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A new emergency for Shoigu
The frontrunner for Moscow region governor faces corruption and lawlessness
Yulia Ponomareva - Moscow News - themoscownews.com - 4.2.12 - JRL 2012-61

Sergei Shoigu, the Emergency Situations Minister, is used to dealing with crises. But the one he's facing if he takes over, as widely predicted, as Moscow region governor next month, could be the biggest challenge of his career.

Sergei Shoigu File Photo
file photo
Dmitry Medvedev is due to announce later this month the name of the Moscow region's next governor. The incumbent, Boris Gromov, is resigning after 12 years in office. Experts say Shoigu, who has led the Emergency Situations Ministry since 1991, is the most likely person to take over. Indeed, some analysts say the region needs an emergency relief plan, after Gromov's tenure, which was marked with numerous corruption scandals.

The biggest scandal broke in 2008, when the Moscow region's finance minister, Alexei Kuznetsov, fled the country after being accused of stealing 27 billion rubles ($900 million) of budget funds. In 2011, the region's budget was in surplus for the first time in four years. Many of Gromov's decisions have been controversial, too. In a move that will result in a loss of about 30 billion rubles ($1 billion) in taxes to the regional budget, last year Gromov agreed to hand over 150,000 hectares of the region's land to Moscow City in the Moscow expansion plan ordered by the Kremlin.

Land protests

At the local level, ordinary people are struggling to withstand what they say are corrupt officials and lawlessness.

Olga Terekhova, a construction engineer in Podolsk, a town south of Moscow, has been doing her best to save her plot of land of 465 square meters and a three-story house her family has been building since 2005.

The land is being commandeered by the Podolsk administration, ostensibly for a road construction project. The compensation offered to the family of 10 is 1 million rubles ($34,000), while 100 square meters of their land costs at least $23,000.

But the forced land purchase also comes as the local authority is developing new residential districts in the town, which currently houses 200,000 people. In recent years a series of new apartment blocks, for a total of 80,000 residents, have been commissioned, while housing for another 50,000 people is planned.

Road controversy

Terekhova claims that the town administration wants to bulldoze her house for other reasons than new roads.

"When we came to the public hearings in 2007, we saw there was a dry cleaner's where our house stands in the town's development plan," Terekhova says.

Since then she has led a campaign to save her house and the houses of her 12 neighbors from demolition. "We can't finish construction, because we have no idea what will happen tomorrow," Terekhova says.

She has collected 500 signatures and petitioned Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin four times, but each time her letters were simply forwarded to the Moscow Road Directorate, the contractor. She says she has written complaints to all the parties represented in the State Duma, but only Vladimir Zhirinovsky's ultranationalist Liberal Democratic Party replied.

"Pyotr Katsiv [the transport minister for the Mo