Posted 16 марта 2023,, 05:58

Published 16 марта 2023,, 05:58

Modified 16 марта 2023,, 07:06

Updated 16 марта 2023,, 07:06

The 100 million case: how schoolchildren and students cashed the "Pushkin Card"

The 100 million case: how schoolchildren and students cashed the "Pushkin Card"

16 марта 2023, 05:58
The Pushkin Card has been criticized since its creation. Today, the head of Rosfinmonitoring in the Kremlin reports to the president about 100 million embezzlement of the budget through this project. Children are directly involved in fraud. "NI" figured out why young people preferred a penny kickback to a tangible culture

Julia Suntsova

On March 9, at a meeting with Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin, the Director of the Federal Financial Monitoring Service, Yuri Chikhanchin, informed the President about the current activities of the department.

In particular, they talked about large-scale financial frauds with the "Pushkin Card".

The agency, together with the FSB, identified a criminal group that laundered about 100 million rubles on a state project for young people – with the help of fake lists of participants and "holding" non-existent events.

"There was a criminal group that made fake people and appropriated one hundred million rubles. Now it has been identified. They made imaginary lists of people who supposedly should receive these benefits, but there were none", - the press service quotes Yuri Chikhanchin The Kremlin.

The socio-cultural project "Pushkin card" was launched in September 2021. The card gives schoolchildren and students aged 14-22 years free access to museums, theaters, exhibitions, philharmonic halls, cinemas and other cultural institutions. The nominal value of 3000-5000 rubles (depending on the year) from the federal budget is credited to the nominal card and can be spent by the owner during the year to purchase tickets to attend cultural events. The initiator of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation explained the need for such a program by the low cultural level of the younger generation in Russia. The head of Rosfinmonitoring reported to the President that the participants of the criminal group were detained, some of them were detained as part of the investigation of a criminal case under Part 4 of Article 159 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation (Fraud).

The alleged criminal assets have been seized.

The philosophy of the whole story (and a reason for reflection) is that the non-ignored part of this large criminal network has become ... schoolchildren and students themselves. And quite consciously. We do not know the percentage of children who "deviated" from the good course of the Ministry of Culture. Some of the owners put their cards up for sale on public bulletin boards in the first few days. Ads for the sale were published on Avito and Yule by users from St. Petersburg, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Irkutsk Region and other regions. The other part – voluntarily and consciously gave the fraudsters their passwords from "Pushkin cards" or offices of Public Services in exchange for a promise to share the "winnings". 

State Duma deputy Alexander Khinshtein previously told how the fraudulent scheme worked in the region represented by him – the Samara region. According to him, the attackers organized a "Theater of new time" in Samara. They managed to pass verification on the Pro portal.Culture.Russia and become participants of the "Pushkin Card".

The theater regularly rented various venues and halls, where it showed performances from the repertoire of the educational theater of the Samara Institute of Culture. They were played by SSIC graduates who did not get into professional troupes. According to the papers, the performances were sold out, in reality, the halls were empty. "The ticket price was 3-3.5 thousand rubles, which by Samara standards is an absolute cosmos: for example, a ticket to the orchestra seats for the premiere at the opera and ballet theater costs so much",— the deputy commented.

Scammers found schoolchildren and students, offered them to "cash out" Pushkin's cards. Those agreed and passed the password from the card or from the offices on Public Services, receiving in return from 1.5 to 2 thousand rubles. After that, the criminals sold tickets to themselves, paying for them with a Pushkin card. In the Samara region, 12 such fraud facts were identified in six months. During the searches, operatives seized computer databases with the data of more than 5 thousand students from Samara, Khinstein says.

Samara "Theater of the New Time" was created nine months ago. Grigory Mokeev, Artem Korabel and Vladislav Mikheev, accused of organizing a criminal community and playing the roles of accomplices, have been detained. They are charged with causing damage to the federal budget in the amount of 15 million rubles. According to SPARK-Interfax, Grigory Mokeev is also the CEO of RATE BRAND LLC - the legal entity was registered in December 2022. The main activity is retail trade by mail or on the Internet.

The head of Rosfinmonitoring, without reference to the region, reported on another scheme for withdrawing funds from the Pushkin Card, which was turned by fraudsters. "They just made imaginary lists of people who were supposed to receive these benefits, there were none." In other words, the name cards were issued for "dead souls".

The bad news is that the identified theft of 100 million rubles seems to be just the beginning.

Even today, channels and chatbots offering to cash out funds from "Pushkin cards" are easily found on the web.

The idea of the "Pushkin card" has been criticized since its creation.

The conducted poll showed that half of the respondents did not attend cultural programs more often simply because the "Pushkin card" appeared.

However, the main reason respondents say is not lack of interest in cultural events (there is interest). And a limited number of available tickets for specific events of interest and, in principle, a narrow list of events that can be accessed using this card.

The respondents also expressed their wishes for the improvement of the "Pushkin". For example, it would be nice to add the opportunity to buy classics of Russian literature at the expense of this card.

Nevertheless, in general, critics note rather the positive impact of the program on youth and culture in 2022. And this means, "light dresses made of calico should be sewn".

We do not know the proportion of schoolchildren and students who preferred cashing the "Pushkin Card". There are no statistics. A small sample of the opinion poll says that half of them were not affected by the project – going to museums, theaters, philharmonic halls, exhibitions, etc. more often. they didn't.

Novye Izvestia asked experts why some of the children used the card for other purposes. In other words, why participation in fraudulent schemes turned out to be a more attractive occupation for them than immersion in the world of culture.

Marat Gelman, collector and gallery owner and publicist, former director of Perm Museum of Modern Art PERMM (entered in the register of foreign agents of the Russian Federation): - Back in 2005, the older generation in Russia protested massively against the monetization of benefits.

[Pensioners, the military, the disabled were asked to leave the benefits applied in transport, medical and other organizations in the state social security system, and not replace them with in-kind cash payments to the population].

Today, the youth, part of it, has actually shown – even if it is a small amount of money, but give it to your hands and immediately.

There are similar restrictive systems of benefits for citizens all over the world – coupons for free medicine (but you can spend them only on a doctor from the list and in six months), social products (which can only be picked up at one distant address, etc. And, apparently, there has always been and will always be a layer of people who will take less money with such a quiet revolt, but will enjoy that no one controls his spending.

It is sad that the "Pushkin Card" has become an instrument of fraud throughout the country, and children have also been involved.

Of course, I would like to say: "What you sow, you will reap." First they ban real culture, and then they hope to lure people to a surrogate. So interest is not born. But, to be honest, the same results would have been achieved if the situation with culture in Russia had not been deplorable.

Imposing cultural consumption on people can rarely be successful.

Using cultural money tranches is a bad idea, especially among young people. Young people don't go to the theater because they don't have money. There is no feeling that something special is happening where they are being lured in this way.

Alexander Asmolov, Professor, Academician of the Russian Academy of Sciences, Vice-President of the Russian Society of Psychologists:- Any project concerning the understanding of the world of children, adolescents and youth always contains a lot of risks.

The key ones are connected with the fact that very often the initiator of these projects poorly represents the psychological portrait of adolescents and young people. This, as we can see, also applies to the Pushkin Map project. The project was initiated by the Ministry of Culture, and since education and cultural policy live in two different rooms, like parallel lines in geometry, one department does not know what the other wants and does. They proceed, of course, from good intentions and sincerely believe that if children receive a financial injection in the amount of 5 thousand rubles, they will sharply increase their interest in certain cultural objects and events – visiting the philharmonic, museums, exhibitions, theaters. Every time you wonder how virgin the initiators are about the knowledge about the true motivation of teenagers and young people. For children, representatives of their cultural environment are authoritative and significant, and information from the adult world is often perceived with doubt, if not with rejection. Psychologists call the age of 14-15 years a period of "storms and onslaught", during these years there is increased negativism in adolescents. In addition, today the opposing sentiments are off the scale among the youth. The Pushkin Map project, for all its good, but naive wishes, was initially "designed" unsuccessfully because of its mechanicality and pragmatism. It is impossible to bribe a child's motivation by offering material stimulation of his interests, and the idea is especially bad if teenagers and children are identified as recipients of benefits.

Such a project will seem vague and incomprehensible to them. He is on a par with projects where children are being forced to read more. Modern children don't read much, it's a given.

Internet scammers decided to use the children - this is not surprising. In the online reality in which we live today, this is an absolutely typical crime.

The fact that a number of children preferred a tit in their hand rather than a crane in the sky is a socially and psychologically understandable situation. We do not know how many children from those who had the opportunity to attend cultural events chose to contact scammers in order to get money. Based on small samples, I would not aim at conclusions about the causes of such behavior in specific adolescents and would not like to judge what this tribe is young, unfamiliar. But it really turned out to be unfamiliar to those officials who came up with the idea of the "Pushkin Map".

Kirill Titaev, Visiting Researcher at the Institute of Law Enforcement Problems of the European University in St. Petersburg: - There are no victims in this fraudulent scheme.

There is collusion. Schoolchildren and students who received money are not affected. This choice was their conscious decision. It seems to me that there are no deep motives here. Well, a person prefers one and a half kilograms of pasta instead of museums, what can you do?...

Ekaterina Shulman, political scientist (entered in the register of foreign agents of the Russian Federation):

- The preference for immediate satisfaction of a deferred reward is a characteristic human trait, the more pronounced the younger the person. It manifests itself in the famous experiment with children and marshmallows (Stanford Marshmallow Experiment). In the case of the Pushkin Card, the pattern is the same: money is being offered right now, and attending a cultural event is in the unknown future, or maybe it won't happen at all. Only a mature person can resist such a temptation. Not all adults are like that, not to mention young creatures.