12:70 Against Sakhalin’s Governor

12:70 Against Sakhalin’s Governor

Photo: http://tass.ru

Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Rosatom employee Valery Limarenko as acting governor of the Sakhalin Region on December 7, 2018, and most residents then immediately had the question, “Who is he?”

Limarenko, the former president of ASE Engineering Company, worked in the nuclear power industry for the last 11 years and only once was mentioned in the political news. He was supposedly put forward for the post of Governor of the Nizhny Novgorod Region but it did not work out there. Then he moved to the Far East, where he was elected governor in September 2019, having worked for some time before as the region's interim head.

Two years pass

A high-profile corruption scandal broke out in the region in 2021. Limarenko's media deputy Fedechkin who was at first dismissed, then arrested, and then released from jail on bail of 1.5 million rubles ($19,588.5), found himself in the crosshairs.

Alexei Vasiliev, head of the Agency for Political Law and Administration and one of the top 30 Russian political technologists, according to the Political Science Center, took his place.

Rumor has it Limarenko is not planning to finish his term and is negotiating with federal supervisors for an early resignation because of his low popularity ratings and a series of scandals, including the activities of the Eastern Mining Company and its pressure on Uglegorsk News.

Limarenko's departure might happen as soon as this year. After this event, Sakhalin and Kuril residents will have their “big electoral cycle” with elections not only for the regional Duma but also for the head of the region. Vasiliev is instructed to prepare everything necessary for such an internal transfer.

In the meantime, 70% of Sakhalin residents assess the Governor's work as “bad + terrible,” and only 12% vote for “excellent + good.”

Radioactive waste to arrive

The Far Eastern activists are sounding the alarm. The project to build a nuclear disposal facility in the seismically hazardous Kuril Islands, which seems to have already been forgotten, has been revived. Governor Limarenko personally is one of the main lobbyists of the project.

He used to work at Rosatom, where he was head of the engineering division that built nuclear and radioactive waste disposal facilities. Therefore, Limarenko is pushing through the idea thoughtfully and expertly. He hopes to use the funds and leave the island before Taiwan's nuclear waste dump moves there.

After negotiations with companies representing the interests of Asia-Pacific countries, it was decided that the island of Simushir on the Kuril Ridge, with a partial infrastructure of the future construction on Iturup Island, is the best place for a nuclear disposal facility.

Sakhalin and the Kurils are earthquake-prone zone, with earthquakes of up to 7 magnitudes. If a nuclear graveyard is shaken, it will be a terrible disaster.

The last couple of years has been suspiciously hectic on Simushir. Former Russian President and Premier Minister Dmitry Medvedev and the deputy head of the Security Council paid several mysterious visits, and suddenly the reconstruction of engineering networks and other infrastructure on Iturup began.

The impoverished administration of the Kuril City District suddenly found a lot of money for state contracts to conduct research work to improve the reliability of the heating system's operation. As if by magic, trenches appeared for the repair of a section of the highway between Sakhalinskaya Street and Okhotskaya Street, and the construction of engineering networks to socially significant facilities.

Island is littered with trash

Not only nuclear graveyards, but also garbage landfills, or rather the lack of them, are a source of concern for the islanders. The mobile sorting line at the Izvestkovy landfill was supposed to work on December 27 last year. However, the work has not been completed yet. So, to be the installation of a mobile sorting line and a hangar is one of the important milestones in solving the problems of Izvestkovy.

As it became known the other day, work on their construction is lagging far behind schedule. Such a situation is unacceptable, said the head of the Sakhalin region. He made important decisions as a result of which Vladimir Sidorenko, the deputy chairman of the Sakhalin regional government, and Natalia Kuprina, the regional minister of housing and utilities, were reprimanded.

The construction of the new landfill has been dragging on since the 2000s. The complex was supposed to be built in 2014, but when the first phase was completed, it turned out that the landfill could not operate in such conditions. It lacked a waste treatment and sorting line, without which innovations are useless.

There are plans to build the second stage now. Sakhalin Industrial-Ecological Complex has volunteered to be the contractor. The company has two subdivisions, one of which was detected to have invalid registration information and odd situation with taxes, while the other has zero income and unfinished arbitration proceedings.

Meanwhile, the landfills on the islands are growing at an exponential rate. For example, there were 123 illegal dumps on January 1, 2020, but in a few months, there were as many as 2,500. The main problem is that one of the dirtiest dumps in the country is still located near Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The operation of the landfill was banned back in 2006, but every year the court decision extends it for another year because the residents of Sakhalin simply have nowhere else to put their garbage.

Pompous project

A fishmeal and fish oil production facility is another project that Valery Limarenko is proud of. This product is used in the manufacture of animal feed, and now the shop will provide new jobs, feed the cats and dogs, and allow officials to report on this very import substitution.

However, there is a tricky situation with the jobs. “It is important that 46 new jobs will appear in the area, where 12,000 people live,” said the Governor. It is unlikely that there will be many applicants for those. The yuzhno-Kurilskiy fish factory is reputed to be not a very reliable employer. The workers do not get paid for a year or more. The crew is left without a daily allowance for anchorage and repair in the ports. According to the workers, fish processing conditions at the plant are “a nightmare,” and living conditions are even worse.

The import substitution was not so good either. The necessary equipment for the workshop was not found in Russia, so it was brought in from Thailand. But when the time came for the final installation and commissioning, the COVID-19 pandemic broke out, and the domestic masters themselves could not cope with the equipment without the Thai specialists. So, online broadcasting was organized and the installation was performed under the online supervision of Asian specialists.

However, the governor believes that the launch of the shop will lead to an increase in tax revenues for the regional and municipal budgets.

Rosatom Overseas Central Office

The replacement of dilapidated power grids in the Sakhalin region became one of Limarenko's biggest reputational failures. It was managed by Sakhalinenergo, part of RusHydro.

Limarenko began his gubernatorial career with this high-profile project after winning the election. The transformation was estimated at 35 billion rubles ($457.1 mln.) But it turned out that 10 billion rubles ($130.6 mln) of this was to be financed at the expense of the residents themselves by adding it to the electricity bill. Limarenko's voters did not like it.

Two COVID-19 years with almost no oxygen

After the New Year public holidays, the Governor of Sakhalin decided to personally inspect the Sakhalin health care line 1-300. He was dissatisfied with how the call center specialists handled requests from the islanders. Limarenko had to wait 21 minutes before an appointment with a doctor was made.

On January 19, the unified line stopped working. After calls and complaints from people, it was said that there had been a failure in the system, and servers and network equipment went wrong. It would probably have been easier to just shout for help than to wait for an answer on the line, which was presented as a major digitalization project.

Anyway, there are bigger problems. The novel coronavirus has been spreading across the country for two years, and everyone knows how much oxygen is needed for COVID-19 patients. However, there are still no oxygen stations at the infectious diseases hospital in Dolinsk, Korsakov, and Nogliki, where coronavirus patients are admitted.

Hospitals had to use bottled gas, up to two cylinders per patient per day. So, it took up to 350-400 cylinders, and new ones were not always available when needed. In the end, after long requests from doctors, two stations were installed in the Dolinsk infectious diseases hospital. Three more will be installed in the Korsakov and Nogliki central regional hospitals, as well as in the Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk city hospital.

“Installation of our stations makes it possible not to depend on climatic conditions, when cylinder delivery may be difficult due to lack of access roads. The recent snowstorm demonstrated this in the Dolinsk Central Regional Hospital,” said Irina Velikanova, Deputy Minister of Health of the Sakhalin region.

Indeed, fair weather is a once-in-a-blue-moon occurrence in Sakhalin. Blizzards, snowfalls, blocked roads, and even a perinatal center blocked with snow, where women in labor could not get to. These are the facts of life this winter on Sakhalin.

There is memory, but no money

There were bloody battles with the Japanese in August 1945. Searchers are still finding the remains of fallen Red Army soldiers who need a decent burial but there are not a lot of possibilities for this on Sakhalin. Three years ago, the maintenance of monuments and mass graves was transferred from the regional level to the district level where there are simply no resources to properly care for these sites.

The Perpetuating the memory of those killed in the defense of the Fatherland in 2019-2024 federal target program was cut from 11.9 million rubles ($155,402.1) to 5.8 million rubles ($75,742.2) in 2022. The Ministry of Defense cut its funding in half, and following it, Limarenko proportionally cut his share which is 76% of the entire Federal Target Program.

“Who cares about the graves of the fallen, when there is so much “appealing” things around such as milking the construction of the airport runway, machinations in construction, digging a gold mine in the segment of cargo transportation and another fierce shitstorm, worthy of a separate monument for the edification of descendants or at least a kick in the ass to such a governor,” writes one of the telegram channels.

Management results

Experts have a mixed assessment of Valery Limarenko's performance as Governor of the Sakhalin region. According to them, the region's inhabitants are dissatisfied with the solution to social issues. Observers also note difficulties in Limarenko's relations with local elites. However, political analysts draw attention to the Governor's well-developed relations with the federal center.

Political strategist Andrei Kudisov believes that Limarenko is losing the public's trust. “The electorate's main demand is the dismissal of the Governor. This can be seen as a key indicator of how people in the region evaluate the governor's work. People have their complaints about the region's authorities, but the governor's team is unable to build strong communications with the population. This is also one of the key problems.

Limarenko's popularity rating in comparison to his rating during the gubernatorial elections seems to have dropped. The discontent of the residents is caused by the bet on attracting specialists to high positions. The actions of this team do not contribute to the level of confidence in them.”

According to the results of 2021, Limarenko is in 38th place in the National rating of governors, although he took the 26th seat in 2020.

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