Sakhalin’s Governor Resigns

Following the poor response of the local authorities to last week’s earthquake on Sakhalin, the regional governor has been forced to resign:

Russian President Vladimir Putin accepted Tuesday the resignation of Ivan Malakhov as governor of the Sakhalin Region in the country’s Far East following last week’s tragic earthquake.

President Putin appointed Alexander Khoroshavin [the mayor of Okha] acting governor of the region and also nominated him for the post.

After hearing a report from Minister for Emergency Situations Sergei Shoigu, President Putin criticized the relief operation and efforts by local authorities and, in particularly, the work of former Governor Malakhov.

The president ordered the minister to investigate the poorly organized relief effort, namely, why adults and children were forced to sleep on concrete floors in tents, and why local authorities and the governor failed to visit the city of Nevelsk, which was most affected by the quake.

For those of you who have been dozing at the back, regional governors in Russia are not elected: they are appointed by the president. 

Of course, this wouldn’t be Russia without volumes of intrigue and speculation surrounding the resignation:

Stanislav Belkovsky, a political analyst and one-time Kremlin insider, said Malakhov fell out of favor with Rosneft, the company Belkovsky said helped the governor take the helm of the region.

“Malakhov wasn’t persistent enough in the battle against foreigners,” said Belkovsky, citing what he said were well-connected sources.

Malakhov forged ties with the foreign companies operating on the island instead of lobbying for Rosneft’s interests, he said, adding that any new candidate will be Rosneft friendly.

Gazeta.ru reported that a battle between Gazprom and Rosneft over Sakhalin oil and gas riches was the real cause of Malakhov’s departure.

Khoroshavin, the new acting governor is close to Rosneft, and he and Rosneft head Sergei Bogdanchikov have known each other for a long time, Gazeta.ru reported. They worked together at the Okhanneftegazdobycha oil company in early 1980s, it said.

Khoroshavin is the mayor of Okha, a town of 30,000 on Sakhalin Island, which is also home to a major Rosneft office.

“You could say that Rosneft won a tactical victory over Gazrpom in Sakhalin,” political analyst Rostislav Turovsky was quoted by the news portal as saying. “Now it will have an advantage in the dispute over Sakhalin-3 and Sakhalin-4 deposits.”

Whatever is going on here, it is one hell of a way to run a country.

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