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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Far East Mayor Returns After Yeltsin Overruled

Viktor Cherepkov, celebrating last week's decision by a Moscow district court reinstating him as mayor of Vladivostok, told journalists Monday that he faced grave risks by returning to his post in the Far Eastern port.

But he praised the forces of justice for going against authority by declaring illegal the presidential decree dismissing him, a move that his lawyer, Alexander Kligman, said was unprecedented. Cherepkov's dismissal in December 1994 came at the end of a long feud between the elected mayor and the regional governor, Yevgeny Nazdratenko, a presidential appointee.

In March 1994, armed riot police broke down the doors of the Vladivostok City Hall and expelled Cherepkov after a regional prosecutor and a city judge said there was enough evidence to press corruption charges against him.

Cherepkov at the time had been barricaded in his office for four months as a security precaution, because, he said, Nazdratenko was out to do him in.

In the year prior to the storming of his office, Cherepkov said Monday, opponents shot at him three times and smashed his car.

"I won't go home lest they blow up my apartment," he said at the time, referring to Nazdratenko and his cronies.

In December, Yeltsin decreed Cherepkov fired and a month later the Vladivostok mayor protested the decision.

Cherepkov called the move "a coup, pure and simple," and insisted he had been framed.

His son, meanwhile, was imprisoned for stealing computers. He pleaded innocent while his father declared this to be yet another setup aimed at discrediting him.

Nazdratenko has denied trying to frame his rival.

Kligman, speaking with Cherepkov at a press conference Monday, described the case as one of the worst he had ever encountered.

"I think that Viktor Ivanovich will still face very difficult ordeals," he said. "I very much hope that his political and personal life and fate develop in a positive way, although everything has been done to break this man."

Cherepkov did not specify what sort of ordeals he expected to face, but made it clear that he saw his return to power as a move filled with danger.

"All the powers are still in force there and haven't changed morally or in any other way," he said. "A lot of unforeseeable things therefore await me there." He insisted, however, that he had never been in any doubt about returning to Vladivostok.

"There were two possibilities," he said. "Either to stay here and save my life or to take a risk and assume my former position. I decided that I have to go back."

Cherepkov pledged to make the region's economy his top priority, adding that he believes that criminals control 70 percent of business life there.

"I reached the conclusion that the very organs that are supported by the taxpayer's money -- local prosecutors, local courts, the police and others -- are instruments for the manipulation of society, which to my great sorrow, and to the tragedy of Russia, have become instruments of the criminal world," he said.

One of Russia's first elected mayors, Cherepkov said he believed the local population have been behind him throughout the struggle, adding that victory would have been much more difficult without their help.

Nazdratenko, meanwhile, appears to be losing Yeltsin's favor amid an energy scandal in the Russian Far East in which a presidential auditing commission has accused officials of charging illegally high energy prices to state-owned enterprises.

Yeltsin has reprimanded Nazdratenko and given him until Sept. 15 to resolve the region's energy crisis.

Kligman, however, insisted that Nazdratenko's fall from grace and Cherepkov's return to power are in no way connected.

"Any lawyer could see that such a decree ought to be cancelled," he said.