Family values of Governor Marina Kovtun
The main priority of the Government of the Murmansk Region is comprehensive support for the family of Governor Marina Kovtun.
Hard to acclimatize
For five years already, Marina Kovtun, Governor of the Murmansk Region, has been pursuing a paternalistic policy in the region. She patronizes, however, not domestic industries, but her own family. The Governor is especially concerned about the future of her children. In numerous interviews, Marina Kovtun explains how important it is to keep the local youth on the North. Especially the youth grown on the North and fully acclimatized to it. Concurrently, Kovtun notes philosophically that everybody wants to find a place optimal for him.
The female Governor has no doubt that there are places in the world much better than the Murmansk region. During her rule, it became one of the three Russian regions with highest salary arrears. Year after year, the subsidized Murmansk region is drowning in its debt to the federal center deeper and deeper, while the main thesis proclaimed by its authorities is: “the situation in adjacent regions is even worse”. Of course, a good mother won’t leave her children in such a hopeless place – especially if they aren’t acclimatized to its severe conditions.
Therefore, with a subtle movement of the Governor’s hand, the Murmansk region became a mutual aid fund. Its operation principle is simple: the regional government helps a company to enter the region and capture a considerable share of the market – while the company helps the Governor’s children to ‘succeed’ in life. Rosneft was the first to appreciate the simplicity and elegance of this scheme. On the first anniversary of her governorship, Marina Kovtun had a meeting with Igor Sechin. The meeting was so fruitful that Rosneft has immediately become the main fuel oil supplier in the Murmansk region, while Marina Kovtun junior (Governor’s daughter) became employed with Rosneft shortly after that. By the way, in the same year of 2013, the Governor, who had earlier promised to “serve residents of the Murmansk region truly”, has got rid of two apartments in Murmansk and relocated to a spacious official residence. Apparently, Kovtun does not intend to stay on the North after leaving her current post.
Daughter and son of Marina Kovtun at a Wits & Humor Competition
A plum job in the Sechin’s empire was pretty expensive – so Kovtun senior decided to find a little paradise for her son in a different area. She has chosen Siberian Coal Energy Company (SUEK) for that purpose. The regional head has immediately decided to heat the Murmansk region with coal. Kovtun had mentioned the advantages of the coal firing for the first time back in 2014 – prior to her election as the Governor and after a routine resignation request. By 2016, Marina Kovtun has launched a full-scale campaign to switch the region to the coal firing. The autocratic lady has dismissed all other options, including gas so abundant in Russia.
Jointly with Aleksei Teksler, Deputy Minister of Energy of the Russian Federation, Kovtun had made a trip to Krasnoyarsk – allegedly, to adopt experience of a city heated with coal for a long time. She already knew who was going to supply coal for the entire Murmansk region – SUEK. According to blogger Aleksander Sinelnikov, 24-year-old son of Kovtun, Aleksander, was employed there until recently. However, Marina Kovtun had encountered issues with the new boiler stations. According to the Chamber of Control and Accounts of the Murmansk Region, 1.5 billion rubles ($26 million) were ‘burned’ during the construction of coal boiler stations in Monchegorsk, Nikel, and Zapolyarny – while the boiler houses were not built. Time has come for the Governor’s son to look for a new job.
On June 23, 2017, Marina Kovtun has signed, on behalf of the regional government, a partnership agreement with Gazprom Geologorazvedka (Gazprom Geological Exploration). Similarly with all such agreements, it is pretty vague but stipulates the collaboration between the company and region to attract investments for projects run by Gazprom Geologorazvedka and, most importantly, provision of governmental support in accordance with the regional legislation. The Act on Governmental Support for Investment Activities in the Murmansk Region provides a full range of ‘support forms’, including tax incentives (for income and property tax), deferral of payments, payment by installments, subsidized real estate leases, and preferential lending.
The region is entitled to provide all the above preferences to the company. The price of the Governor’s generosity is well known: Aleksander Kovtun has transferred to Gazprom Geologorazvedka – a company enjoying fantastic privileges in a subsidized region. Later the press service of the regional government had awkwardly attempted to refute this. There is no official information about the career of the Governor’s son; several years ago Aleksander Kovtun has removed his profile from social networks. However, the blogger who had written about the transfer of Kovtun junior from SUEK to Gazprom Geologorazvedka has already received threats.
Murmansk shore... and more
While taking care of her children, Marina Kovtun had never forgotten about her spouse as well. Vasily Kovtun, husband of the regional head, used to own a share in Murmansky Bereg (Murmansk Shore) company specializing in VIP fishing trips, including fishing of salmon and other prime fish species. In spring 2016, Murmansky Bereg has been liquidated – although the company was not only prosperous, but, according to the local media, had monopolized the local tourism market. In that period, Vasily Kovtun had declared obscenely humble revenues. For example, in 2011, he has declared an annual income slightly over 20 thousand rubles ($347).
By the way, Marina Kovtun is a big fishing fan. Furthermore, foreign companies pay for the outdoor recreation of the Murmansk Governor. For instance, on May 31, 2015, exactly on the anniversary of the Mi-8 helicopter crash over Lake Munozero, Marina Kovtun was fishing on the Ponoi River and twitting her impressions.
Tweets of Marina Kovtun about the fishing on the Ponoi River and the tour operator
According to Marina Kovtun, all the caught fish was released – but it is more interesting to see who had arranged that trip. Marina Kovtun has only noted that it was a Russian company. However, this was not exactly correct. The fishing permit has been issued indeed by Russian-based Reka Ponoi (Ponoi River) operator – that belongs to U.S.-based Ponoi River Company. Apparently, not only doesn’t the Governor intend to live in Murmansk, but also vacates at the expense of the foreign business.
One of the last trips made by Marina Kovtun to date was a voyage on Viking Helgi cruise liner jointly with Gennady Chistyakov, ex-General Director of Apatit (Apatite) Open Joint Stock Company. The prices on the Moscow–St. Petersburg cruise entitled “Czar’s Waterway” start from $5,499. It is necessary to note that Viking Helgi belongs to Viking Cruises company that does not sell tours in Russia. Apparently, some foreign corporation has taken care about the recreation of the Murmansk Governor. Obviously, this could not be done for free. So, who is the true boss of Marina Kovtun?
The prosecutors want the former Russian Federation Council member to go to prison for 14 years instead of 9 and pay a 500-million-ruble ($8.8 million) fine instead of 70 million rubles ($1.2 million).