Source: Belozertsev-Bochkarev opposition keeps intensifying
Penza, 14 March 2016. PenzaNews. The struggle between the Penza region governor Ivan Belozertsev and the Russian senator and former regional governor between 1998 and May 2015 Vasily Bochkarev continues to intensify, mainly driven by accelerated recovery of previously privatized state assets, a source close to the government who asked to remain anonymous told PenzaNews.
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“There are at least two reasons why the current governor is actively fighting corruption. The first and main one is Ivan Belozertsev’s personal stance, his internal belief as an officer. The second one, no less important, is the economic crisis, as right now every budget ruble is at stake and embezzlement and incompetent use of entrusted state property can cause big social protests. In a nutshell, the current question for the head of the region is as follows: what is more important – richer officials or stable society? Judging by the steps taken, Belozertsev realizes that and favors social stability. As a result, not all high-ranking officials support the governor’s stance, particularly the former ones,” the source pointed out.
It reminded that one of the first decisions by Ivan Belozertsev immediately after Vladimir Putin had appointed him the acting Penza region governor on 25 May 2015 was to initiate investigations for possible corruption and embezzlement schemes and bring order to state company management.
“Also, if you recall, some people lost their plum jobs: these are Fedor Bukhturin, who headed the questionable Regional Agricultural Holding until late October 2015 after leading the Penza State Property Department, and Vasily Shutov. The latter also had been heading the regional State Property Department once, and later on, the Regional Agricultural Holding. It was them who sold off and privatized the state property in question during Bochkarev’s rule,” they explained.
In an answer to PenzaNews question about the achieved results of the regional authorities in countering corruption, the source expressed the opinion that the return of “Penza Bus Terminals Union” back into the state property after they had been sold to the private investor “de-facto backed by the former head of the region’s family.”
“What exactly is ‘Penza Bus Terminals Union’? It is a large company involved in bus transportation both in the Penza region and outside; it is an object of big social importance for the region; if you may, it is the bloodstream of economy for regional areas. And this enterprise falling into private property was the pinnacle of mayhem of those times. Most interestingly, the land and property of bus terminals were returned back to the state only after the creation of a criminal case!” the source noted shockingly.
They also listed another example related to the criminal case initiated after an audit of the Penza Region Mortgage Lending Agency, which until December 2015 had been headed by Veniamin Bochkarev, nephew of the former governor Vasily Bochkarev.
“Some say that the Mortgage Lending Agency allegedly continued to exercise its functions, even though the ties with the Moscow structures had been cut back in May of last year. And all would be well, if not for the audit allegedly revealing four apartment buildings that had existed on paper, fully built, but not in real life. The agency had paid the money to subcontractors and signed the papers for those buildings. Where did they funnel the dozens, if not hundreds, million rubles of budget funds, used to pay for these castles drawn on the beach sand? The question is moot,” the source said.
They also stressed that the clash of interests between Ivan Belozertsev, who seeks to protect the state treasury from theft in the region, and the former governor, who seeks to funnel funds and privatize state assets, inevitably affected their relations, “although that would be very difficult to spot on public and during official events.”
“In reality, the tension is very high. Keep in mind that Bochkarev still has many resources in his sleeve, including in the media. For example, the very same media holding ‘Express’ with two TV channels, several radio stations and a website. There are other online resources that claim they are ‘independent’ and often publish local-brand ‘sensations’ and ‘Penza Watergates.’ Of course, they are not ‘slamming’ Belozertsev directly just yet, but they regularly generate bad media noise that may end up having some effect and harm the governor and the region. And that will keep on growing, and in proportion: the faster and more effective Belozertsev will be in dealing justice, the more dirt there will be,” the source pointed out.
“One thing is clear – who is the favorite of the federal center in this situation. That is why there is a possibility that soon we may come to face big revelations. By the way, some of them are taking place right this instant. An example is the Penza perinatal center, where 200 million rubles were embezzled. I think the even those among ‘the undecided’ or Kuzmich’s [Vasily Bochkarev’s] direct supporters may end up ‘on the list’,” they concluded.