Russian voters went to the polls on April 8 in Amur and Tula Oblasts and the Evenk Autonomous District to choose new governors (Russian agencies, April 9). The result in Amur brought the biggest surprise. There, incumbent Governor Anatoly Belonogov had been widely tipped to win a run-off against State Duma Deputy Leonid Korotkov. Although both men had the support of the regional branch of the Russian Communist Party (KPRF) (Polit.ru, March 7, 20), the Kremlin did not express a strong preference for either, despite Belonogov’s claim that he had Putin’s backing (Amurskaya Pravda, February 20).
During the campaign, Belonogov was criticized for using his “administrative resources” (privileges of office) to assert his advantage (Russian agencies, March 20). There was general surprise, therefore, when Korotkov won the election with 49.7 percent of the votes to Belonogov’s 42.6 percent (Strana.ru, April 9). The campaign had been the dirtiest in local memory: Konstantin Pulikovsky, President Putin’s authorized representative in the Far Eastern federal district, called to no avail for an end to the “war of kompromat [compromising material]” which raged throughout (Polit.ru, March 12). He and others subsequently attributed Korotkov’s victory to the success of “dirty tricks” in blackening Belonogov’s reputation (NNS.ru, March 26).
“Dirty tricks” were widely reported also in the election in Tula Oblast, where incumbent Governor Vasily Starodubtsev won re-election with 49 percent of the votes; his closest rival, local official Andrei Samoshin, won just under 21 percent (Strana.ru, April 9). Starodubtsev, who played an active role in the hardline coup of August 1991 against Gorbachev, was backed by both the KPRF and party leader Gennady Zyuganov, who declared there was no “worthy alternative” to Starodubtsev (Russian agencies, March 5). The candidates also included Andrei Brezhnev, grandson of Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev (now regarded with nostalgic affection by many elderly Russians).
At times, the race in Tula turned violent: During the evening of March 22, the head of Andrei Brezhnev’s election team was attacked by unknown assailants (Radio Ekho Moskvy, March 23) and, on the eve of the election, the headquarters of the oblast election commission were blockaded by men in camouflage jackets (NTV, April 6). The oblast prosecutor later claimed that the invaders were OMON special police dispatched by Starodubtsev to detain Samoshin supporters (Lenta.ru, April 6). Following the incident, there was talk that Samoshin would be disqualified from the race, but this did not happen (NTV, April 6).
Violent though it was, the campaign in Tula was confined to a local power struggle between Starodubtsev’s old-established agrarian-communist clan and Samoshin’s team, representing the interests of the oblast’s new businessmen. The Kremlin did not interfere in Tula any more than in Amur, nor did Moscow-based big business show any interest in either contest. As one newspaper noted, Tula has “neither oil nor gas: in general, nothing that would promise instant revenues…. The oligarchs, who fight tooth and nail for power in other regions, accordingly show little interest in what goes on here” (Delovoi Vtornik, April 3).
By contrast, the election in the Evenk Autonomous District, which lies within Krasnoyarsk Krai, saw a sharp clash between the interests of Kremlin-supported big business and those of the Krasnoyarsk Krai administration, which would have liked to have asserted its influence over the sparsely populated but resource-rich region. Before the election campaign even started, incumbent Aleksandr Borovikov announced that he would not run for re-election. According to reports, Borovikov stood down after krai authorities put pressure on him–having found him excessively independent and wanting someone more malleable in his place (Polit.ru, January 30). As a result, the battle was fought between Boris Zolotarev, a director at the Yukos oil giant, which dominates the regional economy, and Yevgeny Vasilev, formerly a deputy to incumbent Krasnoyarsk Krai Governor Aleksandr Lebed.
From the start, the media predicted victory for Zolotarev on the basis of his Yukos connections: “There is a tendency for big business to come to power [since] voters are keen to elect people who can invest funds into the development of their impoverished territories,” was how one newspaper put it (Parliamentskaya Gazeta, February 20). Zolotarev was also supported by the pro-Kremlin Unity Party, the Union of Right-Wing Forces and the KPRF. The results of the election were preordained: Zolotarev won with 51 percent of the vote (Polit.ru, April 9).
SOUTHERN SHIELD EXERCISE HELD IN MOSCOW THIS YEAR.