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#14 - JRL 7167
May 5, 2003
Putin finds place for Kasyanov's arch-foe

One of the most controversial state officials in Russia - Yevgeny Nazdratenko - has been appointed a deputy head of the Security Council. President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to the effect less than three months after Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov suspended Nazdratenko from the post of the head of the State Fisheries Committee, which the ex-governor of Primorye had been awarded a post in the body coordinating all power structures in exchange for staying out of the crisis-ridden region.

Reports of Nazdratenkos new appointment were leaked into press in the late afternoon of Wednesday as the country was preparing for a long May Day holiday weekend. Obviously, the Kremlin hoped that the move would not attract much public attention for the time being.

Succinct media reports said on Wednesday evening that Vladimir Putin had decreed on appointing Yevgeny Nazdratenko to the post of the deputy secretary of the Security Council. Thus the president put an end to the standoff between Yevgeny Nazdratenko and Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who temporarily relieved Nazdratenko of his duties of the head of the State Fisheries Committee in February this year.

In his new capacity Yevgeny Nazdratenko will oversee environmental security, in particular, protection of biological resources, the Interfax news agency reported citing its sources in the Security Council. However, observers are inclined to downplay the importance of the former Primorye governors new position.

In the meantime, it has transpired that Mikhail Kasyanov has already appointed Alexander Moiseyev, formerly the deputy head of the State Fisheries Committee, to run the agency.

Yevgeny Nazdratenkos original appointment to the top job in the nations fishing industry, is believed to have resulted from pure misunderstanding. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who enjoys a prerogative of appointing heads of governmental agencies and committees, had had no intention whatsoever to award the post to the disagreeable Primorye governor.

However, after in February 2001 Mr.Nazdratenko was compelled to resign from the governors post at the insistent request of the Kremlin, Vladimir Putin could not but find a worthy job for him. After years of ruling Primorye and successfully defying Moscows efforts to depose him, Nazdratenko eventually agreed to step down, leaving the crisis-ridden, starving region to his successor Sergei Darkin.

The Kremlins goal was to ensure that Nazdratenko never returns to Primoryes centre Vladivostok, and Putins advisors could not think of a better use for him other than making him the top fisheries official in the country thus making him stay in Moscow. Kasyanov had to agree, although initially he had planned to make Alexander Moiseyev, not Nazdratenko the head of the committee.

Nazdratenko fell out with Kasyanov from his very first days in office. He started with confining himself to criticizing the cabinets move to introduce auctions to sell fishing quotas, and by early 2003 the conflict between Nazdratenko and higher officials evolved into a public scandal.

By distributing fishing quotas the government allocated only 37 percent of the annual catch to Primorye fisheries instead of 50 percent as Nazdratenkos agency had insisted. Regional fishermen protested the move and the government was forced to increase quotas.

But then the Primorye governor Sergei Darkin distributed quotas allocated to him in favour of fishing firms under his control, while Nazdratenko-controlled companies were left empty-handed. In response, Nazdratenko refused to issue licences for the fishing quotas, and to sign a decree on the beginning of the fishing season, the time when a new wave of protests broke out in the region.

Consequently, on February 14 Mikhail Kasyanov temporarily relieved Nazdratenko of his duties. The first deputy chief of the Fisheries Committee Yuri Moskaltsov was appointed the acting head of the agency. It was Moskaltsovs task to endorse fishing quotas in Nazdratenkos absence, but then Nazdratenko passed to the offensive and accused certain officials from the Kasyanov cabinet of seeking his resignation for the sake of their own selfish ends.

At the same time the Prosecutor Generals Office took interest in the cabinets activity in what concerned distribution of fishing quotas in the framework of the probe into the so-called crab deal, an illegal scheme to sell over $6 million worth crab, in which many high-placed officials are believed to be involved. By the end of March Yuri Moskaltsov was detained on suspicion of being implicated in illegal activities.

Eventually, on March 14 Nazdratenko signed a decree reinstating himself as the Fisheries Committee chief. Nazdratenko explained that by Russian law state officials may be suspended from their posts not longer than for one month. Prime Minister ignored the move.

However, by that time it became clear that sooner or later President Putin would have to interfere. Given considerable popularity Nazdratenko still enjoys in his home region, the Kremlin just could not let him go free in two years Primorye residents are to elect a new governor, and there is a certain risk that Nazdratenko may win.

And the solution has been found. Nazdratenkos new appointment, however, is viewed by many as a demotion, since the Security Council, which advises the president on strategic security issues, is, in essence, void of real political influence. It is noteworthy that the same post was offered to Nazdratenko back in 2001, but then he managed to secure a more important job.

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