Magazine article Russian Life

Looking for Connections

Magazine article Russian Life

Looking for Connections

Article excerpt

No less than six mayors of major Russia cities--Vladivostok, Togliatti, Volgograd, Tomsk, Arkhangelsk and Stavropol--are sitting in jail awaiting trial. Charges vary--"abuse of power," "illegal allotment of land plots," "theft of municipal property"--but most all are the fallout of turf and purse-string battles between governors and mayors. Governors (appointed) seek to dictate to mayors (elected) and want access to the huge government outlays which are bestowed on large cities.

If impatient governors can't get what they want through straightforward arm-twisting (particularly difficult when dealing with a politico from another party), they will resort to what has become a common Plan B: sick prosecutors on the mayor. In a system with confusing and convoluted laws, something can always be pinned on everyone.

The spate of criminal prosecutions and the lumbering national anti-corruption bandwagon--this pre-election-year's theme--have led some to see this as an orchestrated campaign to do away with the direct election of mayors. If so, it could be the final link in the Kremlin's ever-lengthening Vertical of Power.

The combined worth of Russia's billionaires now surpasses that of Germany's richest: $282 billion versus $245 billion, according to Forbes rankings. But, somewhat more significantly, the average age of Russia's billionaires is 46, 16 years younger than elsewhere in the world. Roman Abramovich (also governor of Chukotka) continues to be Russia's richest man, ranking 16th in the world, with $18.7 billion in estimated assets.

Another billionaire oligarch, Mikhail Prokhorov, whose misadventures graced this page in our last issue, is worth nearly $10 billion. According to the London Telegraph, he will be dumping nearly $10 million of that wealth on a "lavish" wedding ceremony in the Maldives islands. Only problem is, no one knows who the bride is. Not even Prokhorov. Seems he made a bet with a pal some years back that he would be married by 42. So the hunt is on. The prenup will apparently stipulate that the wife must divorce Prokhorov after five days.

The overall Russian IT (Information Technology, i.e. computers, programming, software) market is presently estimated at $13.6 billion (less than Abramovich's net worth), compared to $560-$580 million less than a decade ago, in 1999. …

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