From Russia with love

February 18, 2015

Following on from my last post, about uppity foreigners getting kicked out of Cambodia, there is a bunch of barangs who seem to be in no danger of getting expelled, and that’s the Russians who live in the grubby little coastal town of Sihanoukville. Quite why Sihanoukville attracts so many dubious Russians is beyond me, but the local authorities certainly don’t seem to discourage them.

A major feud, between two well-known Russian figures in Sihanoukville, began in late November last year, when another Russian, one Denis Valov, was jailed for killing a high school student while driving drunk. Valov reportedly worked for a locally based businessman and biologist called Nikolai Doroshenko.

Nikolai Doroshenko

Nikolai Doroshenko

Doroshenko reportedly took a phone call at the end of November from an unidentified Russian-speaking man, who wanted him to give Valov $1,000. Doroshenko sent his son Ostap to pick up the money: instead, he was badly beaten up by three Russian-looking men, and had to be airlifted to Thailand for treatment.

Ostap Doroshenko

Ostap Doroshenko

Ostap Doroshenko, despite being Russian, is a captain in the provincial Cambodian immigration police, and drives a Porsche. His father Nikolai runs a questionable restaurant and zoo in Sihanoukville, called Snake House. (I went there once, and ate a rather uncomfortable chicken Kiev on a glass-topped table with a large python underneath. It gets poor reviews on Tripadvisor, except from Russians.)

Nikolai Doroshenko has been embroiled in a dispute with a flamboyant Russian ex-billionaire called Sergei Polonsky. Forty-two-year-old property developer Polonsky, who was once one of the richest men in Russia, is wanted in Moscow on charges of embezzling $180 million. He is on Interpol’s Most Wanted list. Cambodia’s courts have repeatedly rejected requests for his extradition.

Sergei Polonsky

Sergei Polonsky

So the elder Doroshenko, and Polonsky, have been arguing for several years about the ownership of four islands near Sihanoukville, one of which Polonsky lives on, and where he conducts business seminars for backpackers when he’s not making his Cambodian workers jump off boats at knifepoint in the middle of the night.

Doroshenko has directly accused Polonsky of having his son beaten up; Polonsky responded by suing Doroshenko for $800,000. The case is proceeding at a glacial pace.

But the latest sighting of the Russian mafia in Sihanoukville occurred this weekend, when a group of Russian men demanded protection money from another Russian man who is the official tour operator for what is known as the KaZantip music festival, to be held on an island near Sihanoukville for 10 days, starting this week.

When he refused, they attacked him with guns and knives, he said. “They said that they know where I live, where my wife lives, they know about my children, and then they said that even the president of KaZantip will pay them, so why am I not paying them?” he said. He added that KaZantip organisers had been asked to pay the group $45,000 but refused, according to the Cambodia Daily.

He identified the leader of the group that attacked him as an employee of Nikolai Doroshenko. “The first one who start to shoot, he works for Mr. Doroshenko … because I saw him many times and he presented himself as chief of security for Mr. Doroshenko,” he said. Two Russians have been arrested, and the police also confiscated three air-powered guns made to look like real pistols, three Tasers, knives and steel pipes.

KaZantip Electronica Festival

KaZantip Electronica Festival

The KaZantip festival, usually held in Ukraine, is ‘notoriously debauched’, and the government has been considering banning it. For some reason, though, they have finally decided to allow it, perhaps because of the estimated 100,000 likely attendees. Or perhaps they just like Russian ravers. Who knows? But what we do know is that gangs of armed Russians and international fugitives are wreaking havoc in a sleepy coastal town, while environmental activists who want to conserve Cambodia are getting booted out of the country. Confusing, eh?



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