Fraud suspected amid Russia’s only aircraft carrier repair

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The director of Shipyard No. 10 in Polyarny, near Murmansk in northwestern Russia, has been arrested for allegedly embezzling $589 million wrongfully allocated for the repair of Russia’s only aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov.

Yevgeny Zudin was arrested on March 18, 2021, and will remain in custody for two months, according to the Oktyabrsky District Court. “The criminal actions of the accused were aimed at unlawful embezzlement of funds within the framework of an agreement concluded to strengthen the country’s defense capability,” the Court explained in a statement.

Documents sent by Shipyard No. 10 to the Russian Defense Ministry, personally signed by Zudin, allegedly declared having spent 23,000 work hours cleaning the fuel tanks of the warship. In reality, the work only took 13,000 hours. It resulted in an overstatement of 63%, with 45 billion rubles ($589 million) being wrongfully allocated. If found guilty, Zudin risks up to 10 years in prison.

Bumpy cruise for the Kuznetsov

Commissioned by the Soviet Navy, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov came into service in 1990. It is capable of housing 24 aircraft.

The last deployment of the warship dates back to 2016 when it was used to support Russian operations in Syria. Since 2017, it has been immobilized for renovation, with the intent to fit new systems of electronic warfare, communication, propulsion, and combat. ‒ a project which has hit a few bumps since then. 

In October 2018, an incident put Admiral Kuznetsov in jeopardy. Its floating deck, unique in the world, suddenly sank and a crane that fell on the bridge caused extensive damages. A year later, in December 2019, welding operations on one of the aircraft carrier’s power units were ongoing, when a fire broke out.

If everything goes accordingly, the flagship of Russia’s Northern Fleet should begin sea trials in 2022. 


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