The plot thickened in Primorsky krai yesterday as five deputy mayors of the capital city, Vladivostok, threatened to resign. They told President Yeltsin in an open letter that they were forced to consider resignation because krai governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko is: "setting the territory against the federal center;" "begging the federal government for money which is then misappropriated;" and "undermining Russia’s relations with China by separatist statements and discriminatory measures." (Itar-Tass, November 12)
The five expressed solidarity with the embattled mayor of Vladivostok, Valentin Cherepkov, who has been at loggerheads with Nazdratenko since 1994 and who recently fought off an attempt by the Nazdratenko-controlled regional legislature to remove him from office. At the beginning of this week, Cherepkov went on local radio with the surprise announcement that he intended to resign and call an early mayoral election. Cherepkov said he was taking the step because his authority had been undermined during his power struggle with Nazdratenko. (RTR, Reuter, November 11) At the time, it looked as if Cherepkov was acknowledging defeat and throwing in the towel. But this latest threat to resign by five of his deputies suggests that, on the contrary, a fresh and concerted attempt to unseat Nazdratenko is being made.
The campaign will have strong support from the Kremlin. The Yeltsin administration is acutely aware that, unless something is done to improve the region’s parlous administration and resolve its chronic fuel and energy crises, the local population will be at risk of freezing to death during the winter. But getting rid of Nazdratenko has so far proved beyond the Kremlin’s ability. Yeltsin tried to sack him during the summer, and transferred the governor’s powers to a new presidential representative in the krai, the local boss of the Federal Security Service, Viktor Kondratenko. The maneuver fell flat as Nazdratenko clung to power but left Kondratenko to assume responsibility for the region’s problems.
The federal authorities would like to sign a power-sharing agreement with the krai, along the lines of the bilateral treaties Yeltsin has so far signed with 37 of Russia’s republics and regions. Most of Russia’s provincial leaders have welcomed such arrangements, under which they have able to negotiate substantial privileges for their regions. Not so the foxy Nazdratenko. He is resisting a treaty since the mere fact of signing on the dotted line would place some restrictions, however weak, on the unlimited power he presently exercises in his far eastern fiefdom.
Land Reform Gets Go-Ahead in Saratov Oblast.