Governor takes control of graft-ridden Russian city

SERGEI KARPUKHIN/REUTERS - Moscow region governor Sergei Shoigu looks on during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg June 21, 2012.

MOSCOW — The governor of the region surrounding Moscow took direct control Wednesday of the corruption-ridden city of Sergiev Posad, still reeling from the assassination of its mayor last year. He forced the resignations of the new mayor and the acting head of the city administration, who for months have refused to recognize each other’s authority.

Gov. Sergei Shoigu said the city was out of control, according to the RIA Novosti news agency. While officials squabbled, Sergiev Posad has been drained of money and unable to pay its bills, leaving residents to cope with gaping potholes and an impending shut-off of hot water.

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“People elect a government to live better,” Shoigu said, according to the news agency. But he added that the “anarchy” afflicting the city had forced him to intervene.

Sergiev Posad, a city of 100,000 about 40 miles northeast of Moscow, is the seat of the Russian Orthodox patriarch, a place that attracts pilgrims and tourists from across Russia and beyond. But when Yevgeny Dushko was elected mayor on a reform platform a year ago, he discovered that the city was effectively broke, and he blamed corruption for the collapse of services. After he embarked on a campaign to root out graft, he was killed outside his house Aug. 22.

Sergiev Posad has become a prime example of the damage that corruption is wreaking in cities all across Russia, where sweetheart contracts, inflated bills and generous kickbacks at the local level go largely unexamined and unchallenged.

Since the mayor’s killing, no suspects have been identified, and no reforms have been carried out. Dushko’s father, Anatoly, believes that the trail of corruption his son was following led directly to the office of Boris Gromov, who was governor of the Moscow region at the time. But in April, Gromov was replaced by Shoigu, a popular former head of the federal Ministry of Emergency Situations.

On Wednesday, Shoigu announced that city elections will be held in October.

 
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