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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Admiral Voted Kaliningrad Governor

KALININGRAD — Kaliningrad elected a new governor on Sunday as Kremlin-backed Admiral Vladimir Yevgorov handily defeated incumbent Leonid Gorbenko.

Yevgorov, commander of the Baltic Fleet, won 56.5 percent of the vote in Sunday’s runoff. Gorbenko won 33.7 percent.

In a season of gubernatorial elections, the Kaliningrad showdown was one of the most publicized.

Though Gorbenko had attempted to mend relations with Moscow, in particular by leading the pro-Kremlin Unity effort last year, he was apparently regarded by Moscow as too unpredictable and too scandalous to lead the isolated region for another term.

Officially, both the Kremlin and Yevgorov’s headquarters denied any cooperation during the four-month campaign, though President Vladimir Putin’s visit to the region in July to watch a naval parade organized by Yevgorov and Unity’s subsequent endorsement of the admiral’s candidacy were signs the Kremlin was pushing to have him elected.

Gorbenko’s campaign staff tried to nullify this factor by pasting posters across the region showing the governor standing alongside the president, a picture that was taken during Putin’s summer visit. This picture-with-the-president tactic, deployed by Yevgorov’s headquarters as well, earned a reproach from Central Elections Commission head Alexander Veshnyakov.

Yevgorov also had the backing of LUKoil, the region’s largest taxpayer; Yury Savenko, the popular mayor of Kaliningrad; and scores of leading businessmen and political parties and associations. Most of Gorbenko’s support came from rural areas.

Official results are to be announced Thursday, and the head of the regional elections commission said he sees no basis upon which to annul the election.

A spokeswoman for Yevgorov said the admiral is trying to arrange a meeting with Gorbenko to discuss the fate of a credit his administration arranged with Dresdner Bank.

The $10 million loan, taken out two years ago on the eve of the August 1998 crisis, is by far the most controversial episode of Gorbenko’s term.

Not only was the money borrowed at an extraordinarily high rate (13.75 percent), but it was channeled through an investment fund established by the governor himself and then invested in a poultry producer that has since teetered on the verge of bankruptcy.