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Russia seized Epicentr K stores in Crimea and Donbas, says co-owner

Owners of Epicenter K Galina and Alexander Gerega
Owners of Epicenter K Galina and Alexander Gerega

Epicentr K stores continued to operate in Crimea and occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts since 2014 after the company lost control over them, Ukrainian MP and co-owner of the Epicentr K hypermarket chain, Oleksandr Hereha, said in an interview with Forbes Ukraine on Jan. 17.

“After the annexation of Crimea, our company lost control over shopping centers on the peninsula,” he said.

“In fact, they were managed by the heads of individual shopping centers who remained in Crimea and cooperated with the occupation authorities.”

Shopping centers were “nationalized,” the businessman stated.

“Unfortunately, they used the experience and knowledge they acquired in our system,” he said.

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“We don’t know how the organization of business processes was legally carried out since we didn’t participate in it. However, we learned from media reports that with the participation of the same persons, our shopping centers were nationalized and eventually appropriated by them.”

The parent company received no profit from the process, the businessman stressed.

“Therefore, any allegations that we worked there [under Russian occupation] or received any profits are false,” Hereha said, adding the situation was similar with shopping centers in Donbas.

“The situation is similar to our shopping centers in Donbas,” he said.

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“After the occupation of parts of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, Epicenter K LLC completely lost control over its commercial facilities in the occupied territories. Neither our company nor its members have ever conducted economic activities in the specified territories and have no relation to the activities conducted there by our former managers.”

Epicentr K and Nova Linia companies owned by Ukrainian MP Oleksandr Hereha and his wife Halyna paid the salary of Hennadiy Halchuk, the company’s former director in Makiivka, Donetsk Oblast, from 2014 till late July 2022, who continued to conduct “business” under Russian occupation and managed the Galaktika hypermarket chain created to replace Epicentr, RFE/RL reported in October 2023.

Halchuk has reportedly regularly come to Ukraine-controlled territory since 2014 and financed a political party funded by the Herehas. At the same time, the Galaktika chain led by Halchuk cooperated with the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic.” In 2023, he became a “legislator” representing Vladimir Putin’s United Russia ruling party after sham elections in occupied territories of Donetsk Oblast.

DPR leader Denis Pushilin included Halchuk in the so-called investment committee. Galaktika shopping centers celebrated Russian state holidays and actively cooperated with the DPR “authorities,” the investigation says.

The journalists obtained information from sources in local tax authorities, according to which Nova Linia and Epicentr paid Halchuk a salary until July 2022. In particular, he received UAH 85,790 ($2,264) from Nova Linia from July 2015 till late September 2016, as well as UAH 1,321,968 ($34,883) from Epicentr from September 2013 till late July 2022.

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Data from the National Agency on Corruption Prevention also indicates that Halchuk financed the Za Konkretni Spravy political party in 2016, which was founded by Oleksandr and Halyna Hereha in 2015.

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Read the original article on The New Voice of Ukraine