Meanwhile, the newspaper Izvestiya has just published a series of four articles portraying Primorsky krai governor Yevgenii Nazdratenko in a highly unflattering light. (Izvestiya, July 23-26) The series investigates the case of Viktor Cherepkov, who was sacked from his post as mayor of Vladivostok (capital of Primorsky krai) by President Yeltsin in spring 1994 following allegations that he had taken bribes.
Izvestiya says Cherepkov was framed by corrupt officers in the Primorsky krai police force, who wanted him out of the way because Cherepkov had launched a campaign against bribery and corruption among high-ranking city officials. The charges against Cherepkov were later dropped, but his efforts to get himself reinstated in his job have failed. While Izvestiya does not produce hard evidence that Nazdratenko was directly involved in a plot to frame Cherepkov, it accuses the governor of creating an atmosphere of lawlessness and immorality in Primorsky krai that made such abuses possible. It also accuses Yeltsin of, at best, weakness and irresponsibility in following Nazdratenko’s advice and sacking Cherepkov from his post. Izvestiya stresses that the mayor had been democratically elected and that Yeltsin had no legal right to dismiss him. Cherepkov has filed suit against Yeltsin, but the hearings have not yet begun.
Izvestiya contends that Nazdratenko wields virtually unlimited power in Primorsky krai thanks to his connections with big business and the criminal underworld, and because he has highly placed friends in the Kremlin. The paper does not identify these friends, but unconfirmed rumors have it that Nazdratenko’s friendship with former presidential security chief Aleksandr Korzhakov has given him leverage over Yeltsin in the past.
Nazdratenko has dismissed Izvestiya’s allegations, telling Interfax on July 24 that the articles was inspired by "Gaidar and his team" in an effort to discredit Primorsky krai at a moment when the region is weakened by a payments crisis and workers’ protests. One thing is certain: Nazdratenko has powerful friends and also powerful enemies, and the last has not been heard in the campaign against him.
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