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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

$3M Jackpot Winner Seeks Publicity

MTAlbert Begrakyan, winner of the largest-ever Russian jackpot prize, speaking at a news conference Thursday.
The winner of the country's largest-ever lottery prize stepped into the public eye Thursday, saying publicity was his best safety guarantee against those who might use nefarious means to get their hands on his $3 million windfall.

Albert Begrakyan, owner of a car repair shop in the Leningrad region town of Kolpino, said his delight at winning the 100 million ruble lottery last month was short-lived after the organizers announced the name of the city in which the lucky man resided.

"My joy quickly turned to anxiety," Begrakyan, 35, told a news conference.

When he found out that he had the winning ticket, Begrakyan said he and his family moved into a friend's apartment, saying their electricity had been cut off.

Acting on the advice of Gosloto, the state-backed sports lottery that ran the sweepstakes, Begrakyan said he hid the winning ticket and several dummy copies in safety deposit boxes and traveled to Moscow with a train ticket that did not show his surname.

Gosloto hired bodyguards for him, Begrakyan said, but he decided to go public once the money was in the bank. "I think popular fame is the best security," he said, garnering a round of applause from reporters.

Dressed in jeans and a black sweater, Begrakyan beamed as he told of how he bought the ticket at the last minute after hearing of the big prize. "I dreamed of buying my sister an apartment in Armenia — she has been renting for a long time — and a car for my parents," he said.

He checked his numbers on the Gosloto web site. "I looked, and the numbers were unreal. They were all from my ticket," he said.

Launched in November, the lottery is run by a group of companies headed by Hungarian businessman Sandor Demjan. It donates a percentage of its profits from ticket sales to a government program to develop sports.

So far, it has donated 1.85 billion rubles ($55.4 million) to sports projects, said Alexander Gafin, chairman of the board of Gosloto's operating company, Orglot.

The lottery sells tickets for 20 rubles at 10,000 terminals across the country. It is reminiscent of the Soviet-era sweepstakes Sportloto, which helped finance the construction of sports stadiums and fund the 1980 Moscow Olympics.

Originally from Armenia, Begrakyan said he moved to Russia nine years ago and started a construction company that went out of business because of the economic crisis. He said he was running a car repair shop when he purchased the ticket.

His take-home winnings after taxes amount to 87 million rubles ($2.6 million).

Begrakyan said he plans to spend the money on his family. "An apartment for myself, an apartment for my sister and a car for my parents," he said.

He said he also plans to open a chain of 12 stores, employing up to 100 people. He did not indicate what the stores would be selling.