Commercial entities linked to President Yanukovych have their eyes on yet another historical monument in Kyiv
Recently, the Verkhovna Rada (VR) quietly removed Kyiv’s Hostynnyi Dvir from the list of architectural monuments that cannot be privatized. Hostynnyi Dvir, meaning “Hospitable Inn” in English, is a commercial complex in Kyiv’s Podil district. The parliament passed the draft law for this change of status despite opposition by the VR’s Key Legal Department and public protests. Attempts to block the site’s change of ownership in court also failed. This is hardly surprising, as the Hospitable Inn has attracted the attention of people close to President Yanukovych, referred to by his comrades simply as “leader.”
Hostynnyi Dvir ran into problems when the new government came to power in 2010 as rumours first surfaced that the authorities wanted to turn the building into a commercial center. Yet, the building is no stranger to hard times.
Built in 1809, Hostynnyi Dvir or “Hospitable Inn” is a monumental commercial complex in the heart of Kyiv’s Kontraktova Ploshcha. It was designed in the Neoclassical style by Luigi Rusca, the main architect of St. Petersburg. In 1811, a fire broke out at the Hospitable Inn and the building, unfinished at the time, was reconstructed by architect Andriy Melensky in 1828.
The Hospitable Inn was badly damaged during World War II and remained in disrepair for many years. In the 1980s, it was renovated based on Rusca’s first project, the repairs conducted by architect Valentyna Shevchenko. Following its renovation, many organizations moved into the building, including the architecture library, the Podil Theater, the Ukrainian State Research and Design Institute for Renovation, and the Ukrainian Renovation Agency, which was actually in charge of restoring architectural monuments.
The raid on the Hospitable Inn began last year when the Cabinet of Ministers Directive No. 1380 dated August 15, 2011, removed the Hospitable Inn from the list of architectural monuments under state protection.
Later, on April 26, 2012, 68 deputies from the pro-government majority of the Kyiv City Council allowed the Ukrainian Renovation Agency, which is legally renting the Hospitable Inn, to design a draft plan for the reconstruction of the building into a trade and office center with a guest parking lot.
On July 5, 2012, 256 MPs, or “cards” to be exact, passed an amendment to the final provisions of the “Law On the Implementation of Social Initiatives by the President for the Reduction of Mortgage Loan Costs” sponsored by Oleksandr Klymenko, an Our Ukraine-People’s Self-Defense (NU-NS) MP, that gave a green light to the privatization of the Hospitable Inn.
Currently, it is still on the balance sheet for the President’s State Administration.
In 1994, the Podil District Administration founded Ukrainian Restoration, a special research and restoration design and construction enterprise. Later, the company came to comprise Ukrainian Restoration CJSC, the financial company Ukrainian Restoration, and Restorer Ltd. They were involved in renovating many major sites, including the Mariinsky Palace in Kyiv.
On June 10, 2011, ownership of Ukrainian Restoration changed hands. A Cypriot company called Afidreko Holdings, Ltd. registered on June 3 became its new majority shareholder with a 91% stake.
The new owners quickly set to work replacing all company managers. Dmytro Yarych, a lawyer at the Zorianyi Movie Theater Ltd was appointed CEO. Maryna Diachenko, Hennadiy Nezhurbida and Maryna Pelykh, all top managers of the Zorianyi Movie Theater, ended up on Ukrainian Restoration’s Supervisory Board. On August 15, 2011, the Cabinet of Ministers issued the abovementioned instruction to remove the Hospitable Inn from the list of protected architectural monuments.
Zorianyi has long been a Kyiv headquarters for the Party of Regions. Last year, an investigation undertaken by The Ukrainian Week revealed that the companies that own the movie theater are connected to Mezhyhiria, Mr. Yanukovych’s infamous residence, and commercial entities owned by his sons Viktor and Oleksandr.
Notably, Maryna Pelykh’s husband is Andriy Kravets, the current Head of the State Department of Affairs. Experts describe him as personally loyal to Viktor Yanukovych and his son Oleksandr. Therefore, the fact that the right to renovate the Hospitable Inn, which is on the State Department of Affairs’ balance sheet, was granted to Ukrainian Restoration hardly seems coincidental. In fact, the company was the major subcontractor for the recent renovation of the Andriyivsky Uzviz.
The privatization of the Hospitable Inn was lobbied in the VR by Oleksandr Klymenko, a member of Yuriy Kostenko’s Ukrainian People’s Party in the NU-NS faction. However, Mr. Klymenko hails from Donetsk, making his loyalties quite clear. During the Orange Revolution years of 2005-2006, he served as Deputy Head of the Donetsk Oblast State Administration for Industry, Fuel and Energy, Transport and Communication. Yet, he quickly found his way after the Party of Regions returned to power, getting along quite well with the “directing force of Donbas.” Currently, his Leasing Center company is within the Family’s orbit of influence.
DECONSTRUCTION BY RAIDERS
The announced renovation plans include the lighting of the façade, reduction of the outdoor patio, covering the Hospitable Inn with a glass roof to protect it from rain, building a mansard, adding one underground floor and demolishing the terraces of the ground floor in order to create commercial space. In fact, this would entail a complete reconstruction of the site. Plans for the interior include the creation of cafes and shops, turning the building into a typical shopping mall.
Activists who protested against the “renovations” are still trying to win back the Hospitable Inn. On May 26, 2012, they launched a public art campaign called the Hospitable Republic. Located on the patio of the building, it offers various art events on an almost daily basis.
However, the protectors often run into trouble. On the night of June 1, nearly 30 hired thugs led by Dmytro Yarych, the CEO of Ukrainian Restoration, tried to take over the building. Using old raider tactics, they sealed the gate and placed a truck in front of it to block the entrance. Only the determination and swift action of the protesters made it possible to withstand the raid.
Meanwhile, at the District Administrative Court in Kyiv, activist Vadym Toropov appealed the Cabinet of Minister’s Instruction No. 1380 that started all the troubles in the first place. Based on the appeal, he demanded that the court ruled to stop construction on the territory. Yet, Judge Vitaliy Amelekhin refused to suspend the document referring to the lack of evidence provided by the appealing party. Still, the activists submitted yet another appeal and an expert opinion to be considered on August 22.
Will these efforts stop the onslaught of a powerful financial and industrial machine backed by the country’s leaders?