Andrey Chibis is acting governor of Murmansk. Photo: Atle Staalesen

Governor of Murmansk to Putin: Our strategically important region deserves better

We have run-down healthcare, dramatic out-migration and unsatisfactory living conditions for our armed forces, says Andrey Chibis as he sits down with the President.
August 30, 2019

It is election time in Murmansk and the Kremlin is reaching out a hand to its hopeful Andrey Chibis, the acting governor who was instated by Putin in March.

Andrey Chibis meets with Vladimir Putin. Photo: Kremlin.ru

The Kremlin is putting its weight behind Chibis and the meeting with the President was a sign of the solid support.

Putin might have hoped for a sunny story about an Arctic region in flourish.  After all, the Arctic is among the President’s top priority regions. But he got the opposite. Andrey Chibis painted a bleak picture about the resource-rich and strategically important region located by the Barents Sea.

According to the acting governor, who is up for a win in the 8th September governor’s elections, Murmansk Oblast is struggling with a string of fundamental problems that hampers regional development.

The situation is contributing to a dramatic out-migration from the region, Chibis underlined. Over the past 30 years, the regional population has shrunk from more than 1,1 million people to less that 800,000. And the negative trend has not come to a halt.

According to Chibis, the decline in the regional population figures is aggravating and out-migration in 2018 was 26 percent bigger than the previous year.

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Among the biggest problems is healthcare, Chibis made clear. The regional hospitals and policlinics need new equipment, doctors need housing,  too few ambulances are available, and there is catastrophic need for more doctors, he told Putin.

«And what is most terrifying is that the work-active part of the population is leaving, first of all our young people,» the regional leader said, a transcript from the Kremlin reads.

The future for the region might be grim, he admits.

«If we do not mange to turn the trend connected with population drain, then, objectively speaking, this strategically important region will become a region of commuters.»

Murmansk deserves better, Chibis makes clear. «After all, this region is strategically important, it is the gate to the Arctic, we are talking about geopolitical interests.»

 

Young in Murmansk. Photo: Atle Staalesen

 

And the situation is no better for the many people serving in the armed forces in the region. According to Chibis, the living conditions in the closed military towns «wont hold water.»

«And this is where our military men are living, the people serving in the Northern Fleet, and providing security to our country and geopolitical stability,» Chibis underlined.

«Actually, we have to change this situation.»

 

The closed military town of Polyarny seen from the coast of the Barents Sea. Photo: Thomas Nilsen

 

The regional government is now working on several initiatives that is aimed at improving living conditions in the region. Among them is the development of new housing and social infrastructure on the western side of the Kola Bay.

According to Andrey Chibis, the plan includes the construction of a new research and eduction center for nuclear physics, as well as a major new congress center. The acting governor also wants a five-star hotel to be built in the region, as well as new housing and sport facilities.

Putin listened tentatively to the message of the regional leader. But not everything appeared to catch equal interest.

«Ok […] apparently you need both five-star hotels and a congress center, but lets return to the problems of the closed military towns,» Putin said.

«This issue deserves special attention,» the President underlined.

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