Russian Citizens for a Better Environment!

Kuzbass Vice Governor Vyacheslav Telegin (Kamyshnikov): an official bearing gifts to coal miners

Kemerovo Oblast is the main coal-producing region of Russia. Over the past one and a half decades, the Kuzbass has increased its production and export of coal, largely through systematic violations of environmental legislation, which the regional authorities not only turn a blind eye to, but facilitate. One official who almost every month virtually donates new land to mining companies is the region’s Vice Governor, Vyacheslav Telegin. Here is his story. To start with, Telegin is not his original surname—it is actually Kamyshnikov. Why did he have to change name? That was because some facts from his family biography did not allow him to hold public office. He had been involved in some questionable practice; his father, too, had problems with the law back in the Soviet times. These facts meant he could not to hold civil servant positions, so Mr. Kamyshnikov had to become Mr. Telegin.

Brief biography

Until 2009, Vyacheslav Telegin was a member of the Leninsk-Kuznetsky City Council. In 2010, he was elected Mayor of the city. Telegin held this position for quite a long time. In 2018, he was offered a job of Vice Governor of Kemerovo Oblast. A little later, he became acting Governor, performing the function of Sergey Tsivilyov when the latter was away.

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Today, Mr. Telegin is also the supervisor of the committee for the legalization of taxation objects of the Kemerovo Oblast administration, and the coordinator of the department for emergency situations of Kemerovo Oblast.

Property scams, and business wife

Vyacheslav Telegin began to participate in murky schemes back in the early 2000s. Here is an example of his property scams. The city administration takes some municipal property, say, the building of the Central Department Store, and recognizes it as a building in disrepair. Since the budget has no money for a proper restoration, investors are attracted to carry out a major overhaul. At this point, the future mayor Vyacheslav Telegin comes to the aid of the current mayor Valery Yermakov. The building is successfully handed over to the investor. At first they want to open a city market there, but something goes wrong. Only the building does not belong to the city now—it belongs to the Telegin family.

Mr. Telegin's wife, Svetlana, also contributed to the enrichment of the family. She would file a lawsuit against the city administration, which at that time was headed by her husband. She would win the court, and another small building would become her property. (

What an amazing coincidence: the official's wife turned out to be a business genius. She made RUB 33 million last year. She owns over a hundred real estate objects: ten land plots, a residential building with an area of 444.2 m2, a 72 m2 apartment, 98 garages, and 15 “other real estate objects” (varying in an area from 102.4 m2 to 3,580.5 m2). At the same time, Mr. Telegin himself only declared an income of RUB 6.4 million in 2021. (

Patron saint of coal miners

After Telegin started to work in the Kuzbass Oblast government, journalists noticed that Governor Tsivilyov stopped signing regulations. Now, Telegin's signature was there instead—he signed them as acting Governor.

We have studied the documents on the website of the Kuzbass Oblast government and found that over the past few years, Vyacheslav Telegin has signed hundreds of documents changing the category of land use—from farming to industrial—for the needs of coal companies. Essentially, Telegin has been helping coal miners occupy the land intended for farming. It is also possible that mining companies had been long using these territories, intentionally keeping the status of farm land, to avoid higher taxes.

In 2020 alone, more than 200,000 m2 of farm land was transferred to the industrial use category, an area of approximately 29 football fields. All the documents were signed by Vyacheslav Telegin. And of course, the land ended up in the hands of coal companies.

In 2021, Mr. Telegin transferred more than 2.9 km2 of farm land to coal miners, and in 2022 he signed permits to transfer another 3.59 km2.

Governor Sergey Tsivilyov in 2020 tried to rehabilitate himself and explain why the government was making such generous gifts to coal companies. He said there were many share land plots in the region. They were repeatedly changing hands, being bought by private owners, and simply getting out of the government control. Coal miners were allegedly buying these lands, and building industrial facilities on them, without changing the “farm land” status. A lame excuse indeed, meaning the government had been turning a blind eye for years to the fact that coal miners worked outside the law. (

Environmental impact

In the regional administration of Kemerovo Oblast there is a good tradition of taking incessant care of environmental well-being—in words. In deeds though, they simply transfer huge areas of farm land, i.e., fertile arable land, into a special category, after which coal miners occupy these territories for quarry excavations or waste dumps.

As a result, the fertile soil layer is forever destroyed: coal miners buldoze it into heaps, or simply bury it under waste piles. Land that could become a long-term source of income for the local population is being sacrificed for the fabulous enrichment of coal companies.

According to environmentalists, about 200 thousand people in Kemerovo Oblast live in areas of catastrophically negative impact from coal mines. There are at least 50 settlements located closer than 1000 meters from the edge of a coal mine, which is a gross violation of law.

Despite flagrant violations by coal companies who earn fabulous profits, local authorities and regional regulators fail to respond adequately. Residents are not resettled from environmental disaster zones; they get sick more often, and die earlier, as evidenced by official statistics. The right of citizens to a favorable environment and to information about its condition is brutally violated. These violations, along with direct assistance from the authorities, allow Russian coal companies to compete successfully in global markets. This also allows Russian energy companies to minimize production costs buying cheap coal.

Business, corruption, Telegin-Kamyshnikov

Vyacheslav Telegin is a typical Kuzbass official, like many, covering for coal miners who poison the land, air and water throughout the region. His family members earn fabulous incomes, and own multi-million assets. Instead of taking control of the coal miners, he endows them with land, which becomes unusable for farming, simply because mining brings more money. We cannot say with certainty that Mr. Telegin receives bribes from coal tycoons, but the zeal with which he signs hundreds of land transferring documents is truly amazing.

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