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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nazdratenko Follows Foe to Moscow

It is tit-for-tat in the long-running conflict between the governor of the Primorye region and his archrival, the ousted mayor of Vladivostok.

On Wednesday, Viktor Cherepkov, former mayor of Vladivostok in the Far East, held a news conference to protest his dismissal and slam the Primorye regional Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko for a Communist conspiracy to destroy him.

But Nazdratenko responded with a news conference Thursday to excoriate Cherepkov, defending the legality of the mayor's dismissal and questioning his mental health.

After years of acrimony between the two men, President Boris Yeltsin two weeks ago issued a decree firing Cherepkov as mayor of Vladivostok, the capital of Primorye. Nazdratenko then appointed his own man to fill the post until new elections are held Jan. 17.

"I'm grateful to the president for the decree," Nazdratenko said. "It should've been done two years ago."

The governor said Cherepkov had illegally stayed in office beyond his term for four months, hampered the organization of new mayoral elections and used budget money for his political campaign.

According to Nazdratenko, Cherepkov had also blocked 14 attempts to create a city Duma, leaving Vladivostok the only city in Russia without a local legislature. He also blamed Cherepkov for the frequent outages of heating and power and for arrears on payments to city workers.

"What has been happening [under Cherepkov] was a genocide against the residents of Vladivostok," Nazdratenko told reporters.

In the two weeks since Cherepkov was fired, the new administration had improved the situation dramatically, Nazdratenko said. He added that a standoff in which Cherepkov's supporters had barricaded themselves inside City Hall and called for the mayor's reinstatement was now over.

"There is only one mayor in the city," Nazdratenko said.

Yeltsin dismissed Cherepkov earlier this month on the grounds that his term had expired.

Cherepkov's term ran out July 4 but he stayed on as acting mayor. Elections for a new mayor were held in September but annulled because most voters checked the "None of the Above" box in protest to a decision by the election commission to exclude Cherepkov from the ballot. Under Russian law, the winning candidate must gather more votes than "None of the Above" for the election to be valid.

Nazdratenko questioned Cherepkov's ability to run the city, saying he was obsessed with psychic phenomena and wild conspiracy theories. "I don't understand how it is possible to govern the city from under the table and talk about links with outer space," Nazdratenko said.

He said that an unbalanced person like Cherepkov had only been able to stay in power thanks to support from Yevgeny Savostyanov, a former member of the presidential administration.

Cherepkov, who seemed sane at his news conference Wednesday, suggested Nazdratenko had a special team spreading rumors to discredit him.

With mayoral elections drawing near, Nazdratenko said he wanted to "shatter the myth of Cherepkov's superpopularity" in Vladivostok. He said Cherepkov abused his position during September's voided mayoral elections by spending budget money to publish a newspaper about himself and placing portraits of himself on city transport. Cherepkov ran for the State Duma and Primorye governor seats and lost, Nazdratenko said.