Vadim Potomsky to be dismissed?
In less than three years, Vadim Potomsky, Governor of the Orel Region, became involved into so many scandals that rumors about his upcoming dismissal circulate persistently. Furthermore, the region under his rule has made a mark during the live teleconference with the President: a complaint made by Orel resident Klavdia Stavtseva became one of the most high-profile episodes of the broadcast. What could be the next twist in the career of Potomsky?
The live teleconference with Vladimir Putin in June was a harsh challenge for all the Governors and Mayors of Russia. Not all of them have passed it. Three federal subjects, including the Orel region, have even been audited by the Presidential Control Directorate. The Orel region has attracted the attention of the control authority due to a complaint made by cancer patient Klavdia Stavtseva. The resident of Orel had said that medicines essential for oncology patients are not available in the city pharmacies. Vadim Potomsky, Governor of the Orel Region, has, as usually, put the blame on the insufficient federal financing. However, the audit carried out by the Presidential Control Directorate implies that there might be other reasons as well. There are plenty of facts to be checked by the inspectors of the Presidential Administration.
Klavdia Stavtseva during the live teleconference with the President
Even before the live teleconference, the name of the Orel Governor had already been mentioned in a criminal case instituted recently. Ekaterina Strelets, Director of Ritual and Ceremonial Services Municipal Unitary Enterprise charged with receiving a bribe in the amount of 200 thousand rubles ($3.3 thousand), has named Vadim Potomsky. During the questioning, Strelets told that she had repeatedly handed over monetary funds to Sergei Filatov, a deputy of Potomsky. According to her, Filatov had funneled the money ‘upstairs’. Taking his official position, this only can be an euphemism for ‘the Governor’. The funds were provided by contractors working for the municipal unitary enterprises and eager not to lose their governmental contracts.
In the end of June 2017, Sergei Kochergin, ex-Head of the Housing and Mortgage Agency of the Orel Region Joint Stock Company charged with embezzlement of 244.3 million rubles ($4.1 million), has stated that he had committed all the criminal offences in the interests of Governor Vadim Potomsky. Several years ago, Potomsky had personally invited Kochergin to become the head of the housing and mortgage agency. By that time, Kochergin already had an expired criminal record for a similar crime. Kochergin did not provide details of the criminal scheme to the journalists and said that he has handed over audio records and invoices proving the complicity of Potomsky to the investigators.
Despite these outrageous facts recorded in the investigation and court protocols, Vadim Potomsky still remains in charge of the Orel region and is unashamed of his criminal ties. He gladly employs some of his ‘authoritative’ friends. For example, Andrei Ersh, appointed the Head of the Orel Regional Public Contracting Authority Budgetary Institution of the Orel Region by Potomsky (Orelgoszakazchik), was arrested for abuses of official powers and bribe-taking as a member of an organized criminal group and later sentenced to 9.5 years in a maximal security penal colony for these crimes. Ersh had committed the above offences while serving in the Administration for Economic Security and Combating the Corruption of the Administration for the Arkhangelsk Region of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) of the Russian Federation. Then his classmate Vadim Potomsky became the Governor of the Orel Region and started gathering old friends around him. Without a moment’s hesitation, Ersh has left the police service for a civil career – but this did not help him to avoid the jail. Potomsky said that he was not aware of the deeds of his old friend.
Vadim Potomsky and Mikhail Sokolovsky
The friendship had blurred the Governor’s vision on many occasions. Upon becoming friends with Mikhail Sokolovsky, ex-First Vice Governor of the Koryak Autonomous District, Potomsky has decided to raise a monument to Ivan the Terrible in Orel. The Governor had imagined Sokolovsky as a generous philanthropist and representative of the International Fund for Slavic Literature and Culture. However, the fundraising campaign for the monument not welcomed by many people had been run among the public. In total, 25 million rubles ($418.3 thousand) have been raised by ordinary people – while philanthropists from the Fund for Slavic Literature and Culture did not make any significant contributions. After the scandalous installation of the monument, sculptor Oleg Malchanov, author of the statue, has refuted the statement made earlier by the authorities that the cost of the monument was 25 million rubles. Malchanov did not provide an alternative cost, but it turned out that a person convicted earlier for swindling – Mikhail Sokolovsky – was involved into the fundraising campaign. In 2005, Sokolovsky was sentenced to thee years behind bars for exceeding official powers and disruption of the heating season in the autonomous district. Two years later, Sokolovsky was sentenced to another term of 5 years and 8 months for swindling on an especially large scale. Based upon the rumors circulating in relation to the Orel monument, the penal colony hasn’t corrected Sokolovsky. However, Potomsky has learned a lot from his friends.
Fake lieutenant colonel
The Orel Governor does not mind to play games with the law as well. Back in 2001, a criminal case № 367353 was instituted against Vadim Potomsky for illegal enterprise and two years later, the Arbitration Court of St. Petersburg and the Leningrad Region has ruled, in the framework of the case № 56-9673/2003, to “retrieve the municipal assets from the illegal possession of Individual Entrepreneur Vadim Potomsky” and recover “from him a debt of 482 thousand rubles ($8.1 thousand)”. At that time, Potomsky was the General Director of Ekologia (Ecology) Municipal Unitary Enterprise in Vsevolozhsk. However, the court was very humane to the future governor and granted him eight years to pay out the debt in installments. Potomsky retained his post and paid only 5 thousand rubles ($84) per month.
After leaving behind the criminal case and arbitration courts, Vadim Potomsky decided to make himself safe from such troubles and became a Deputy of the Council of Deputies of the Vsevolozhsk Municipal Settlement in 2005. The career of the newly-elected Deputy had developed successfully, and in 2011, Potomsky became a Deputy of the State Duma for the Communist Party of the Russian Federation. A year later, Potomsky, elated with success, decided to run for the Governor of the Leningrad Region. This venture has failed, and the indefatigable communist switched to a smaller federal subject – the Bryansk region. However, in the midst of the election campaign, the Bryansk voters have learned plenty of interesting things about communist Potomsky.
Journalist Andrei Karaulov has uncovered an extensive business network behind the gubernatorial candidate. All these companies, as well as the municipal enterprise managed by Potomsky, had specialized in waste removal and processing. Some companies belonged officially to relatives of Potomsky, while in others he was either a cofounder or general director. One of such companies even had an identical name with the municipal unitary enterprise – Ekologia. The feverish activity of the Potomsky family has brought illegal dump sites to Vsevolozhsk and a country home with the living space of 750 square meters designed by famous St. Petersburg architect Mark Reinberg personally to Vadim Potomsky.
The moment of truth. October 8, 2012. Potomsky
Karaulov has also mentioned some irregularities in the military career of communist Potomsky parading his rank of lieutenant colonel. According to Potomsky, he has left the military service in the rank of captain and was promoted to major and then to lieutenant colonel while being in the reserve. Interestingly, the both ranks were awarded to him in 2009 for some undisclosed merits. Last year, an audit carried out by the Chief Military Prosecutor's Office has found that the ranks of major and lieutenant colonel were awarded to Potomsky illegally and the respective orders have already been annulled. Still, after losing the elections in the Bryansk region, the fake lieutenant colonel managed to achieve his dream by becoming the Governor of the Orel Region. Promises of future investments – that later turned out to be fake as well – had assisted him in this.
Upon becoming the Acting Governor of the Orel Region in April 2014, Potomsky has made the residents happy by announcing the construction of an oil refinery worth $15 billion at the pre-crisis exchange rate. The future regional head had expected to create 3.5 thousand jobs by building this enterprise. The joy had continued until the elections. Then it turned out that the oil refinery was just an ‘ idea’ of the Governor. A few days before the elections, Potomsky had admired the residents of the Orel region by ceremonial laying of the foundation stone of Yubileinoe Greenhouse Complex and announced the construction of a ZTE electronics plant with hundreds of jobs. However, the Chinese investments never arrived to the region, nor were the greenhouses built. After three years of promises to restore the bankrupt greenhouse complex, nothing was done.
Since 2016, the Orel region has the highest unemployment rate among the regions of the Central Federal District. The state debt of the region has doubled during the governorship of Potomsky. On December 23, 2016, the Orel region has received a loan in the amount of 1 billion rubles ($16.7 million). A day earlier, the MIA Administration for the Orel Region had announced that 1 billion rubles ($16.7 million) were embezzled during the preparations to the 450th anniversary of Orel – a source of pride for Potomsky. This year, on the eve of the next anniversary of the city, the region is trying to secure a loan in the amount of 1.5 billion rubles ($25.1 million). Apparently, it is time for the Orel residents and Presidential Control Directorate to ask: “Vadim Vladimirovich, where is the money?“