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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Governors Face Fight to Finish

Seven more regions will choose their governor Sunday in elections that continue some by-now familiar patterns.

In three of the regions, the incumbents are being challenged by men in uniform; in two regions, candidates have mounted court challenges in bids to get their rivals struck from the ballot; and in one, Chukotka, the incumbent governor has bowed out to a wealthy Kremlin favorite.

Perhaps the closest and most tense race will be in Ulyanovsk, a Volga River region where incumbent Governor Yury Goryachev is being challenged by General Vladimir Shamanov, who was one of the top federal commanders in the current Chechen war.

In the nearby Voronezh region, the head of the local Federal Security Service branch, Vladimir Kulakov, is running against Governor Ivan Shabanov.

Another FSB officer, tipped by the Russian press as a Kremlin-backed candidate, is running in the Chelyabinsk region of Siberia. Mikhail Grishankov, a former senior officer of the local branch, is challenging Governor Pyotr Sumin.

In far-off Chukotka, Governor Mikhail Nazarov unexpectedly pulled out of the race last weekend to leave his main opponent — 34-year-old oil and aluminum tycoon Roman Abramovich — without any serious competition. Nazarov has governed Chukotka for 10 years, but was lagging far behind in opinion polls.

Russian media, citing sources in Nazarov’s administration, have reported that Nazarov was promised the post of Chukotka’s representative in the Federation Council in exchange for pulling out.

Chukotka and Abramovich may be playing a role in another election taking place Sunday. The main challenger in the Volgograd race, Moscow businessman Oleg Savchenko, is a former head of Chukotka’s private Economic Development Fund and a friend of Abramovich’s, the newspaper Moskovskiye Novosti reported. Savchenko’s opponent is Governor Nikolai Maksyuta, a Communist.

Candidates in the Volgograd election are passionately using a new campaign tool — suing their opponents in attempts to get them ejected from the race.

The method was introduced in late October when the regional court in Kursk struck the incumbent, Alexander Rutskoi, from the ballot the night before the vote.

Volgograd courts have received about 300 complaints from all the candidates accusing their opponents of violating campaign rules, Moskovskiye Novosti reported, citing the local elections commission. As of Friday, no candidate had been struck from the ballot.

In the Khakassia republic, incumbent President Alexei Lebed, the brother of Krasnoyarsk Governor Alexander Lebed, was accused of campaign violations by his opponent, Vasily Maslov. The republic’s Higher Court ruled in Lebed’s favor earlier this week and he remains on the ballot.

Also Sunday, the Kostroma region will hold a second-round vote for governor, and the cities of Sochi, Ulyanovsk, Rostov-on-Don, Saratov and Penza will choose their mayor.

More than 30 Russian regions have voted for their leaders this year, with 21 holding elections in the last 2 1/2 months. The next round of regional elections will take place after the holidays, on Jan. 14.

Abramovich Generous in Chukotka

Abramovich was elected to the State Duma from Chukotka in December 1999, and since March he has spent about $17 million on charity programs in the region, his spokesman said Friday. With a total population of about 70,000 people, this amounts to more than $240 per capita.

Abramovich’s charity fund Polyus Nadezhdy, or Pole of Hope, is financed from his personal wealth, as is his gubernatorial campaign, said the spokesman, who asked not to be identified.

The projects funded so far have included taking 3,000 children to the Black Sea for a vacation; subsidizing flights from Anadyr, the capital of Chukotka, to Moscow (10 times zones apart) to keep the ticket price under 6,000 rubles ($215); and purchasing medication for local hospitals. Abramovich also helps elderly who want to leave Chukotka by purchasing homes for them in central Russia.

In earlier interviews, Abramovich has said that he controls more than 50 percent of the Sibneft oil company.

Sibneft is controlled by a group of current and former members of the company management, who together hold 88.2 percent of shares, according to Sibneft figures dated Sept. 1. The remaining 11.8 percent is held by outside investors.

Abramovich also is believed to hold a large stake in Russian Aluminum.

Valeria Korchagina contributed to this report.