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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lebed's Grip on Region Dealt Another Big Blow




Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed, struggling desperately to control his vast region, has taken another crippling blow.


The powerful Krasnoyarsk aluminum lobby has been trying to wrest several major local companies from Lebed's administration, and now the federal government has moved to take over most of the Krasnoyarsk industries that Lebed still controls.


Both efforts threaten the financial base that Lebed would need for a potential race for president in 2000. He finished third in the first round of the 1996 race behind President Boris Yeltsin and Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov.


Yeltsin decreed last month that the federal government take possession of the state-owned controlling stakes in the Krasnoyarsk Metallurgical Plant, or KraMZ, the Krasaero airline, the region's largest printing press Offset and several other companies. The stakes had been given to the regional government under Governor Valery Zubov in 1996.


Igor Yegorov, head of the Krasnoyarsk regional property committee, was in Moscow this week trying to talk the State Property Ministry out of the takeover plan, Prime-Tass reported.


Krasaero is one of Russia's largest airlines and a near-monopoly in Krasnoyarsk, and KraMZ was Russia's fifth-largest rolled aluminum producer last year. Despite the fact that the plant saw production volumes go down and had to lay off workers, analysts say it may still be a valuable asset.


Probably the biggest political loss for Lebed would be that of the Offset printing press, which prints all of Krasnoyarsk's newspapers. Most of the papers have sided with the governor in his fight against Anatoly Bykov, director general of the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant, or KrAZ. Lebed's opponents have attributed this to the governor's control over the printers.


Nikolai Petrov, an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said the federal takeover may have been an "attempt to put pressure on Lebed and make him more loyal" to the Kremlin.


It could also be the price Lebed had to pay for the support that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov offered him when they recently met in Moscow. The meeting took place during a coal miners' congress, and the prime minister sided with Lebed against Bykov, who has been trying to take over the regional coal company, Krasugol.


But Marina Ionova, chief analyst with the investment company Aton, said the transfer of regional property to the federal authorities was an entirely separate matter.


"Primakov doesn't have to side with either Lebed or Bykov, he can crush them both," Ionova said.


On Thursday, Lebed again came under fire from Bykov's group as thousands of workers from KrAZ and other factories gathered outside the administration building to protest a raise in energy tariffs by the local utility Krasnoyarskenergo, believed to be allied with the governor.


KrAZ will have to pay just several percent more for energy, but the tariff is now denominated in dollars, unlike in most other regions, and its ruble value is bound to grow.


Sergei Borisov, a spokesman for Tanako, a group led by KrAZ, said Lebed was using energy tariffs as "political levers," pressuring local companies by threatening to cut off electricity. Some factories have already seen electricity switched off, he said.