On May 1, Nasha Niva newspaper published ‘one of the most epic documents’ – ‘the list of people owning villas in Minsk's VIP neighborhood Drazdy’. The list contains the names of officials and businessmen from the Belarusian President's inner circle - those who have built their residential houses there.
It costs between $40K to $200K to build a house in Drazdy. The market price of a finished villa starts at 1 million dollars. The cost is impressive for Belarus. It may be understood when businessmen build houses there. But how can officials sponsored by tax-payers explain where they got money from for their houses?
Euroradio has found several people among the ‘112 closest ones’ who agreed to answer this question.
“Firstly, I sold my flat,” CEC chairperson Lidziya Yarmoshyna explains her expenses. “Secondly, I had some savings. Thirdly, I borrowed money from my well-to-do friends. They are practicing lawyers in Kaliningrad. The construction cost me approximately 300 thousand dollars.”
Interestingly, the villa in Drazdy is the temporary housing provided for officials, Lidziya Yarmoshyna told Euroradio not long ago. She also complained about high utility charges.
Euroradio: Doesn’t your villa in Drazdy belong to you?
Lidziya Yarmoshyna: This is employer-rented housing. Actually, the utility payments are rather high. I clean it myself and wash the linen too…
Euroradio: How much do you pay for the utilities?
Lidziya Yarmoshyna: Despite the fact that we only pay 50% for gas in winter, I paid 230 roubles last month. It is a lot! I use about a thousand cubic meters of gas in winter and gas is a major cost.
Euroradio: You will have to leave this villa when you retire. Where will you move then?
Lidziya Yarmoshyna: I will move into my house. I have a house. My son lives there. There will be enough room for us two. I go there on the weekends: I clean the house and maintain the garden…
Ex-judge of the Constitutional Court and Prosecutor General Ryhor Vasilevich also owns a house in Drazdy. He built it at the beginning of the 2000s having spent 3 years in the position of the Constitutional Court chairperson.
“I had my own capital and a credit… The interest was about 18%... 18 or 14%, I do not remember now. I took the credit in a commercial bank and I tried to use the credit to pay for the construction,” Ryhor Vasilevich confessed. However, he refused to say how much the cottage had cost him.
Same as Lidziya Yarmoshyna, the ex-Prosecutor General complained about the high utility payment in elite Drazdy.
“I pay about 250 roubles a month in winter if it is cold. Nothing is underpriced there. I read that we paid 25 roubles for a cottage in Drazdy. But it is only the cost of water! Add the heating, garbage disposal and all the rest and it will be a lot…” Ryhor Vasilevich said and suddenly changed the subject. “I have a luxury car, a Renault. How do you like this car?”
Euroradio: Renault may also have luxury makes…
Ryhor Vasilevich: It is a Renault Sandero. I you envy me, I can give you a ride. Let us visit Filimonau Street and Kamennya Horka to see luxury cottages there. People like reproaching me for having my own opinion (being a Constitutional Court judge, Vasilevich supported the changes to the Constitution suggested by Alyaksandr Lukashenka and the referendum of 1996 – Euroradio) but I expressed my opinion openly. Let them express their grievances openly too. Let them write their name, address and then they may sling mud at me.
Head of the Belarusian State Broadcasting Company Henadz Davydzka was offered a plot in Drazdy five years ago. But for his architect daughter who went to look at the plot and made the calculation, he would not have accepted the offer, he said.
Davydzka: “I would not have built a house there if my daughter had not been an architect and had not made a cheap project. Secondly, the house would not have been built if our two families had not cooperated. The house is for two families. If my friends had not lent me money, if I had not got a credit, it would not have been built. But everything has been done and I am building the house. It has been five years and the construction is still in process. What else can I say? I am also a subordinate and all the corresponding authorities can see my income declaration…”
The sum of the construction was calculated by Davydzka’s daughter but the BT chief has refused to reveal it to Euroradio. He only said that he could not even imagine what a million dollars looked like. “Maybe oppositionists know what it looks like!” Davydzka remembered to note.