Korruption Scandal Rocks Komi – Part II

Governor Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Gaizer, alleged head of a “criminal gang”

Continuation of the LifeNews story about the Komi scandal.  What does this scandal mean for the residents, the ordinary people and their lives?

Amazingly, given the number of arrests of top-placed officials, many potential witnesses are still afraid to come forward, according to LifeNews.  People are afraid to testify, for fear that the gang might still be exonerated, and that anyone giving testimony now might be subject to prosecution for libel.  Such is the power that the Governor, the Mayor and the others still exert over the psychology of the residents.  According to Anatoly Karakchiev, former Deputy Governor, “The gang had locked up all the local business and all investment projects.”  Not a single thing could be built in Komi without splitting the profits with the gang.  “I went to a man who worked in the government, suggested a project, I was ready to bring in an investor.  And he says to me, ‘No problem, I am agreeable, but you know our conditions:  25%.’ ”

In this particular case, they were talking about building the sanitorium “Seregovo”.  The investor subsequently refused to share 25% of his profits with the local government.

Instead, the local (“krai”) authorities began to build the sanitorium.  Gayzer would personally inspect the work.  Over the course of 2 years, more than 2 billion rubles of government money was (supposedly) invested in the project.  And then an additional 531 million for individual items.  But to this day, the sanitorium is only partially built.

Local residents were shocked when the arrests began:  despite everything, Gayzer was popular, in the 2014 elections, he received over 80% of the vote.  Governor Gayzer lived in an ordinary 9-storey block of flats, without even a garden.  He never wore his expensive jewelry or watches in public.  According to local residents, he would walk to work without a bodyguard, one could often see him walking down the street, or in the grocery store, or the gym across the street from his house.

But not everybody loves him.  LifeNews tells the story of Ol’ga Mishkova, the mother of 5 children.  Such a large family are entitled by law to a decent municipal residence, and yet they are forced to live in a run-down flat with no heat or hot water.  For five years Ol’ga petitioned for a better apartment, and haunted the halls of government.  And yet, like something in a Gogol story, the local bureaucracy would not give her the time of day.

Perhaps the reason is, because every ninth building in Komi is rundown.  We are talking about 2 million square meters of living space, which all needs to be torn down and built from scratch, in order to meet basic standards.  Federal law requires that the local authorities give first choice to the families of multiple children, but clearly this mandate does not always work for everyone.

A street in downtown Syktyvkar

The piece ends with this paragraph:

“After (all) the arrests, the corridors of power in Syktyvkar have not emptied, but the tension is felt there.  Those officials who remain at their posts (and have not been arrested) are currently working on the budget, and preparing for the winter (heating) season.  But who will be in charge of the Republic?  Nobody knows.”

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