Russia Must Develop an Alternative to Islamism in the Caucasus

Russia Must Develop an Alternative to Islamism in the Caucasus

A commentary by Matthias Schepp in Moscow

Flowers are seen on the floor of Moscow's Domodedovo Airport on Tuesday morning.

REUTERS

Flowers are seen on the floor of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport on Tuesday morning.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev wants to weaken Islamist militants in the Caucasus by building infrastructure projects worth billions. But Monday’s terror attack in Moscow shows once again how hard it will be to win the hearts and minds of the population.

Speaking on television shortly after Monday’s deadly attack on Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev seemed shaken, almost helpless. “This is a terrorist act,” Medvedev said, putting into words what was already obvious to observers.

The attack, which according to current figures killed 35 people and injured well over 100, puts the Russian leader under considerable political pressure. His vision of economic development for restive provinces in the Caucasus, such as Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan, as a means of combating militant Islam, seems increasingly naive. His dream of promoting tourism in the troubled region appears more unrealistic than ever.

On Wednesday, Medvedev had planned to appear before political and business leaders at the World Economic Forum in the Swiss resort of Davos to present his vision for bringing peace to the Caucasus. His plan foresees building five major ski resorts in the region, one of which will be on the highest mountain in Russia, Mount Elbrus. Another is to be in Dagestan, where people die on an almost daily basis in skirmishes between militants and security forces. The plan, which will cost €12 billion ($16 billion), is based on an initiative by Alexander Khloponin, a former top executive and regional governor. In January 2010, Medvedev appointed Khloponin as his envoy to the North Caucasus, giving him the rank of deputy prime minister.

Although there is not yet a proven link between the Domodedovo bombers and Caucasus-based militants, media reports on Tuesday make it seem increasingly likely. Moscow-based newspapers reported that an eyewitness at the airport saw a women of Muslim appearance, dressed in a black robe, accompanied by a man. That would fit into the pattern of previous terrorist attacks in Moscow which have been committed by so-called “black widows,” as female suicide bombers from the Caucasus have been dubbed.

The Domodedovo massacre has, intentionally or not, torpedoed Medvedev’s planned initiative at Davos. On Monday, reacting to the attack, the Kremlin boss canceled his opening speech at the World Economic Forum. Now it will be even more difficult to make the plan, or even parts of it, a reality.

Medvedev’s idea to use the Davos summit to personally secure foreign partners for the development of the Caucasus had always seemed an ambitious. The plan to increase the number of ski tourists from the current level of a few thousand to hundreds of thousands looked like an unrealistic daydream.

Demands for Tougher Stance

Hardliners in Moscow will now demand a tougher stance against terror and will call for even more power and personnel for Russia’s already bloated intelligence agencies and corrupt police. It is a reflex that is by no means limited to Russia, a country where the desire for a strong man is especially pronounced after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the social insecurity of the 1990s.

In Russia, the supporters of a hard line on terror point to the success of a series of anti-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus last year, the “liquidation” of the guerrilla fighters’ chief ideologue, Said Buryatsky, and the capture of the underground leader Akhmed Yevloyev, also known as Magas.

The Russian security forces often operate outside the law in the Caucasus. Many police officers and intelligence agents follow an approach that Vladimir Putin formulated in 1999 after a wave of terrorist attacks. “If they’re in the airport, we’ll kill them there,” he said. “If we find them in a toilet, we’ll kill them in the outhouse.”

But militant Islam in the Caucasus resembles the mythical hydra, which grows back two heads for each one that is severed. Every time a fighter is killed, another one joins the armed underground. Hence Russia needs to win the battle for the hearts and minds of the people in the Caucasus.

Losing Faith in the State

The appeal of the secular state is dwindling in the region, which has a mostly Muslim population of 7 million. State services are deteriorating and the government is increasingly unable to provide prosperity and security for its citizens. Corruption has undermined the reputation and authority of government institutions. Police officers stationed on the main road across the North Caucasus regularly demand expensive bribes. And the pyramid of sleaze even goes as high as officials in Moscow ministries.

The Islamists’ promise of deliverance from all the evils of everyday life, not only in the afterlife but here on Earth, is not unlike the Communist rhetoric of the past. If the Russian authorities want to undermine them, they will have to come up with an attractive alternative. And that will take more than a few ski resorts.

Putin vows revenge for suicide bombing

Putin vows revenge for suicide bombing

By Thomas Grove and Steve Gutterman

MOSCOW | Tue Jan 25, 2011 9:46am EST

(Reuters) – Prime Minister Vladimir Putin vowed revenge on Tuesday for a suicide bombing that killed at least 35 people at Russia‘s busiest airport and underscored the Kremlin’s failure to stem a rising tide of attacks.

Talking tough a day after the bombing, Russia’s leaders ordered security services to root out the culprits behind the attack, which bore hallmarks of militants fighting for an Islamist state along Russia’s southern flank.

“This was an abominable crime in both its senselessness and its cruelty,” Putin told a meeting of ministers in Moscow.

“I do not doubt that this crime will be solved and that retribution is inevitable.”

President Dmitry Medvedev criticized law enforcement agencies and airport managers over the attack at Domodedovo, a major international gateway to Russia. At least eight foreigners were killed in the attack.

“Everything must be done to find, expose and bring the bandits who committed this crime to court — and the nests of these bandits, however deep they have dug in, must be liquidated,” he said.

“We must not stand on ceremony with those who resist … they must be destroyed on the spot,” Medvedev told leaders of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is tasked with coordinating Russia’s fight against terrorism.

The bombing, which ripped through the area where international travelers emerge after collecting their bags, came just days before Medvedev is due to pitch Russia to investors and corporate leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Medvedev has delayed his departure for Davos, where he is due to deliver the keynote speech opening the forum. Russia’s Health Minister Tatyana Golikova said 49 people remain in a serious or very serious condition in hospital.

KREMLIN’S SILENT WAR

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing, but Russia has been grappling with a growing Islamist insurgency in the mainly-Muslim republics which make up its southern flank in the North Caucasus.

Rebels from the region have threatened attacks against cities and economic targets in the run-up to a parliamentary election this December and a 2012 presidential poll in which Putin is expected to return to the Kremlin or back his protege Medvedev for a second term.

Russian financial markets, accustomed to periodic bombings and hostage dramas over the past 12 years, showed little reaction. The benchmark rouble-denominated MICEX share index was trading up 0.22 percent at 1441 GMT. The rouble closed virtually unchanged from Monday.

“Terrorism remains the main threat to the security of our state, the main threat to Russia, to all our citizens,” Medvedev said. He said terrorist attacks increased last year, calling it “the most serious signal” for law enforcement.

“It is clear that there is a systemic failure to provide security for people” at Domodedovo, said Medvedev.

Cairo protest: Police use tear gas on ‘day of revolt’

Cairo protest: Police use tear gas on ‘day of revolt’

The BBC’s Jon Leyne describes ‘remarkable scenes’ in the Egyptian capital

Police in Cairo are using tear gas and water cannon to try to quell rare anti-government protests.


Thousands are reported to have joined the protests after an internet campaign inspired by the uprising in Tunisia.

They are marching through Cairo and other areas chanting anti-government slogans, after activists called for a “day of revolt” in a web message.

Weeks of unrest in Tunisia eventually toppled President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali earlier this month.

Such protests are uncommon in Egypt, which President Hosni Mubarak has ruled since 1981, tolerating little dissent.

The events in Cairo were co-ordinated on a Facebook page – tens of thousands of supporters clicked on the page to say they would take part.

The BBC’s Jon Leyne in Cairo says rallies are being held in several parts of the capital, and the turnout so far is more than the organisers could have hoped.

He says there has been a series of violent confrontations, including in front of the parliament building, where police with riot shields, tear gas and water cannon clashed with protesters throwing rocks.

There are also reports of protests in Alexandria and Ismailiya, among others.

‘Nothing to fear’

The Associated Press (AP) news agency reports that in Tahrir Square, demonstrators attacked a police water cannon vehicle, opening the driver’s door and ordering the man out of the vehicle.

Officers beat back protesters with batons as they tried to break the police cordons to join the main demonstration, it added.

One protester, 43-year-old lawyer Tareq el-Shabasi, told AP: “I came here today willing to die, I have nothing to fear.”

The AFP news agency reported that protesters had gathered outside the Supreme Court holding large signs that read: “Tunisia is the solution.”

They then broke through lines of police and began to march through the streets, chanting: “Down with Mubarak.”

Reuters news agency reported that some chants referred to Mr Mubarak’s son Gamal, who some analysts believe is being groomed as his father’s successor. “Gamal, tell your father Egyptians hate you,” they shouted.

Protester holds sign saying "Mubarak, out" in French during a protest in central Cairo on Tuesday 25 January 2011Protesters alluded to the Tunisian uprising – this one using the French word “degage”, meaning “out”

The organisers rallied support saying the protest would focus on torture, poverty, corruption and unemployment, calling it “the beginning of the end”.

“It is the end of silence, acquiescence and submission to what is happening in our country,” they said in comments carried by Reuters news agency.

“It will be the start of a new page in Egypt’s history – one of activism and demanding our rights.”

George Ishaq, an Egyptian opposition leader, said security forces had been “confounded”.

“In the end, we will get our rights because this is just the beginning,” he said.

“This will not end. Our anger will continue over the coming days. We will put forth our conditions and requests until the system responds and leaves.”

Disillusioned

Egypt has many of the same social and political problems that brought about the unrest in Tunisia – rising food prices, high unemployment and anger at official corruption.

However, the population of Egypt has a much lower level of education than Tunisia. Illiteracy is high and internet penetration is low.

There are deep frustrations in Egyptian society, our Cairo correspondent says, yet Egyptians are almost as disillusioned with the opposition as they are with the government; even the Muslim Brotherhood, the banned Islamist movement, seems rudderless.

While one opposition leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, called on Egyptians to take part in these protests, the Muslim Brotherhood has been more ambivalent.

Our correspondent adds that Egypt is widely seen to have lost power, status and prestige in the three decades of President Mubarak’s rule.

Corpse of Col. Imam Is Found In Dandi Darpakhel Area

[The fact that the unknown group of kidnappers offered to exchange the Col. for Mansoor Dadullah confirms that they are connected with British intelligence (SEE: Dissecting the Anti-Pakistan Psyop).  Mansoor was a chosen tool in another complex British/American plot that gave birth to the TTP in Pakistan; it too, was based on a kidnap plot, one involving Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo.  Another similarity between the two climactic events was the “martyring” of legendary Taliban/mujahedeen heroes in the process (Mansoor’s brother Mullah Dadullah was killed by drones in the previous event).  That is the way with intelligence agency gambits–They usually recreate previous gambits, or mirror-image reverse images of them.

If watching military spy operations unfold gives you a feeling of “deja vu,” that you are watching some sort of sick psyop rerun, then you probably are.  How anyone could still believe the obvious bullshit throw our way, after watching a river of it flow by us on a daily basis for nine years, is beyond my capacity for understanding.]

Col Imam executed?

Published: January 24, 2011

Officials refuse to confirm or deny the slaying of former ISI official.

ISLAMABAD: A former officer of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Sultan Amir Tarar, better known as Colonel Imam, has reportedly been killed by the Taliban on Sunday.

Though there is no official confirmation of his death, sources close to his family say they were informed about Col Imam’s killing by intelligence sources.

Col Imam, along with another former ISI official Squadron Leader (retd) Khawaja Khalid and British journalist Asad Qureshi, was seized by a lesser known Taliban group, Asian Tigers, while travelling to the North Waziristan tribal region on March 26, 2010.

Qureshi was released in September after paying a ransom of Rs20 million, while Khawaja was executed by his captors.

Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, a former ISI chief and a colleague of Col Imam, told the media that the kidnappers wanted to swap the two former spies with the terrorists who were arrested in connection with two high-profile terrorist hits in Rawalpindi.

Gul said the US and its private security firm Blackwater Xe could be involved in Col Imam’s abduction. However, he voiced doubt over the news of his killing. “I think it is a drama. The situation will become clear in the next couple of days,” he added.

Col Imam was reportedly killed by his captors and the body was dumped in the Dandi Darpakhel area, close to Miramshah, the headquarters of North Waziristan Agency.

Nonetheless, local residents said they have not seen the body.

A senior security official in Peshawar also refused to confirm the slaying. “We also have reports of his death, but we cannot confirm it,” the official told The Express Tribune.

Another Peshawar-based intelligence official also refused to confirm the report.  “The Dandi Darpakhel area is adjacent to government quarters in the region dotted with security checkpoints. If there was any such thing, it would have been in our knowledge,” he added.

However, a relative of Col Imam told the media that intelligence sources had informed them about the incident.

Col Imam and Khawaja said in a video message released by the Taliban a month after their abduction that they were sent to Afghanistan by former army chief Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and former ISI chief Gen (retd) Hameed Gul.

The abductors had initially demanded the release of two arrested Taliban leaders – Mullah Kabir and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah – in exchange for the freedom of the two former ISI officials. The demand was made in an email sent to several Pakistani media outlets.

But later they added more demands and called for the release of those terrorists who were in custody of Pakistan’s security agencies in connection with attacks on the GHQ and Parade Line Mosque of Rawalpindi.

According to reports, Mullah Omar, the reclusive Taliban mentor, himself had campaigned for the release of Col Imam. It was due to Mullah Omar’s intervention that the Taliban did not kill Col Imam for several months, a source close to the Taliban told The Express Tribune.

The source also claimed that Col Imam had brokered a peace deal between the military and the Haqqani network chief Jalaluddin Haqqani, much before his arrest.

Col Imam had played a key role in training the Afghan Mujahideen during the Afghan jihad. He was in charge of the Mujahideen activities in different parts of Afghanistan. He maintained close ties with Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders in Afghanistan and Waziristan.

“Mullah Omar and the Taliban are highly respected Muslim leaders,” Imam had said in an interview to a television channel, last year.

During his captivity, Col Imam had written several letters to Gen (retd) Mirza Aslam Beg and Lt-Gen Hameed Gul and some politicians to plead for his release.

Col Imam was a bitter critic of the United States which, he said, had left the Afghan mujahideen in the lurch after the defeat of the Soviet forces in the late 1980s.

A special warfare operation specialist, Col Imam had also once served as Pakistan’s consul general at Herat, in Afghanistan.

With additional reporting by Manzoor Ali in Peshawar

Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th,  2011.

Condoleeza Wanted to Move Palestinian Refugees To South America

[Condi must have been channeling Roosevelt, or his opposite, a sort of anti-Roosevelt, as she did her best to confirm the Bush thesis that the Palestinians were the modern-day equivalent of pre-war German Jews.]

“Roosevelt hatched a scheme in 1938 to rally the world’s democracies and relocate millions of European Jews to undeveloped areas in Latin America and Africa.”

Palestinians condemn US plan to settle refugees in South America

Suggestion revealed in Palestine papers clashes with refugees’ fundamental right to go home, say Palestinian groups

  • Rory Carroll, Latin America correspondent
  • guardian.co.uk
  • Refugee camp in Gaza Children at a Gaza refugee camp: Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state under George Bush, suggested in 2008 that Palestinian refugees could be resettled in Chile and Argentina. Photograph: Ali Ali/EPAPalestinians have expressed shock and dismay at the US suggestion to settle Palestinian refugees in Argentina and Chile rather than let them return to ancestral land in Israel.

    Representatives of the Palestinian diaspora said the plan to ship displaced Palestinians from the Middle East to a new homeland across the Atlantic clashed with their fundamental right to go home.

    “It’s completely unacceptable. It contradicts our inalienable right to return to our own homeland,” said Daniel Jadue, vice-president of Chile’s Palestine Federation. “That right cannot be renounced. To make this suggestion shows the mediation was not honest. It was clearly tilted in favour of Israel. This is extremely grave.”

    Condoleezza Rice, who was secretary of state in the Bush administration, floated the idea at a meeting on 28 June 2008 with US, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators in Berlin, according to minutes of the encounter obtained by al-Jazeera and shared with the Guardian.

    The suggestion dumbfounded South America’s Palestinians – a largely Christian community which emigrated in waves over the past century and settled across the region, especially in Chile which is said to be home to more than 200,000.

    Chile’s Palestinians would welcome compatriots who chose to settle in the Andes, said Jadue. “If a Palestinian accepted to come here that would be their right and we would show solidarity.” But that did not justify a US proposal to funnel refugees from the Middle East to reduce pressure on Israel to give up land, he said. “That’s wrong.”

    Tilda Rabi, president of the Federation of Palestinian Organisations in Argentina, said the proposal violated the UN’s affirmation of refugees’ right to return home. “This is an extension of a long campaign of ethnic cleansing, of clearing people from their own homelands.” She doubted many refugees would have accepted such an offer. “In the camps people still have keys to the homes they left behind.”

    It is unclear whether the Bush administration lobbied Argentina and Chile to take Palestinians. The foreign ministries in Buenos Aires and Santiago did not respond to email and phone queries.

    The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) said it received no such request. “UNRWA has never been approached by any government to assist with the movement of refugees to South America,” said a spokesman, Chris Gunness. “If such an offer was made refugees could accept or reject it,” he said. “It would be their choice.”

    Hillary Clinton, Rice’s successor as secretary of state, played down the importance of the documents in her first comments on the leak last night.

    “I don’t think it comes as any surprise what the issues are between the Palestinians and the Israelis,” she told reporters in Mexico. “They have been well known for 20 years or more. They are difficult issues. They do not lend themselves easily to compromise.”

    However, the state department spokesman Philip Crowley earlier acknowledged that the disclosure would have an impact on efforts to get peace talks restarted.

    “We don’t deny that this release will, at least for a time, make the situation more difficult than it already was,” he said. “None of this changes our understanding of what is at stake, or what needs to be done. We continue to believe a framework agreement is both possible and necessary. We continue to work with and engage the parties.”

    The United Nations special co-ordinator for the Middle East peace process, Robert Serry, said some of the interpretation of the documents conveyed an “inaccurate impression”. The Palestinian negotiators were committed to reaching a deal in the interests of the Palestinian people, he said.

    “At this crucial time, I would urge both parties to show their readiness for a negotiated peace based on a two-state solution, and to deliver on the ground. It is to the genuine credit of the Palestinian leadership that they are doing so.”

    Israel radio reported that Nabil Shaath, a member of the Palestinian negotiating team, said the documents released by al-Jazeera were authentic, unofficial and did not obligate the Palestinian side.

The Mysterious Oligarch In Charge of Domodedovo Airport

Valery Kogan was entirely unknown in Israel up until a month ago, when he drove the local business and real-estate world crazy by purchasing five lots in Caesarea, a total of 11.5 dunams, for $17 million, on which to build an estate. Amid the media circus, it was reported that the Jewish businessman is connected to the secret services in Russia, and that he is close to former president Vladimir Putin. Some imagined Putin coming to visit his close friend and the two of them walking along the beach in Caesarea.

The aura of mystery increased when news came of the impressive rise in Kogan’s wealth, at least according to the Russian magazine Finans. In 2007 it showed him in 499th place on the list of the richest people in Russia, worth $90 million. A year later he skipped up to 157th place with $600 million.

The only thing that is known for certain is that Kogan is connected to East Line, which operates Domodedovo International Airport, the largest airport in Russia, with 13-14 million people passing through each year. According to the company’s Web site, Kogan is chairman of the board.

When it comes to other information about Kogan, there are serious questions. A source very familiar with the Russian government claimed last week that Kogan’s wealth is estimated at only $100 million, and that he is not friendly with Putin. The source added that Kogan has only a few shares in East Line, and that the real owners prefer to have him serve as the frontman.

Officially, the owner of East Line is a holding company called FML Ltd., registered on the Isle of Man, which is located in the Irish Sea between Britain and Ireland and serves as a tax shelter. The owners of the company are two citizens of the island, Sean Keinars and Jane Penders, but the Russian source said that they apparently serve only as “straw men.” A survey published last November by the international credit-rating company Standard & Poor’s implies that the management of FML may warrant the attention of the Israel Money Laundering Prohibition Authority (IMPA).

Several Russian newspapers have written recently that Kogan’s arrival in Israel may be related to attempts by the elements behind him to transfer sums of money of unknown origin from Russia to Israel, via companies that operate in tax shelters the world over. In addition, the journalists surmise that Kogan, even if he is not close to Putin, is quite close to government circles in Russia. A name that comes up in this connection is Boris Gromov, the governor of the Moscow region, who supports the Russian soccer team Saturn Ramenskoye. The fact that Arcadi Gaydamak also invests in the team raises questions about possible connections – at least some form of acquaintance – between him and Kogan.

Although Valery Kogan was unknown in Israel until recently, even in Russia people started taking a serious interest in him only after the news of the real estate deal, which made waves there as well.

“Since the deal went through, the Russian press has been all worked up, trying to find more information about him,” said Alexander Kogan [no relation to Valery Kogan - S.S.], who works in the Russian-language press in Israel, last week. “Nobody knows how he really made all his money. Up until three years ago he was in the shadows. There are many mystery men in Russia who simply refuse to step into the spotlight.”

Scandals in Russia

Valery Kogan, 57, married, a father of two and grandfather of two, lives in Moscow. He was born in Ukraine, apparently in a town called Mariupol (that was named Zhdanov during the Soviet era), on the banks of the Sea of Azov. According to the East Line Web site, Kogan served in the Soviet navy and worked in the diplomatic service. The site also mentions that he studied economics.

Finans, which has covered his business dealings in recent years, has written that Kogan, like many of the other oligarchs, made his money with the help of connections to the Russian administration during the period when the Soviet Union was divested of its assets. The magazine mentioned that his wealth increased greatly because of his flourishing airline business. East Line is also familiar in Russia thanks to Kogan’s partner, oligarch Dmitry Kamenshchik – a rising star in the country’s business firmament.

According to Russian press clippings, the company started out by opening a business for transporting merchandise between Russia and China. Kogan and Kamenshchik were involved over the years in several scandals, most of them actually associated with Kamenshchik. This may be because among the general public Kogan’s name as the owner of East Line was revealed only three years ago, when the government tried to nationalize the Domodedovo airport.

One of the scandals that was reported is related to the company’s real-estate transactions in the 1990s. One project in question involved the construction of single-family homes near Moscow on 60 acres of land that had housed a huge poultry farm. The owners of the farm sold the land to East Line, in exchange for having Kogan and Kamenshchik cover 50 percent of its debts, a sum of about $1.5 million. But Kogan and Kamenshchik managed to change the designation of the land from chicken runs to private residences and earned millions.

The Russian authorities claimed in 2000 that the two had carried out an underhanded deal, taking the land through deceitful methods, and changing its designation from agriculture to real estate with the help of government connections. In 2007 a lawsuit against the company was brought before the courts, and the matter is still under discussion in the judicial instances in Russia.

The first time the Russian public was exposed to Kogan and his East Line connections was in 2005. At the time a bitter conflict erupted between the authorities and the company regarding the leasing of the Domodedovo airport. The state threatened to nationalize the facility, although a 1997 agreement between the parties stated that the contract is valid for 75 years. In the end, the sides compromised on an annual payment of $1.2 million. However, the legal conflict regarding the question of ownership of the airport has yet to be resolved.

In the wake of the affair, Kogan also received support from a serious media figure: popular television personality Vladimir Solovyev, who has an investigative program and has in recent years been conducting a genuine crusade on behalf of Kogan and Kamenshchik. Solovyev claims that the Russian administration is persecuting East Line.

Since East Line received the airport, it has invested half a million dollars in it. According to Bank VTB, which is controlled by the Russian government, late in 2004 the company earned $450 million, with a net profit of $58 million. Early in 2005 the company issued bonds in order to build a new terminal at the facility.

In February 2004 the FML Ltd. holding company, which is behind East Line, received an international credit rating of B-. In a survey of FML carried out by Standard & Poor’s in 2004, analyst Tatiana Kordyukova explained that the company’s ranking was relatively limited – one reason being the functioning of its chairman. Said Kordyukova: “The ratings on East Line are constrained by the group’s complex and nontransparent structure, the critical role the chairperson plays in most important matters concerning the company, a high reliance on its leasehold and operation of the Domodedovo airport complex, and limited access to capital markets.” Four years later, the company’s ranking remains B-.

Meanwhile in Caesarea, far from the eyes of the analysts, the planning committee of the Hof Hacarmel Regional Council approved the idea of combining all the lots purchased by Kogan. The demolition of the houses located on the land in question will soon get under way. Now Kogan has to submit the plans for the estate itself, which is being designed by Russian architects.

The new house, incidentally, will be registered in the name of Kogan’s wife, Olga. The Web sites in Russia continue to report about the oligarch’s huge future residence, emphasizing the fact that the entire project will cost about $50 million. Certain sites report that designers from Italy will be coming to Caesarea, and that the estate will include two houses, one of them three stories. The second, two-story building will have a spa. The estate will include tennis courts, and we can assume that the place will be well protected by means of guards and modern technology.

Alongside these descriptions, several Web sites expressed criticism of the construction carnival. One of them wrote, with no small degree of irony, that the time will come when Valery Kogan will build the first airport in Caesarea.

In the past two years, 15 Russian oligarchs have bought assets in Caesarea. Even before Valery Kogan’s purchase, residents described the tempting offers they received for their homes; now they tell tall tales about how such offers increased after the deal was struck.

“There are many people showing an interest,” said one resident last week. Another resident added: “Many representatives of oligarchs are walking around the neighborhood trying to find out who is selling, particularly on streets overlooking the sea. They come in luxury cars, impeccably dressed. In general, we’re satisfied, because the value of the real estate is increasing. Anyone who doesn’t want to continue living here can make a nice exit.”

Some of the residents are actually not pleased with the new situation. Some are trying to keep Caesarea from turning into some alienated island, in total contrast to the vision of the founders, who in the 1960s hoped that there would be a flourishing communal life in the seaside town.

Those who are benefiting now, in any case, are the intermediaries. “Kogan bought at a price of $1.55 million per dunam (quarter acre), but now there’s already an offer for $2.3 million,” explains one, Avi Ben Yoav. “When they want to, these people work very fast. In one of the deals, the client arrived in the morning accompanied by his attorney, and at 4 P.M. a memorandum of agreement was signed between the buyer and the seller. That was a $2-million deal.”

Valery Kogan, the Israeli In Charge of Domodedovo Airport

Valery Kogan


Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Moscow Domodedovo Airport

Kogan Valery Mikhailovich, Chairman of the Supervisory Board
Date of birth

1951

Education

Higher, degree in economics

Background

Extensive management and public relations experience

2004-present – Chairman of the Supervisory Board, Moscow Domodedovo Airport

Marital status

Married, two children and two grandchildren