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Show Me The Money: We're Still Waiting For Our Wages, Say World Cup Workers


A general view shows the stadium under construction in Nizhny Novgorod in July 12.

NIZHNY NOVGOROD, Russia -- The new 45,000-seat stadium built at the confluence of the Volga and Oka rivers for this summer's FIFA World Cup cost 17 billion rubles ($268 million), according to official Russian figures.

But around 100 of the workers who prepared the edifice for Russia's big day on the international stage want that price tag to rise by about 50 million rubles ($790,000). That's the amount they say the engineering subcontracting firm ASP still owes them.

For many of them, the wage arrears have left them in dire circumstances and in debt -- and bitter.

"ASP ruined my life," worker Stanislav Sukhoparov tells RFE/RL. "Because of the wage arrears, I ended up getting divorced. I had nothing to support my family with, and that was the main reason for the divorce."

He has ended up, he said, with "debts and [I] owe a lot of money to some friends."

Prosecutors in Nizhny Novgorod have told the workers that their hands are tied because the company in question is not registered in the city. The case has reportedly been forwarded to Moscow.

"The delays in paying us began in January," says builder Stanislav Sukhoparov, who started working for ASP in February 2017. "At first it was three weeks, then a month. It ended up with ASP not paying us for four months. And to this day, we haven't seen the money."

He says he gets no answer when he tries to telephone the individual who hired and -- initially, anyway -- paid him.

'I'm Waiting Too'

RFE/RL spoke with that man, Aleskandr Makeyev, who says he still works for ASP although the company owes him money as well. "I don't pay salaries," he says. "I'm in charge of the installation work. I, just like everyone else, am sitting here, waiting. I also haven't been paid since April."

He says such payments are the responsibility of ASP in Moscow. "But the problem is with the general contractor, Stroitransgaz. They don't file the necessary forms and don't forward the money."

Makeyev suggests that ASP might be facing liquidity problems.

Stroitransgaz declined to comment on this story and referred all queries to ASP. ASP is owned by a man named Aleksandr Afinogenov, who is also listed in official documents as the owner of three other firms. The phones at all four companies went unanswered.

The workers, however, think Makeyev should be held responsible. "I made my agreement with Makeyev," former ASP installer Aleksandr Baryshkin says. "He assembled the team to work on the stadium and agreed on the salaries and living conditions. He hired us and was the leader of our team. Then we were laid off on his orders."

He says his own team of seven workers was owed millions of rubles, but the figure was "no less than" 50 million rubles when the 100 or so people "working at the stadium and none of them...fully paid" were added.

"We worked honestly and everyone was satisfied," Baryshkin tells RFE/RL. "The governor of Nizhny Novgorod Oblast and other senior officials accepted the stadium. But that hasn't done us any good."

A Little Gratitude

The nearly 45,000-seat facility boasted attendance of at least 40,000 spectators for each of the six World Cup matches that Nizhny Novgorod hosted in June and July.

The event was widely regarded as a resounding marketing success for Russia and its president, Vladimir Putin. Both have faced international isolation over Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2014, Moscow's response to evidence of "systemic, state-sponsored" doping in sports, and the poisoning with a Russian chemical agent of a defector and his daughter in the United Kingdom, among other irritants.

"Recently Vladimir Putin said on television that he was grateful to everyone who participated in the construction of all the stadiums for the World Cup," Baryshkin says. "Of course, it was nice to hear that. But where is the financial gratitude?"

According to official figures, Russia spent $10.7 billion to host the 2018 World Cup between June 14 and July 15.

Written by Robert Coalson based on reporting by Nina Davletzyanova of RFE/RL's Russian Service
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