From a typist to a dollar millionaire: how a former resident of Kharkiv became one of the richest women in #Russia and #Ukraine

A new name, Liudmyla Burlakova (Marchenko – pictured right), has begun to appear in the rankings of Russia’s richest women recently. She is credited with owning hundreds of millions of dollars in wealth. But the most interesting thing in this story is that Liudmyla is a citizen of Ukraine with a life rich in criminal connections.

Liudmyla was born in Kyiv in 1951. Nothing is known about her father, but the girl was raised by her stepfather Viktor Mikhieiev, a former junior state security officer. There were rumors that he was fired from the KGB for being unfit for the position. Mikhieiev’s work was interesting and, as they would say now, filled with corruption – he was in charge of giving permissions to Soviet citizens for going abroad. The temptation to earn seems to have been irresistible for him. But even after his resignation, he kept on cooperating with the state security service, which later proved to be very useful for the activities of his wife and later of his daughter.

Her mother’s career was not so prestigious, but no less exciting. Liudmyla’s mother, Nina Mikhieieva, worked almost all her life in public catering, and most of her career fell to the position of senior bartender at the “Polit” cafe at the “Zhuliany” airport. It was there that the talents of the former KGB-man’s wife were revealed. It was there that she was able to use all her organizational skills to create a crime group, which she had been heading for many years.

The group was exposed in 1983, which ended in a criminal case.

Everything was far more than serious. Article 86-1 of the Criminal Code on the theft of state property in especially large amounts provided for severe punishment, up to the death penalty. The investigation established that Mikhieieva was a member of an organized crime group, which for years, together with the crime lords, not only stole state property, but also organized schemes to buy, sell and resell stolen goods and for money laundering.

For Mikhieieva, everything could have ended sadly, but her husband’s connections saved her.

The investigator of particularly important cases from the Transport Investigative Department S.I. Yablonskyi, who was in charge of the case, received a call “from someone further up the ladder” from the State Security Department and was urged to transfer citizen Mikhieieva to the City Psychiatric Hospital No 1 in Kyiv, better known as “Pavlovka”.

That was done on July 27, 1983.

After a short stay in the hospital, Mikhieieva was discharged with a diagnosis of  a “long-lasting reactive depressive psychosis” and a certificate stating that she could not be prosecuted due to her health condition. The family could breathe out.

One can only guess what influenced young Liudmyla more: her mother’s criminal talents and stepfather’s ability to pull strings, or it was just the times she lived in, but she mastered this “efficient way” to get rich without much effort quickly and well.

At first, she tried to do everything as other people do: graduate from the university and find a job. But something went wrong with her studies – it took her ten years to graduate from the correspondence department at the Kyiv Institute of Civil Aviation Engineers in 1981, exactly two years before the criminal proceedings against her mother started.

Then she worked as a secretary-typist and laboratory assistant at a military school. But it could not last long.

The Soviet Union had a few more years to live, but the familiar world was already going to pieces. In 1985, a fairly young and determined new General Secretary, Gorbachev came to replace the Kremlin old men. Perestroika and economic liberalization began, which opened new prospects for people with ambitions and a commercial acumen.

The wind of change caught Liudmyla in Kharkiv, which at that time was the epicenter of new challenges and opportunities. The city with a million-plus population, crowded with students, engineers and heavy industry enterprises, was a good jumping-off place for business.

In 1988, the executive committee of the Dzerzhinskyi City District Council of People’s Deputies registered a multidisciplinary cooperative research and production association “Integral” (Id. code 22624089), located at 92Б, Bilhorodska St. in Kharkiv.

The founders were Liudmyla (she got married then and took the surname Burlakova) and her relatives, the Kozakovs, dividing the shares –1 to Burlakova and 2 to the Kozakovs. A year later, they opened another company – “Sovinterfrans” with the same proportions (shares) in the property, followed by others.

Investments in the oil and cement business paid off. Things were going well.

However, as they say, money is never too much.

Liudmyla obviously learned well the lessons of the family in which she was raised and therefore, in addition to the main business, she apparently decided to open a more profitable but also an illegal business of money laundering. To this end, she invited her mother with her good connections in the criminal world and immunity from prosecution to work. She understood the importance of personal contacts and connections.

Money started coming in bags, black cash “from the criminal elements” in bags and tubes – those were the usual day-to-day activities.

However, in 1992-1993, their relationship with the gangland deteriorated sharply, it seems someone was scammed by them. Liudmyla hastily fled from the criminal elements to the United States, where she continued to manage Integral

Decades have passed since then, the former “guys in red jackets” have become respectable businessmen. There is no point in raising ghosts of the past. But only if the debts are closed in time.

Liudmyla Burlakova (Marchenko) has not done it, and in vain.

In the Noughties, the Ukrainian Justice became interested in Burlakova (Marchenko) due to the closure of the Integral cooperative. In December 2003 the Commercial Court of the Kharkiv Region heard the case No 16/480-03 on the winding up of the cooperative and concluded that there were all grounds to suspect a crime and material damage in an especially large amount. Just like with her mother twenty years ago.

As we can see, Marchenko is in no hurry to compensate the damage, ignoring the court’s decree and the partners’ demands to reimburse the funds due to them.

Criminal proceedings have been started for non-compliance with the Decree of the Kharkiv Regional Court.

And although the exact amounts of debt have not been made public, we can assume that these are serious amounts. According to the publications in the media, as well as from Liudmyla’s statements, the annual turnover of the Integral cooperative in the early 1990s amounted to $12-15 million.

According to experts, the approximate amount of unpaid taxes by Liudmyla Burlakova, including dividends from the investments she refers to, can currently reach $300 million. For comparison – the entire annual budget of Kharkiv is $450 million.

Let’s see what tricks Liudmyla Burlakova (Marchenko) will use, who will call and to whom, who will be offering money and what amounts to hush up the case!

It is still unclear how the stolen from the state will be reimbursed, as citizen Liudmyla Burlakova (Marchenko) has not appeared in Ukraine for a long time.

But the former Kharkiv resident should not expect that Interpol will work poorly, and this case will be forgotten in Ukraine. It is expected to be loud and demonstrative.

We are keeping an eye on the further development of events.  It will be interesting!


The sources for the information provided in the article are:



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Category: A Frontpage, Russia, Ukraine

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