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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

INSIDE RUSSIA: Plant Director Picks Wrong Political Team




The telephone woke me in the middle of the night. The caller was Anton Bakov, one of the most desperate adventurers in the Urals and the director of the Serovsky Metallurgical Factory, as well as the sponsor of the socialist movement May.


"Yulichka," he said. "They just seized the Kachkanarsky mineral-enrichment plant."


"Who?" I asked.


"Iskander. He came at 11:30 with OMON troops. They took [plant board chairman] Gareyev and then the board of directors read out their decision to remove him from his post," he said.


"But they didn't have a quorum!" I exclaimed.


"And who will this f**k?" Bakov cursed.


The seizure of the Kachkanarsky plant, or GOK, is without an antecedent, even in Russia.


The man behind the seizure was Iskander Makhmudov, the senior partner in the Mikhail Cherny group, a legendary group of corporate raiders. Their activities are without precedent: In the Kuzbass region, they swallowed the business of the Mikom group, and in Krasnoyarsk, they stand behind the lawsuits brought by the energy sector against the Krasnoyarsk Aluminum Plant.


But the rub lies elsewhere. Dzhalol Khaidarov, GOK's dismissed director, is Makhmudov's closest friend. But the Cherny group has always been known for its cohesion and has never seen struggles between its own members.


What was going on? The apparent answer, offered to me by Makhmudov himself, is this: "Dzhalol's head got too big." Unbelievable amounts of money were pounded into the plant - all of the group's money in fact. Khaidarov thus ended up with 70 percent of GOK's stock.


But the two friends would have reached an agreement if it hadn't been for a political mistake by Khaidarov. In the final days before the Sverdlovsk gubernatorial election, he decided to support the governor's opposition - Bakov's May party.


May had earned a reputation for itself by seizing bureaucrats' offices and building a tent city around the regional administration's headquarters. Venyamin Golubitsky, a friend of mine - and also of Sverdlovsk's governor, Eduard Rossel - told me that Bakov fed the tent-city dwellers. Their protest went on for four weeks, until they got bored and started going home. At this point, men from Bakov's security service turned up. "Brothers," they told the protesters, "you've been eating our hamburgers and drinking our water. Sit down and keep protesting."


I recounted the story to Bakov, expecting him to deny it. Instead, he laughed with satisfaction.


Khaidarov, who is captivated with Bakov's fairy-tale personality, financed May. Then, when Rossel beat May in the elections, he apparently gave the Cherny group a condition: Stay in my region only if you give up Khaidarov. Khaidarov was totally helpless. You can hide from enemies, but you can't hide from the senior partner who is the source of all your connections. And from this, you get the cynical takeover method used at GOK.


With the seizure of the plant, Bakov the political adventurer loses money for the May party and Bakov the venture capitalist loses raw materials for the metal works. But isn't it a little scary when the single defender of property rights turns out to be an obscure little socialist movement?


Yulia Latynina writes for Segodnya.