The Supreme Court of the Russian Federation yesterday overturned a December 11 decision by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) that annulled the registration of Vyacheslav Shtyrov, head of the diamond monopoly ALROSA, as a candidate in the republic’s presidential election, which is set for December 23. The Yakutian Supreme Court had based its decision invalidating Shtyrov’s registration on an investigation conducted by the office of the republic’s prosecutor, which found that Shtyrov’s campaign team had used aircraft paid for by ALROSA to gather signatures in support of his candidacy in one of the huge republic’s districts (Russian agencies, December 19).
Shtyrov’s reinstatement represents the latest in a series of twists in the saga of his candidacy. The ALROSA chief was initially refused registration as a candidate, then registered, then barred by the Yakutia Supreme Court, which decision was overturned yesterday by the Russian Federation’s Supreme Court. Yesterday’s decision reinstating Shtyrov as a candidate clears the way for his victory, given that the republic’s incumbent president, Mikhail Nikolaev, dropped out of the race on December 12. Nikolaev was followed by the third major candidate, Vasily Kolmogorov, deputy prosecutor general of the Russian Federation, who announced that he was dropping out of the race on December 16 and formally notified Yakutia’s election commission of that decision yesterday (NTV.ru, December 19). Nikolaev had been the favorite of Yakutia’s local elites and Kolmogorov the choice of the federal authorities, but Nikolaev and President Vladimir Putin reportedly cut a deal by which Nikolaev would drop his reelection bid and the Kremlin would drop its support for Kolmogorov. Shtyrov is in essence Nikolaev’s designated heir, given that when he withdrew from the race last week, the incumbent Yakutian president proposed Shtyrov as his successor and asked voters to support the ALROSA chief (see the Monitor, December 13). Shtyrov won federal backing yesterday, when Emergency Minister Sergei Shoigu, leader of the pro-presidential Unity party, announced it would support his bid to become Yakutia’s president (Radio Mayak, December 19). Unity’s support is all the more important given that it recently merged with Fatherland, the group headed by Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.
Meanwhile, a newspaper yesterday reported that Vladimir Litvinenko, rector of the Plekhanov State Mining Institute in St. Petersburg, Putin’s hometown, was the frontrunner to succeed Shtyrov as the head of ALROSA, Russia’s main diamond producer. The paper said Litvinenko had been close to both the late Anatoly Sobchak, who was St. Petersburg’s mayor and Putin’s mentor, and the future president himself (Vremya Novostei, December 19).
BAKU-TBILISI-CEYHAN PIPELINE PROJECT MOVING CLOSER TO CONSTRUCTION PHASE.