Millionaire Communist Vladimir Semago plans to run for mayor of Nizhny Novgorod in the repeat election set for September 27. (NTV, August 10) He will stand in for Andrei Klimentev, the nightclub-owner and thrice-convicted criminal who was elected mayor in March. That election was annulled in April by the local authorities, who said that all the candidates had violated electoral regulations. This week, Russia’s Supreme Court rejected Klimentev’s appeal against the six-year prison sentence for fraud he is presently serving. The court’s ruling means Klimentev will not be able to run again for the post of mayor on September 27. (RTR, August 10)
Semago, a Communist deputy to the Russian State Duma, has championed Klimentev’s cause, voicing the suspicions of many local people that Klimentev’s election in March was annulled on orders from Moscow. The election of a convicted embezzler in Nizhny, showcase of Russia’s market reforms, was seen as a serious embarrassment both to the Kremlin and to the former regional governor, now deputy premier, Boris Nemtsov. Local people, by contrast, seemed to take delight in overturning the city’s good reputation. Asked why she voted for Klimentev, one woman replied, “To spite them all.” (Daily Telegraph [London], April 1) Semago will be one of seventeen candidates, but is seen as having a fair chance of being elected. Like Klimentev, Semago is an eccentric. He made his money during the Gorbachev period as one of the founding fathers of the cooperative movement. He owns a Moscow restaurant and casino and has extensive banking interests. Though he claims to be a devout Communist, he has often deviated from the Party line. (Moskovsky komsomolets, July 30)
Klimentev was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment in May, having been found guilty of embezzling US$2 million of a US$30 million hard currency loan granted to a local shipyard by the federal Finance Ministry. (Itar-Tass, May 27) The judge who tried the case said it revealed numerous irregularities by former Governor Nemtsov, including the fact that Nemtsov concealed the existence of the federal loan from the oblast finance department. The judge also criticized former Finance Minister Boris Fedorov for granting the multimillion credit without consulting the rest of the government. There was no oversight of the flow of money in the Finance Ministry, the oblast administration, or at NBD-bank which managed the transaction, the judge said. At that time, NBD was headed by Nemtsov’s protege, Boris Brevnov. (IEWS Russian Regional Report, No 22, 1998) Semago denounced the court’s decision against Klimentev as politically motivated. He said the authorities wanted Klimentev behind bars because they were afraid he would champion ordinary people against the “powers that be.” Semago claimed, too, that Klimentev was a scapegoat for the real criminals–former Governor Nemtsov, former Finance Minister Fedorov and banker Brevnov. (RTR, August 10)
A SETBACK FOR SEA LAUNCH.