Battles of no local importance

What do you think the Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions have in common? You mean, belonging to the same federal district – the Siberian one. Indeed, it is so, but not only. One common problem makes the regions similar: private interests of both governors prevail over the public ones. This has a negative effect on the people: the population suffers, authority of the power decreases, dishonest businessmen make up political and financial capitals on it, etc.

Governor of the Krasnoyarsk region Alexander Lebed has turned the region into a battlefield, he has been tilting at windmills for four years already. Such actions have brought lamentable results – the region is on the verge of bankruptcy, arrears of wages have gained to incredible sums, and so on.

Although Irkutsk governor Boris Govorin is not a military man, he also likes to make a battle out of the life. At the beginning of February so-called military actions have started in the region. Boris Govorin assailed the State Duma deputies representing the Irkutsk region. The governor considers, the deputies do not protect the region’s interests in Moscow. At first, the statement seems to be rather senseless, as the lawmakers representing the region have recently managed to obtain an interest-free loan for repayment of the wage arrears in the region. The Finance Ministry has issued a permission for granting the loan. But Boris Govorin does not explain the reason of his anger. He has obviously started a “witch hunting” – he decided to get rid of disagreeable people.

Speaker of the regional legislative assembly Viktor Borovsky is to be the first to fall a victim. The speaker is a perpetual opponent to the governor; it was he who has made every possible effort to make the regional energy system independent. JSC Irkutskenergo, one of the largest energy enterprises in the region, has become an apple of discord between the speaker and the governor. The enterprise generates up to 75 billion kWh of electric power and up to 50 million gigacalorie of heat energy per year. The enterprise is not a member of RAO UES of Russia, that is really very important now, because the owner gets not only economic, but also political dividends at that. Irkutskenergo shares are constantly rising on the stock market, as the enterprise is rather competitive, it generates cheap electricity. That is why Irkutskenergo has always been a titbit for the team of governor Govorin, who wants to get access to Irkutskenergo management. It is really important to get control over the energy enterprise, as cost of electricity determines the cost of aluminum, cellulose, petrol – everything that brings currency earnings. But Boris Govorin could not handle the problem alone, and RUSAL director Oleg Deripaska appeared in the region then. He has been always dreaming to become the region’s owner. The wish of the Irkutsk governor to profit by Irkutskenergo shares (that has been in the region’s ownership) coincided with the wish of Oleg Deripaska to become a master in the region. To achieve the objectives of both men it was only enough to reshuffle the management of Irkutskenergo – to appoint reliable, safe people to the managerial posts at the joint-stock company. RUSAL’s financial and administrative resources have been used to achieve the objective. The enterprises Russian Aluminum (RUSAL) and Siberian-Ural aluminum (SUAL) appointed people related to the companies to the Irkutskenergo board of directors. After that they have got almost an actual control over the whole of the Irkutsk region. Governor Boris Govorin has profited from the bargain as well. RUSAL has contributed greatly in his re-election for a new period.

But this very fact has not changed the governor’s spirits – he owed the opponents a grudge; he felt especially brave, having the support of the “aluminum king” Oleg Deripaska.

Boris Govorin wants to get even with speaker Borovsky for the latter’s criticism in the address of the regional administration for the division of Irkutskenergo shares and the last year’s pre-election campaign, when the legislative assembly refused to support the governor. Boris Govorin named the legislative assembly “betrayers” then.

It is also rumored, reshuffling will also concern the executive authorities of several regional towns and the representatives of the region in the Federal Assembly. It is difficult to say, whether the actions will strengthen Boris Govorin’s positions. Even his potential allies are perplexed with his recent activity.

As for Irkutskenergo privatization, its results are quite lamentable. The region has faced problems with electricity and heat supply for the first time right after introduction of the new management. As a result, the communal economy is in a poor state, the industrial production is lagging behind the forecasted results.

Influence of RUSAL can be also seen in the Krasnoyarsk region. Krasnoyarsk governor Alexander Lebed accused his aides of the failure of the elections to the Legislative Assembly and fired all of them. But he has failed to create a new team, that is to be of great importance during coming gubernatorial elections. But the governor even tried to draw some conclusions from the situation. He offered the lawmakers to appoint two persons, well-known in the region, to the posts of vice-governors: head of Sibmashholding Yury Koropachinsky and head of the regional committee for state property management Andrey Fursa. Slightest hope for creation of a system social and economic policy in the region has appeared. But the logic of political resistance has produced an affect once again: the Legislative Assembly turned down both candidatures on February 1. The deputies seem to have been driven by rational, but actually rather destructive, reasons. The Krasnoyarsk parliamentarians do not want Alexander Lebed to be re-elected for another period. Alexander Uss is to become his more likely rival during the coming elections. But appointment of Yury Koropachinsky and Andrey Fursa vice-governors of the region would improve the situation in the region and, consequently make victory of Alexander Lebed in gubernatorial elections more probable.

The political problem that Alexander Lebed faced made him appeal for help to RUSAL. The governor offered a post of the first vice-governor to RUSAL representative in the Krasnoyarsk region Nikolay Ashlapov. The enterprise owns two large plants in the region, but the relations with the Krasnoyarsk governor has not been the best ones. Alexander Lebed must have understood perfectly well that RUSAL financed the Nashi (Ours) coalition, and representatives of the coalition in the Legislative Assembly will not vote against the proposed candidature. Now, let us wait for the deputies’ reaction.

Some observers see purely economic reasons for the recent events in the Krasnoyarsk region. They say, the resignation of the governor’s aides has been caused by appearance of a new sponsor for the coming gubernatorial elections. Representatives of the sponsor are said to be taking the key posts in the governor’s team. It is rather interesting, RUSAL is the background for both political conflicts – in the Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk regions.

RUSAL is not sufficiently satisfied even after rendering support to Boris Govorin at the previous elections. First, Govorin’s position is rather unstable (the governor won the elections only with a 2% margin). Second, the Irkutsk region will be probably joined to the Ust-Ordynsky Buryat autonomous national district, that may take place this year already. A new governor is to be elected then. Govorin’s chances to take the post are rather insignificant, to tell the truth. Thus, it is very important for RUSAL to have its man at the head of the regional administration. Local mass media inform, director of the Irkutsk aluminum plant Igor Grinberg is more likely to be the candidature. He is said to be promoted by SUAL to the post of chairman of the regional legislative assembly. If it is a success, the same candidate will be nominated to the coming elections of the head of the regional administration. This fact is also confirmed by Govorin’s recent statement that he will be probably removed to Moscow or abroad.

While the struggle with the political opponents is going on, the economic situation of both regions is taking a threatening turn. The situation in the Irkutsk region has been described above. Most enterprises in the Krasnoyarsk region are bankrupt. In fact, the region is supported by the tax payments from the Norilsk Nickel enterprise. The budget for 2001 has not been successfully executed, no budget for the current year has been developed at all. The problem of pension non-payment and payment of extra money to budgetary workers, that is provided by the federal budget, is extremely pressing in the region. Inter-budgetary relations between the Krasnoyarsk region and its member, the Taymyr autonomous district, has not been settled yet. Alexander Lebed said at the press conference, he would sequestrate the regional budget for 2002, the sequestration will be the most painful for the town of Norilsk. The governor says, the reduction of the budget is caused by the reduction of tax payments from the largest taxpayer – the Norilsk mining company. Alexander Lebed plans to settle his problems at the expense of the neighbors.

Alexander Lebed expects the population of the region to understand the necessity to “pull in the belts”. At that, he promised that, if the budget for 2002 is free from any excesses, the region would get governmental subventions at the rate of 3,5 billion rubles within the nearest time already.

Money transferred from Moscow is the last chance for Alexander Lebed to improve the situation in the region.

In any case, the actions of both governors weaken the vertical of power, although they actively declare, the vertical is to be strengthened.

Yekaterina Lykova PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

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