Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed’s battle with local industrial barons looks set to break out again. Lebed spoke on the subject during an interview yesterday on NTV television’s “Hero of the Day” program. He said that a proposal by a consortium of local businessmen led by Anatoly Bykov to set up a large industrial holding company, was tantamount to blackmail. [Bykov serves as head of the board of directors of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Factory (KrAZ).] “I am for a dialogue between entrepreneurs and the authorities, but when entrepreneurs start to blackmail the authorities, the authorities must treat them like kittens who made a mess,” Lebed said with his typical bravado (NTV, January 28). Bykov and his allies have, according to Lebed, proposed a holding company which would include the Krasnoyarsk hydropower plant, the Achinsk Alumina Combine, the local coal holding company Krasugol and the Krasnoyarsk Metallurgical Plant. Lebed calls the offer unacceptable, claiming that the holding would earn US$85 million a month in profits, but that its founders plan to pay only US$500,000 a month in local taxes. “I cannot accept that,” Lebed said during a press conference in Moscow on January 27. “When I decided to get to the root of the matter, they began making noise. Everything will be settled this way or that within a week or so. I’m fairly confident that the conflict will be resolved to the territorial authorities’ satisfaction” (Trud, January 28).
Some observers, however, doubt that Lebed is in a position to win this fight. Earlier this month, a Novosibirsk firm believed to be under Bykov’s control got control a 42-million ruble (US$1.87 million) debt owed by Krasugol, the state-owned coal holding company. This took the debt out of Krasnoyarsk, and, therefore, out of Lebed’s reach, and gives Bykov the possibility of taking control of the Borodinsky mine, Krasnoyarsk’s largest. In addition, Krasugol is also indebted to a bank affiliated with Bykov, and that bank is set to take Krasugol to bankruptcy court. Bykov therefore seems destined to gain control of Krasugol–meaning, in essence, the region’s coal industry. On top of all this, financial structures allied with Bykov are moving against structures allied with Lebed on various other fronts.
“The Moscow Times,” citing one of Lebed’s deputies, reported today that Lebed plans to strike back by replacing the head of Krasugol with an ally. But others doubted that Lebed will ultimately come out the winner in his battle with Bykov. An analyst for the Moscow-based Troika Dialog investment company told the newspaper he would “bet on Bykov.” Analysts said that Lebed has no financial backing in the region and would ultimately have to surrender (Moscow Times, January 29).
During his interview yesterday with NTV, Lebed said that he had won federal backing in his battle. Other reports, however, say the government will remain neutral in the fight.
UNSCOM CHIEF FIRES BACK AT MOSCOW.