and forced the Russians to carry 62 passengers, the “little reminding tourists.”
After some time, using the beginning of the storm, the captain, according to Alexei, left the ship, taking with them the mobile phones of seamen, and the remaining one-on-one with the elements, the Russians had to rule in the direction of the nearest shore of Greece, where they were arrested by local police. According to the Greek legislation, they now face up to 600 years in prison.
Return migrants to Turkey, according to Alexei Malenkov, in a strong a Gale was impossible. “If we went against the wind, it would endanger their life and the lives of people on Board,” says the sailor.
In a similar situation, apparently, was also Alexey Igumnov and Nikita Shatalov. Mother of Alexey Igumnov says that after the yacht, which was her son, went to sea, it swam under the inflatable boat. There were several dozen people who were clearly not tourists. The decision to take them on Board, the stories of Alex and Nikita, took the captain. After a while, under cover of a storm, he left the yacht, and left on her Russian sailors ended up in the hands of the Greek police on suspicion of illegal importation into the country of refugees.
No yacht owner
The opportunity for Russian sailors to prove his innocence is complicated by the fact that on Board the detained ships there is usually no accompanying documents.
Professor of criminology at the British University Teesside University in Middlesbrough and the author of the study on the organization of irregular migration flows to Greece Georgios Antonopoulos notes that in this case, to determine its owner is extremely difficult. In practice, this means that Turkey, like any other country, can always challenge the yacht belonging to one of its citizens.
“These vessels never returned to the country from which they came,” – emphasizes Antonopoulos. “Sometimes the smugglers used to transport migrants stolen yacht or supply them with counterfeit documents”, – the expert adds.
A lawyer who promised “to help”
Meanwhile, Alexei Malenkov awaiting trial in prison on the island of KOs, said that a recruiter from Sochi Alexander, whom he informed about his detention, hired to protect a Greek lawyer. He advised Russians to register in Greece the firm and record it on a delayed boat. In addition, the lawyer insisted that the sailors called himself a business selling fur coats. Then they refused his services.
According to the wife of Alexei Malenkov Eugenia provided by the recruiter lawyer “did not help the Russians, but only worsened their situation.” Recruiter Alexander, as told by the wife of Malenkov, soon stopped answering her calls and blocked her number.
According to Alexei Malenkov, but he and his companion Romana, in prison there are two Russian sailors, as well as several Ukrainians. All of them are on cases of illegal transportation of migrants.
Will the sailors of the Russian Embassy in Greece
Does the Russian Embassy in Athens to help the Russians in Greek prisons? Press-attaché of the Embassy refused to answer this question DW, referring to the official statement of the MFA of the Russian Federation from December 26, 2019. This document States that in the case of Russian sailors “was recorded illegal actions” and that the possibility of diplomatic missions and consular institutions of the Russian Federation in similar situations is very limited.
In the Russian Embassy also said that, according to the Greek side, at the end of December 2019, in the prisons of Greece were 49 Russians, 24 of them are in the cases of migrant smuggling. 23 Russians, according to the Embassy, are under arrest in Italy.
Meanwhile, told DW the head of the public organization “Russian initiative” Yuliya Serebryanskaya, dealing with the fates in Greek and Turkish prisons sailors, the total number of such prisoners, given immigrants from Ukraine, Kazakhstan and other countries where people speak Russian, could reach up to 300 people.