Sergey Levchenko On a Tight Leash

Sergey Levchenko On a Tight Leash
Sergey Levchenko, the governor of Irkutsk region in eastern Siberia has announced his intention to run for a second term. The news has triggered a new PR attack against him. Predictably, the consequences of the summer floods in the Irkutsk region are a leading story.

According to official figures, works in Tulun and other flood-affected towns and villages in the Irkutsk region are on schedule, and the federal and regional funds have been spent on time. Works at the Tulun water supply network have been almost completed: internal installations, pumping equipment, gate valves and pavilions have been completely changed. By the end of November all its infrastructure is to be 100 percent renovated. In the Ugolshchikov district, the first part of two-stored blocks and a new school for 1,275 students have been built.

Suddenly, the All-Russia People's Front showered the regional authorities with criticism and asked the public prosecution office to check numerous breaches of residents’ rights. Public activists interviewed several hundred people affected by the flood and revealed cases when the local authorities just stood on the sidelines. Among the most frequent violations were the authorities' refusals to relocate people because their houses allegedly could be still repaired, or the understated amends offered by officials. “In connection with the rapid oncoming of cold weather and the necessity to resolve the housing issue, we have made a request with the prosecutor's office to consider our appeal as soon as possible,” said Sergey Apanovich, the co-chairman of the regional headquarters of the All-Russia People's Front in the Irkutsk region.

The regional legislative assembly has also come up with its own claims. It has long been known that its speaker Sergey Sokol and Governor Sergey Levchenko do not get along. Sokol said that he regularly receives complaints both from the district residents and municipal authorities about slow work of the regional executive branch. “There is a serious misunderstanding with the regional government over why the water-related disasters and their consequences are treated differently and why the level of support and compensation varies. People suffered equally in June and July. Time presses – the first spills of frost have come. We are going to insist that the regulatory and legal framework must be finalized as quickly as possible,” said Sokol.

Levchenko's speeches on the current budget process have been also criticized by many people, including communist Sergey Uglyanets, the former Duma deputy of Usolye-Sibirsky. At the end of October, he was seriously beaten up near his garage by two unidentified individuals. Nothing has been stolen.

Therefore, Uglyanets who had previously supported Levchenko, said that his beating up was likely to be targeted and ordered by someone of Levchenko’s inner circle.

It might be caused by Levchenko’s disappointing methods of management over the past four years. Uglyanets is talking about it publicly: “There are only former United Russia party members in the government of Governor Levchenko who belongs to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF). Everything is like in the worst years of Soviet-era stagnation period: eye-washing stories and doctored statisfics.

If the budget is adopted, revenues for 2020 will amount to about 176 bln rubles ($ 2.8 bln), which is almost 20 bln rubles ($312 mln) below the revenues of 2019. The state debt will amount to 28.5 bln rubles ($446 mln), which is almost twice as high as for the current period. Discussions are underway on cutting down some of budgetary allocations for social needs.

The Irkutsk region authorities are intending to take loans of 7 bln rubles ($109,300) to cover the budget deficit. And all this happened after bombastic speeches about the surplus. I, for one, have the impression that Levchenko reads the speeches written by his speechwriters and does not understand the meaning of them.”

However, there are some voices in support of Levchenko as well. First of all, from the side of “non-system-related” governors and mayors, who are also at risk because of their “incorrect” political affiliation. “The natural disasters that hit the Irkutsk region in such a tremendous way were a great misfortune. Despite all the difficulties, both the governor and the regional authorities managed to eliminate the consequences in a very short time: to provide people with housing and material guarantees – something that is not typical for our country. I wish the leader of the Irkutsk region sails through these difficult times, and all the idle talking will vanish,” Andrey Klychkov, the governor of the Orel region and the member of the Presidium of the Central Committee of the Communist Party said earlier.

Even Leonid Razvozzhayev, a member of the Leftwing Front and defendant in the Bolotnaya Square case (a criminal case the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation instituted on account of alleged mass riots and alleged violence against police on May 6, 2012 on the Bolotnaya square in Moscow), has been spotted in the discussion (born in the town of Angarsk in the Irkutsk region, Razvozzhayev follows the news in his native region). According to him, the Kremlin plans to dismiss Levchenko. Therefore, it will use all means for it. “According to all indicators, the governor of the Irkutsk region is one of the best in the country for now. At the same time he is in deep disfavor with the federal authority and under pressure of various financial and criminal groupings. Levchenko is not responsible for the federal laws and decisions implemented in the Irkutsk region. Besides, it is not so easy for him to cancel the decisions made by his predecessors. The simple example is the case of the water bottling plant on Lake Baikal. The decision on its construction had been made long before Levchenko came to power. This country is in crisis, and its economy has been shrinking for the sixth year in a row. The federal government has been shoveling everything for itself. Just read Telegram and watch TV-channels and you will find out who is “killing” Levchenko. Discouraging stories against him come out almost every day. Levchenko might make mistakes, but there is no guarantee that a new governor will not be still worse. Again, in anticipation of the sweeping changes in Russia, it would be better if there were more governors connected with the parliamentary opposition as a minimum,” Razvozzhayev said.

As for Levchenko himself, he points to some big companies as his possible enemies. The press service representatives of the regional branch of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation told that Levchenko’s decision, which presupposes tax payments in the Irkutsk Region -- and not outside of it -- did not please the local business. And the loss of supernormal profits will force anyone to get involved in politics, even “through the back door.”