Mitvol Takes Resources Service to Court

ReutersMitvol talking to reporters in front of the office of the Federal Inspection Service for Natural Resources Use in 2006.
Oleg Mitvol cast himself back into the headlines Monday with an announcement that he had sued his employer, the government's environmental watchdog, to demand that it test him and his three co-deputy heads to determine who would be forced to leave the body.

Mitvol has been in a long, public struggle to keep his post at the Federal Inspection Service for Natural Resources Use. The battle escalated in September when the service's director, Vladimir Kirillov, succeeded in eliminating one of the four deputy positions -- a move apparently aimed at Mitvol, who has had a stormy relationship with both Kirillov and his predecessor.

The lawsuit, filed in Moscow's Presnensky District Court, says the service is legally obligated to evaluate the four on their qualifications, something that can only be determined by an exam, Mitvol said Monday.

"This is not an issue of me working there or not working there," he said. "This is about the fact that there is a law. If you want to fire me, fine, but fire me by the law."

He said he initially sought to resign when Kirillov was appointed but eventually decided to stay. "So, Kirillov didn't like me -- liking or disliking is for little girls," Mitvol said.

Preliminary hearings will begin Thursday, he said.

Mikhail Gudkov, a spokesman for the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry, said he had not seen the lawsuit. Court representatives could not be reached, and calls to Kirillov's press office late Monday went unanswered.

Mitvol's nameplate was removed from his office door this summer, and Semyon Levy, a deputy natural resources minister, signed off on his dismissal in early September. For the time being, however, Mitvol holds the position.

"No one has actually fired me yet. I got my paycheck three days ago!" Mitvol said. "If I get fired, I'm going to be the first in line to know. Right?"