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Grigory Pasko: Putin Clears the Field – but for Whom?

Putin Clears the Field – but for Whom? By Grigory Pasko, journalist Russia has recently been witnessing an epidemic of prosecutions of city mayors. For example, Tomsk mayor Alexander Makarov is currently sitting in an investigative isolator prison: four criminal cases have been opened against him – he has been charged with abuse of office (Article 285 of the Criminal Code) and extortion (Article 163), as well as abuse of office with a mercenary motive. The former mayor of the closed territorial-administrative formation [the technical term for a “secret city”—Trans.] of Lesnoy, Alexander Ivannikov, has been sentenced to five years of deprivation of liberty. Ivannikov had been charged under Articles 285 (abuse of office) and 286 (exceeding official authority) of the Criminal Code. The court found him guilty of having granted tax concessions to four enterprises, thereby causing 13 billion rubles’ worth of harm to the state, and In my article about my recent visit to Vladivostok I wrote: “The second news was about the arrests of several businessmen of the city, who were being called everything from “authorities” [a high Russian underworld rank—Trans.] to “bandits” to “mafiosi”. This despite the fact that they still hadn’t gone on trial and nobody had yet proven their guilt. They say that this also has something to do with the oil pipeline: Putin is “clearing the field” for his people from the FSB. There’s simply no place for former local “authorities” in this scheme.” To this ought to be added that he is clearing out this field both for himself and for his successor, whom he will continue to direct even after he leaves the post of president. Several days ago, the Russian media reported another piece of news having to do with Vladivostok. A criminal case has been opened against Vladivostok mayor Vladimir Nikolayev under Article 285, part 1 (“abuse of official authority”) of the Criminal Code of the RF. It is known that earlier, the procuracy had opened a criminal case with respect to officials in the city administration on evidence of the sale of plots of land at reduced prices. As was reported at the press service of the Primorsky Kray procuracy, “at the present moment 11 facts of the sale of plots of land at a price summarily undervalued by more than 38 mln rubles have been identified by the investigation In addition to this, the procuracy is conducing a check of the unlawful granting by the administration of Vladivostok of several plots of land with an area of from 1.3 to 7 thsd. square meters into lease concurrently to one and the same persons for individual housing construction”.

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Vladivostok mayor Vladimir Nikolayev

It just happens that both Article 285 of the Criminal Code and Nikolaev himself are well-known to me. It was under this Article (later repealed by the Supreme Court of Russia) that I was convicted by the Vladivostok Military Court in 1997. And I was locked up in the investigative isolator of that same Vladivostok at the same time as Vladimir Nikolayev was locked up there as well. Needless to say, we ran into one another there. First about the Article. It belongs to the category of crimes against state power, the interests of state service and service in the organs of local self-administration. Part one of the Article says that they simply want to remove Nikolayev from an elected post (the measure of punishment under this Article varies from a fine to deprivation of liberty for a term of 4 years). If the procuracy – which, naturally, is acting on orders from Moscow – had been given the order to throw Nikolayev in jail (once again), then they would have used part two of the Article, which prescribes deprivation of liberty for a term of up to seven years. As it happens, though, they just decided to frighten the guy a bit, at the same time removing from his post a person who doesn’t fit into the Putin team’s plans to have absolutely Putinist people in place everywhere in the Russian regions. That is, the next mayor of Vladivostok is going to be a person either directly connected with the FSB, or working behind the cloak of this organization. Some kind of local variant of “Serdyukov the furniture man”. It goes without saying that the opening of the criminal case with respect to Nikolayev has nothing to do with legality and fighting corruption. If there were such an intent, then first, Nikolayev would have been in jail a long time ago. And second, not only he would be in jail, but also Primorsky Kray governor Sergey Darkin. And speaking of Darkin, I think that he is probably getting more and more uncomfortable given the events taking place in the Kray right now (arrests, checks, interrogations, replacement of power-structure heads): he could be next. Backgrounder: V. Nikolayev was born in the city of Vladivostok on 10 October 1973. He graduated from the Far-Eastern state technical university of the fisheries industry (Dalrybvtuz) with a major of “Engineer-economist” (1996). Candidate of juridical sciences. Defended a dissertation on environmental problems at the Russian university of the friendship of peoples (RUDN) [better known in the West by its cold-war name, Patrice Lumumba University—Trans.] (2004). Upon graduation from college, V.Nikolayev commenced labor activity in the TURNIF (Pacific ocean Administration for fisheries Exploration and the Scientific-Research Fleet). In 2001, he was advanced by the inhabitants of the city of Partizansk as a candidate for deputy to the Legislative assembly of Primorsky Kray. V.Nikolayev is deputy secretary of the Political Soviet of the regional branch of the party “United Russia”, deputy head of the Kray pre-election headquarters of presidential candidate V.V. Putin. On 18 July 2004, he was elected head of the administration of the city of Vladivostok.