Increasingly chilly around Governor Marina Kovtun. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

Murmansk governor: I am under big pressure from law enforcement agencies

«They are doing massive enquiries, inspections and other kind of intimidations», says Marina Kovtun.
October 23, 2017

Tensions are mounting in downtown Murmansk as regional leader Marina Kovtun publicly admits that she is under major pressure from opponents.

In a meeting with journalists today, Kovtun said that the the pressure is «unprecedented».

«As the head of the region, as the person with the highest post in the region, as well as on behalf of the Murmansk regional government, I must make clear that we are experiencing serious pressure from law enforcement authorities», Kovtun underlined, TASS reports.

«It comes in the form of massive enquiries, inspections and other kind of intimidations», she said.

According to Kovtun, the pressure must be seen as politically motivated and as a witch-hunt, aimed at discrediting the current government and force her to resign.

«This will not happen», Kovtun underlines. «It is the President of the Russian Federation which decides on the fate of a head of a region», she says.

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The governor admits that pressure might further increase.

«As the head of the region, I am not going to leave these actions without a reaction, I am not going to sit quiet doing nothing, but rather communicate my position to the highest leadership of the country and the leaders of the law enforcement agencies».

Pressure against Kovtun has been building up gradually over the last months. In July, two top government officials were arrested on allegations of corruption, and last week the turn came to Igor Babenko, the former deputy governor and close aide of the regional leader.

Documents published by Bloger51 show that Babenko and several more top officials over several years squeezed the major companies in the region for big sums of so-called «charity funds», a kind of «sponsor money» for the officials’ non-budgetary and private activities.

At least 40 companies regularly got letters from the regional government where they were requested to allocate money for non-official government activities. The letters were signed by Governor Marina Kovtun herself, Bloger51 reports.

The arrests and corruption allegations against the key people in Kovtun’s government have come at the same time as federal authorities have sacked a series of regional governors. Kovtun, who was appointed to the post in early 2012, has been among the regional leaders with weak positions.

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