The atomic primatologist. The weird biography of Renat Karchaa, who accompanied the head of the IAEA to the Zaporizhzhya NPP
Павел Васильев
The atomic primatologist. The weird biography of Renat Karchaa, who accompanied the head of the IAEA to the Zaporizhzhya NPP
3 September 2022, 2:03

Renat Karchaa. Photo: HARA / YouTube

Ukraine has imposed sanctions against Renat Karchaa, the man who accompanied the IAEA delegation to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. Russian state media call him an ‘atomic expert’ but mentions in open sources show that Karchaa's wild career took him from studying primates in Sukhumi to being a political strategist in the Russian North.

On 2nd September, Ukraine imposed sanctions against 700 individuals and entities affiliated with Rosatom, a Russian state corporation in charge of nuclear energy projects. Renat Karchaa was among them.

“One day you are a plant guide—and the next day you get sanctioned. Only yesterday the whole world watched him give a tour of ZNPP to the IAEA mission, misinforming them at every step. And today he is a sanctioned person whom no one will shake hands with,” Ukrainian Energy Minister Herman Gluschenko wrote on Facebook.

Russian state media refer to Karchaa as an ‘atomic expert’ and adviser to the head of Rosatom, the Russian state corporation in charge of nuclear projects. He was the one who gave a tour of the Zaporizhzhya NPP to IAEA head Rafael Grossi, accusing Ukrainian troops of regular shelling of the plant.

In a viral video posted on Twitter by war reporter Mac William Bishop, a bald man in a blue suit and sunglasses shows a group of foreign experts a missile that has hit the ground. He gestures to explain that it turned around after it landed and therefore could not have come from Russian positions.

Renat Karchaa appears to have only recently become known as an ‘atomic expert’. Back in 2014, journalists described him as ‘an expert on the North Caucasus and Abkhazia’—for example, when he was speaking about the political situation in the region on the Dozhd TV channel.

According to his profile on Abkhazia-Inform, Renat Karchaa was born on 17th July 1966 in Ufa, Bashkortostan, and served in the army in Tallinn, Estonia. Towards the end of the 1980s, he moved to Abkhazia where he obtained a degree in bio-geography from Abkhazian State University. At the age of 25, Karchaa became the youngest member of Abkhazia’s first parliament. His work as a lawmaker was coupled with the position of director of the Research Institute of Experimental Primatology and Therapy, which was based at the famous monkey breeding centre in Sukhumi.

In 1994–1995 the future political strategist and ‘atomic scientist’ was accused of embezzlement of property of the Institute— allegedly, Karchaa sold off the scientific archives. Commenting on those accusations years later he said this old “story makes one smile.”

In 2004, Karchaa was involved in a criminal case concerning a vehicular accident that resulted in a fatality. At the time he was representing the Russian North in Moscow as the head of the Murmansk region delegation to the federal government. According to the Izvestia newspaper, his car fatally struck a 16-year-old teenager. This happened in the small town of Pustoshka in Pskov Region where Karchaa was providing PR consultations related to the upcoming gubernatorial elections. According to the newspaper, he fled from the scene but was detained thanks to the testimony of witnesses who caught the license plate numbers on the car.

Valeriy Ostobaev, deputy head of the investigative department of the regional police department, said that the driver had been released and that an expert examination would determine whether he could have prevented the hit-and-run. “At the moment, he has not yet been charged, but it looks like he will be. Karchaa, under Part 2 of Article 264 of the Criminal Code, faces up to five years in prison,” he said.

Mediazona was unable to find any mention of court proceedings about the hit-and-run.

Karchaa's service record also includes being an adviser to the President of Abkhazia, now a breakaway republic that is recognised by most countries as part of Georgia. He was dismissed from that post in January 2021.

In late August 2014, during the presidential election in Abkhazia, Karchaa—now an observer with the Central Election Commission of Russia—was beaten up during a scuffle between supporters of two candidates outside the Republican Central Election Commission building. As Kavkazsky Uzel reported, the political strategist was taken “to a republican hospital with serious bodily injuries.”

Editor: Dmitry Tkachev

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