'Independent' owner's hotel is raided in row over charity fund

A hotel complex in Ukraine, belonging to Alexander and Evgeny Lebedev, the owners of The Independent and the London Evening Standard, has been raided by police in an apparent row over the preservation of playwright Anton Chekhov's nearby house.

British theatrical stars such as Sir Tom Stoppard and Kenneth Branagh are implicated in the situation.

Staff at the 500-room, 20-hectare leisure development in Alushta were reportedly forbidden to use phones, and computers were confiscated by 100 officers of the police and security forces yesterday. The operation took place three days after Alexander Lebedev was caught up in a similar raid by 50 masked and armed police on his National Reserve Bank in Moscow, which he blamed on commercial rivals.

But he believes the Ukrainian crisis was triggered by an article earlier this month in the Standard's Londoner's Diary, which suggested that the Lebedev family and British fundraisers and theatre stars had done more than president Viktor Yanukovych's administration to restore Chekhov's crumbling dacha in Yalta, 40km from Alushta.

"I think it is a coincidence that this happened after what happened in Moscow," said Alexander Lebedev. "I think it is to do with that article. I know the Ukrainian government is very sensitive about what is written about it, and they always think it is the proprietor [behind negative stories].

"This is a complex of hotels, restaurants, a spa and aquapark," he continued. "It is a seasonal business, and makes about half a million dollars a year, but every penny in profit I have made from it I have put towards the Chekhov house, the Chekhov theatre, or a cathedral I built nearby."

Chekhov left the house known as the White Dacha, where he wrote The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard, to his sister Masha after his death in 1904. She maintained it, through the Russian Revolution and subsequent Nazi occupation, until her own death, aged 93, in 1957. Steadily the house fell into disrepair, which worsened as the first, nationalist regimes governing newly independent Ukraine saw no mileage in commemorating a Russian writer. In 2008, the Anton Chekhov Foundation was founded in the UK to preserve the house, with the support of Stoppard, Branagh, Kevin Spacey, Ralph Fiennes, Christopher Hampton and Michael Frayn.

"At the time of the establishment of the ACF in 2008, the museum was relying on private donors such as Mr Lebedev and minimal sums from the local authorities," said spokesman Alexander Walsh. "Previous Ukrainian governments had showed no signs of wanting to support the museum."

The ACF alone stumped up £27,000 to repair hurricane damage to the house in February 2010, including a "generous donation" from Alexander Lebedev's son, Evgeny. But Mr Walsh stressed that President Yanukovych's government had reversed earlier policies, and funded a major refurbishment of the museum.

Sir Tom Stoppard said he had been to see the partly restored house a year or so ago, along with fellow writer Christopher Hampton, with the ACF. "We didn't receive a sense that it was being supported at the Yalta end – [the investment] was all coming from outside," he said. "The house simply would not be there in its present form without the Foundation and extra funding from the Lebedevs."

Regarding the raid on the Lebedevs' hotel complex, he added: "In the broadest sense it's a reminder that cultural politics are part of politics, and in some way they punch above their weight."

Alexander Lebedev told the Evening Standard the staff at his hotel were "very scared" and that he was considering closing the Alushta complex "even though I am a major taxpayer and a major employer in the area".

Spacey, the Oscar-winner and director of the Old Vic, said: "Chekhov's White Dacha is a valuable memorial to a great writer, and the support given to it by the Lebedev family should be applauded."

Suggested Topics
News
people And here is why...
Arts and Entertainment
Amazon has added a cautionary warning to Tom and Jerry cartoons on its streaming service
tv
Voices
voicesBy the man who has
Sport
Arsene Wenger tried to sign Eden Hazard
footballAfter 18 years with Arsenal, here are 18 things he has still never done as the Gunners' manager
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
The new Windows 10 Start Menu
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star in The Twilight Saga but will not be starring in the new Facebook mini-movies
tvKristen Stewart and Stephenie Meyer will choose female directrs
Arts and Entertainment
Hilary North's 'How My Life Has Changed', 2001
books(and not a Buzzfeed article in sight)
News
William Hague
people... when he called Hague the county's greatest
News
More than 90 years of car history are coming to an end with the abolition of the paper car-tax disc
newsThis and other facts you never knew about the paper circle - completely obsolete today
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedyFirst national survey reveals Britain’s comedic tastes
Arts and Entertainment
Twerking girls: Miley Cyrus's video for 'Wrecking Ball'
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Ed Sheeran performs at his Amazon Front Row event on Tuesday 30 September
musicHe spotted PM at private gig
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Are you looking for part time/ ...

SEN (SLD/PMLD) Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

General Cover Teacher

£120 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Currently looking for teachers ...

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

Day In a Page

Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

The children orphaned by Ebola...

... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

Are censors pandering to homophobia?

US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence
The magic of roundabouts

Lords of the rings

Just who are the Roundabout Appreciation Society?
Why do we like making lists?

Notes to self: Why do we like making lists?

Well it was good enough for Ancient Egyptians and Picasso...
Hong Kong protests: A good time to open a new restaurant?

A good time to open a new restaurant in Hong Kong?

As pro-democracy demonstrators hold firm, chef Rowley Leigh, who's in the city to open a new restaurant, says you couldn't hope to meet a nicer bunch
Paris Fashion Week: Karl Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'

Paris Fashion Week

Lagerfeld leads a feminist riot on 'Boulevard Chanel'
Bruce Chatwin's Wales: One of the finest one-day walks in Britain

Simon Calder discovers Bruce Chatwin's Wales

One of the finest one-day walks you could hope for - in Britain
10 best children's nightwear

10 best children's nightwear

Make sure the kids stay cosy on cooler autumn nights in this selection of pjs, onesies and nighties
Manchester City vs Roma: Five things we learnt from City’s draw at the Etihad

Manchester City vs Roma

Five things we learnt from City’s Champions League draw at the Etihad
Martin Hardy: Mike Ashley must act now and end the Alan Pardew reign

Trouble on the Tyne

Ashley must act now and end Pardew's reign at Newcastle, says Martin Hardy
Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?