German Gref and Victor Vekselberg invest in governors

The regional election was won by the proteges of Sberbank, NAMK and Renova.
Origin source
According to the results of the September 8 elections, people who have openly admitted that they do not see the difference between public service and work in private business have established themselves in the power of several subjects of the Russian Federation. “There is no fundamental difference in the management of the region and the company,” said the governor of the Lipetsk region, Igor Artamonov, in his first interview after the election. And he is not alone.

In recent years, one often hears that due to the strengthening of the “vertical of power”, oligarchs were removed from government. In fact, they still rule the country, only through their representatives.

Until October last year, Artamonov had nothing to do with either the civil service or the Lipetsk region. Before becoming an official, he worked for 26 years in the structures of Sberbank, went from the head of the lending department in Budennovsk to Deputy German Gref.

Sberbank has traditionally been one of the main lobbyists in the regional elections, although it tries not to advertise this. In particular, in the last election, Gref’s team apparently actively supported Alexander Beglov in St. Petersburg, whom he considered Andrei Kostin to be a VTB group. However, the promotion of Igor Artamonov in the Lipetsk region is unlikely to be part of the confrontation between bank clans. Why does Gref have his own governor in this not the richest Russian region?

Gref Banker in the region

That seems to be why. The largest in Russia Novolipetsk Metallurgical Plant (NLMK), controlled by billionaire Vladimir Lisin, who, in turn, is a large borrower of Sberbank, is located in Lipetsk. “They write that Lisin is in hopeless debtors from Sber. That is why the acting governor of Lipetsk became Gref's man. The refund, but rather the transfer of rights to NLMK, should take place under control, ”economist Nikita Krichevsky shared in his telegram channel. Probably, for this reason, the Novolipetsk Combine openly supported the election of Acting Governor Artamonov along with his former employer.

It is funny, but at about the same time that the country's leadership criticized German Gref for refusing to help the residents of the Irkutsk region affected by the flood, the head of the country's largest retail bank came to Lipetsk to inaugurate the renewed city park with Artamonov. Sberbank allocated money for the reconstruction of Bykhanov Garden - 127 million rubles last fall, almost simultaneously with the appointment of the former vice president of the bank as interim governor. In fact, it looked like charity, but in fact - like the start of an election campaign.

Apparently, the interests of Sberbank in the region under the leadership of Igor Artamonov are not limited to NLMK's business, but extend to the Lipetsk Special Economic Zone (SEZ) - one of the few successful in Russia.

In 2018, 10 new companies registered there, and a total of 62 residents work in the SEZ, and in addition to Russian companies, we are talking about representatives of 16 countries, including the United States, Japan, China, Singapore, France and Germany. It is unlikely that anyone would be surprised if in the next couple of years we see how Sberbank provides loans to residents of the SEZ under the guarantees of the regional government. In this scenario, the collapse of the borrower will mean that Lipetsk taxpayers will pay for it. Aw! Lipskans, did you subscribe to this?

Accountant Lisina in Transbaikalia
But back to Vladimir Lisin, whose position, apparently, was strengthened by a change in the head of another Russian region. On September 8, Alexander Osipov was elected governor of the Transbaikal Territory. He also jumped into power from business - earlier Osipov was responsible for finances at one of the branches of RAO UES, the heat and energy holding of INTERA Group, the wood processing company United Panel Group. At one time, the new Transbaikal governor was a member of the board of directors of RusHydro and was vice president of Delovaya Rossiya. A great career in public service began for him at the Ministry of Development of the Far East.

We remember how a little over a year ago the leaders of Transbaikalia and Buryatia were dismissed, and both regions became part of the Far Eastern Federal District, having received the corresponding preferences. From this perspective, the appointment of Osipov as acting governor seems logical. Even in temporary status, he made it so that Transbaikalia, which was long considered a bear angle, began to appear in federal news not only in connection with forest fires. However, at the same time, some experts call the actions of Alexander Osipov at the new post almost a redistribution of the market. In particular, the acting governor accused the “daughter” of the state railway monopoly of disrupting the heating season and the lack of wagons for transporting coal. After that, the place of the “guilty” company in the transportation market was occupied by the wagons of the First Freight Company of Vladimir Lisin. Apparently, Alexander Osipov could lobby the interests of the billionaire while he was still vice-president of Business Russia.

By the way, at the same time as a “collision” with railway workers, he began to criticize TGK-14, the main electricity supplier in Transbaikalia, whose lobbying efforts were connected with the former governor Natalya Zhdanova. When Osipov demanded that power engineers reduce tariffs, which are determined by the federal government service, local observers saw this as the first step towards changing the ownership of TGKs.

Vekselberg's people

Denis Pasler, an immigrant from the Sverdlovsk region, whose significant part of his career is connected with the structures of Viktor Vekselberg, was expected to win the election of the governor of the Orenburg region. Prior to becoming acting head of the region, Pasler held the post of general director of the T Plus holding and was in no way associated with the Orenburg region. His victory was expected partly because two years ago Vekselberg was called the “king of state orders” in this region: in 2017, EnergosbyT Plus, controlled by him, received contracts for 958 million rubles there, and T Plus received orders for 327 million rubles. Small amounts for the oligarch from the Forbes list, but decent money on the scale of the Orenburg region.

And just a week after Pasler’s victory in the elections, news appeared that Vekselberg’s company was aiming at the heating system in Orsk, the second largest city in the Orenburg region. In Orenburg itself, the networks are already under the control of T Plus. As soon as Pasler became a governor, Anton Zudilov, a deputy of the Orsk City Council, with the support of Speaker Viktor Franz, immediately suggested considering the bankruptcy of the Orsk Heating Network Enterprise (MTS). Zudilov insisted on the creation of a working commission to analyze the activities of MUP in connection with its possible bankruptcy and further infusion into a private corporation. Most deputies rejected this proposal, pointing out that OPTS is the only normally operating municipal enterprise in the city that annually shows profit. But it is unlikely to be a surprise if, within a year or two, municipal heating networks still come under the control of a billionaire.

This summer, Denis Pasler supported the proposal of the Minister of Transport Eugene Dietrich to make Orenburg Airport private. When this happens, it is unlikely that anyone will be surprised that the company “Airports of the Regions”, owned by Vekselberg, will already become the new owner of the air harbor, which already controls the ground-based air transportation infrastructure in Yekaterinburg, Samara, Saratov, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Novy Urengoy and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

Moreover, no one would be surprised if, with such a governor, a private airport would receive budget subsidies. Preparations for the privatization of the asset have apparently already begun. For budget money (about 2.5 billion rubles), the runway will be reconstructed at the Orenburg airport. The air harbor has great prospects for the development of flights to China and other countries of Southeast Asia. Do not stay in the regional ownership?

Apparently, Viktor Vekselberg in the last election got his people in the leadership of two Russian regions at once. In the Murmansk region, Andrei Chibis, who previously held the post of Deputy Minister of Construction and Housing in the Russian government, got rid of the prefix "Vrio". Before that, Chibis worked for Vekselberg's companies: in 2008 he headed the board of directors of Russian Utility Systems OJSC, and in 2010 he was even recognized as the best lawyer of the Renova group of companies. As befits the "young technocrat", before the appointment of the acting governor, Chibis had nothing to do with the Murmansk region.


The abolition of direct election of governors in 2004 ended the era of political heavyweights in the regions. Stroyev, Ayatskov, Rossel, Tuleev, Shaimiev, Luzhkov - their power was almost absolute and, of course, existed in close connection with large capital. But still, these were independent figures, whose future depended largely on the mood of the voter. The new generation of governors jumping from a cliff at special trainings seems to depend entirely on their formal and informal employers. In conditions of “filtering” of candidates in the elections, this can go on forever.