Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tsentrgaz Head Runs In Tula Poll

When Viktor Sokolovsky would come home from work and watch the energy crisis in the Primorye region unfold on his television screen, he thought to himself: "What misfortune. What tragedy. This is what happens when career-seekers go into politics."

Sokolovsky, who will be running for governor of the Tula region in April, tried to make it clear Tuesday that he was not out to climb the political career ladder.

As general director of Tula-based Tsentrgaz, a subsidiary of Gazprom focusing on pipeline construction, he answers for the "total gasification of towns and villages" under the gas monopoly's jurisdiction.

Speaking at a news conference, Sokolovsky lamented that — unfortunately for Far East residents — Gazprom only stretches as far as Krasnoyarsk. After that, you're in coal country.

"The crisis could have been averted," he said. "It just goes to show that every politician should be an economist."

The Far East crisis has been blamed on everything from the mismanagement of funds by former Primorye Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko to the inefficiencies of the coal-based heating system. Nazdratenko's inability to cope with the situation forced his resignation, and cost the energy minister and another federal energy official their jobs as well.

Although Sokolovsky is a 20-year veteran of the gas industry, he has reservations about Russia's long-term ability to heat itself.

Russia needs to invest $120 billion in the gas industry over the next 15 years just to keep it going, he said.

Tsentrgaz is regarded as a successful company with a focus on construction. As well as contracting for the pipeline that connects gas deposits on the Yamal Peninsula to Europe, it builds houses and produces construction materials. Its annual revenues are about 1 billion rubles ($34.8 million), a third of the Tula region's entire budget.

Sokolovsky sees his gubernatorial bid as the next logical step up from Tsentrgaz general director.

"People are sick of waiting for positive change," he said.