Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 171

As winter approaches in Russia’s Far East, electricity workers in Primorsky krai today began an indefinite strike over unpaid wages. The power workers are also calling for the introduction of presidential rule in the territory, saying that only the federal authorities can resolve the region’s problems. (NTV, RTR, September 15) The strike is the latest stage in an ongoing struggle between Moscow and the independently-minded governor of the territory, Yevgeni Nazdratenko. The governor has pointedly ignored Moscow’s September 15 ultimatum to "establish order" in the region’s troubled fuel and energy sector, where strikes brought factories, hospitals and public transport to a grinding halt earlier this summer. The Kremlin would be happy to have a pretext to remove the governor from office, but fears a backlash from regional business and political elites, who are overwhelmingly supportive of Nazdratenko. A regional referendum on Nazdratenko’s imperious governing style is scheduled for September 22 and aims to provide the governor with a demonstration of popular support. Russia’s Constitutional Court has told the Kremlin that it has no right to forbid the referendum from going ahead, but one consequence of a declaration of presidential rule would be the automatic cancellation of the referendum. This would be a dangerous and unpredictable course, given Nazdratenko’s regional strength. Moscow will need strong nerves if it plans to depose or neutralize Nazdratenko before next Sunday’s referendum.