Nazarov and Merkushkin are getting dismissed without a doubt
The Kremlin announced several governors are going to be dismissed. The announcement was made immediately after the Direct Line with Vladimir Putin. However, those who people complained about are not on the list. Those who seemed to be quite stable and who got reelected for long terms mere 2 years ago ended up being on the chopping block instead. The CrimeRussia’s sources in the city government confirmed insights from Moscow.
Two regions received worrying signals from Moscow about a week ago. Anonymous Telegram channel published information regarding governors immediately after the Direct Line.
“Weak governors will be dismissed in fall, shortly before the Presidential elections. There are 3-5 people on the list. Nazarov (Omsk) and Merkushkin (Samara) are getting dismissed for sure,” according to the channel.
All regional governments are literary praying for their residents not to complain to the Russian President before the Direct Line. Every issue is a blow to a governor’s reputation. Governors have to report what they have done in mere hours after Putin gives them orders. However, there were no questions from either the Samara or Omsk Regions this time around. Nonetheless, it was Nazarov and Merkushkin who got branded with the Kremlin’s black spot.
Viktor Nazarov is getting dismissed very soon, according to the CrimeRussia’s source close to the Omsk Region Administration. It may even happen before the Russian Presidential Elections. It is most likely the Omsk Region governor will be dismissed right after elections to the Omsk City Council that are to be held on September 10.
There are no particular reasons for Nazarov’s dismissal, the CrimeRussia’s source emphasized. It is likely to be due to an overall negative situation in the region. “Internal political crisis, split of elites, and low manageability,” the source explained.
Local political experts are being reluctant to predict who will replace Nazarov. There is a traditional pool of potential candidates. First, there is Russian State Duma MP from the Omsk Region Andrey Golushko. It is he who has been called the main political opponent of Nazarov. Russian PM Dmitry Medvedev witnessed confrontation between 2 clans of political elite when visiting Omsk in late April. A criminal case was opened against Vice Governor Stanislav Grebenshchikov for violation of part 2 of Art. 285, (Abuse of Official Powers) of the Russian Criminal Code. Grebenshchikov made sure construction contractor Stroyinvestkomplekt was paid despite knowing the company was not performing under its contract and had run into debts to a state customer for previous advance payments, according to investigators. Grebenshchikov could very well become the Omsk Mayor if not for searches and the criminal case against him that ruined Nazarov’s plan to appoint his protégé as the Mayor. MP Golushko is believed to be behind the attack on Grebenshchikov despite lack of evidence. The police searched companies under the control of the MP immediately after. They searched Omskgorgaz’s building and the Aktsiya Group of Companies. These searches were performed in the framework of a swindling case opened against unknown people. The case is concerned with shipment of gas, according to the CrimeRussia’s source. The political clans carried out these informal attacks on each other during Medvedev’s visit to Omsk. Nazarov was expected to get dismissed back then but he managed to recover from that scandal.
The local government is quite sure someone will be sent to replace him this time around. However, no one is sure who it will be. Still, it is known the Kremlin has already chosen about 20-25 candidates for the position. They all have been approved and are ready to become the acting governor of the troublesome region.
It is worth mentioning that Viktor Nazarov was elected in 2012 after being recommended by Dmitry Medvedev. He was reelected ahead of time on the Election Day, September 13, 2014. It looked like a proof the region supported him.
Rumors of Samara Governor Nikolay Merkushkin getting dismissed spread in April of 2017, too. However, such rumors had been spreading for quite some time, similar to how it is with Nazarov. The local Administration calls such rumors “nonsense” and refutes them regularly. However, it was sources from the Kremlin who informed RBC about his dismissal. The message was clear, too: “Merkushkin was told to start packing his belongings.”
The Governor did not make any announcement regarding the matter despite people in Samara having been waiting for an announcement of his dismissal for a month. However, this may be explained by suspension of several dismissals until fall.
Merkushkin has not done anything that would lead to his dismissal lately. This is due to a bunch of problems and scandals that accumulated over the years. This includes blowing the deadline for Samara Arena Stadium construction and local residents being opposed to him.
It has yet to be known who will replace Merkushkin. It is likely new people who had never been heard of before will be suggested, according to sources. State Duma MP Vladimir Gutenev had previously been mentioned as a possible replacement. He used to be an advisor to the Rostech CEO. It is worth mentioning that Merkushkin was appointed to the Samara region as a result of Sergey Chemezov’s recommendation.
Nikolay Merkushkin had been the Head of the Republic of Mordovia for 17 years. He was appointed the Samara Region Governor in 2012. He resigned in 2014 before his term ended alongside many of his colleagues; they did it to get reelected for the second term.
However, unlike, for example, weak Nazarov, Merkushkin is considered to be a heavy-weight and long-living player. He is equated with long-time Belgorod Region Governor Evgeny Savchenko, former Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, or Kemerovo Region Governor Aman Tuleyev. However, the last one has gotten into trouble in recent weeks, too. He is getting dismissed due to health issues. This means it is the end of an era of long-living senior officials.
As for Tuleyev, however, he managed to achieve high voter turnout and stability for United Russia during elections. At the same time, the same cannot be said about Omsk and Samara Regions. Meanwhile, the Kremlin needs guaranteed results in regions before the 2018 Presidential Elections. That seems to be the most plausible explanation as to why the sources said Nazarov and Merkushkin are getting dismissed without a doubt.