Dozens of construction workers came to the closed town of Vilyuchinsk to build military facilities. Now they aren’t being paid, and they’re not allowed to leave.
In September 2018, an electrician living in Kazan named Ruslan Shamsutdinov came across an online job posting from a company called “Buildings and Structures Construction Management” (SUZS) looking for electricians to work on a project in the town of Vilyuchinsk in Kamchatka, offering 80,000 rubles ($1,180) a month. Shamsutdinov applied for the job and got it. He arrived in Kamchatka on October 12.
Situated on the Krasheninnikov Cove, Vilyuchinsk is restricted-access territory and homebase to several nuclear submarines and attached military units. You’re supposed to enter the town through staffed checkpoints, but Shamsutdinov says he was brought in on a boat, without the proper documents. He soon got to work, and on October 25 he was supposed to receive his first paycheck, but nobody paid him. So Shamsutdinov spoke to some of his colleagues and learned from another construction worker that no one on staff has been paid as promised in months, despite their work building two military facilities designated by the numbers “720” and “3002” (workers declined to give Meduza any further details about the construction). These people can’t leave Vilyuchinsk, either, because they were brought in illegally, and could be arrested at any checkpoint.
Meduza spoke to three of Shamsutdinov’s colleagues (who estimate that SUZS employs about 70 workers at both construction sites), and their stories are similar. Pavel, another electrician, says he came to Vilyuchinsk from Khabarovsk for a job that was supposed to pay 80,000 rubles a month. (He found the position online, and Meduza has a copy of the advertisement.) Pavel says there’s enormously high personnel turnover at SUZS: “The locals don’t work here at all because they cheat them, and outsiders can’t leave — they’ve got no choice.” In the past two months, he’d been paid just 25,000 rubles ($370). Pavel says he’s now planning to submit a formal resignation letter (though he says his employers asked him merely to take a leave of absence), and he hopes to return to Khabarovsk on November 16.
“We’re prisoners of circumstance,” says another electrician from Kazan, who came to Vilyuchinsk on October 10. “They don’t want to discuss anything. They just say: if you make a fuss, we’ll take you out to the perimeter, and you can do what you want.”
One of Shamsutdinov’s other colleagues says SUZS handed out 2,000 rubles ($30) to each worker. He says he was also brought into Vilyuchinsk on a boat “and then by backroads.” “Guys wanted to earn some money ahead of New Year’s, but instead they’re sitting around here with nothing — without even the passes [needed to leave the town],” the electrician told Meduza. “They’ve only given passes to three people. Thank God, they haven’t taken anyone’s passport.”