Posted 21 ноября 2022,, 11:50

Published 21 ноября 2022,, 11:50

Modified 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

Updated 24 декабря 2022,, 22:38

How will the confrontation between the governor of St. Petersburg Beglov and the businessman Prigozhin end?

How will the confrontation between the governor of St. Petersburg Beglov and the businessman Prigozhin end?

21 ноября 2022, 11:50
There is a political crisis in the northern capital. Businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin, with whom PMC Wagner is connected, openly criticizes Governor Alexander Beglov.

And the city authorities are blocking Prigozhin's business projects. Novye Izvestiya looked into the history of the conflict and asked political scientists how it could end.

Alexander Dybin, St. Petersburg

Everything started well

Initially, relations between Alexander Beglov and Yevgeny Prigozhin were warm. Beglov, while still in the status of acting interim, was actively supported by Prigozhin's Patriot media group. Entrepreneur people began to appear in the structures of Smolny - the social catering department, which is responsible, including for school canteens, was headed by Alexei Barabanshchikov, who had previously worked for the Concord company. The press service of this particular company, as a rule, sends statements to the media on behalf of Prigozhin, and also responds to inquiries to the merchant.

One of the plots of the multidimensional conflict is connected with the name of Barabanshchikov. Last year, a scandal erupted in the field of school meals in St. Petersburg: parents complained about poor quality food, massively refused canteen services. Rospotrebnadzor checked the complaints, but found no violations. However, at the same time it turned out that the antimonopoly service had questions for officials. In particular, with the advent of Barabanshchikov, lots for the organization of school meals were formed in such a way that only large players could receive them. One of the contractors was KSP Krasnoselsky District JSC, its portfolio of government orders grew to half a billion rubles.

This enterprise belongs to the city, but its legal form allows it to be a fairly independent structure. The FAS reported on collusion at one of the auctions, as a result of which the contract was received by the KSP of the Krasnoselsky district, and not by a private company that offered a price of 23 million rubles lower. After that, at the end of 2021, Barabanshchikov was fired, and a day later he was detained. He and several other people fell under a criminal case, including the former top manager of Concorde Oleg Lukin and the director of the Krasnoselsky district social welfare plant Rostislav Savinov. They were accused of causing damage to the budget by 35 million rubles - this is the difference between the amounts received by KSP Krasnoselsky District and what other bidders offered. This fall, the story ended happily for Barabanshchikov, he received a court fine in exchange for dropping the case. Formally, he is not convicted.

Another illustrative story was the elections to the State Duma and the legislative assembly of St. Petersburg in 2021. Prigozhin supported candidates from the Rodina party, among whom was the singer Tatyana Bulanova. Shortly before the vote, the electoral committee of St. Petersburg withdrew from the elections the entire list of "Motherland" in the legislative assembly. Bulanova was also denied registration as a candidate.

Let's hit the uncleaned streets with a song

The most striking episode was a series of clips released by the leader of the Leningrad group, Sergei Shnurov. Last winter became problematic in St. Petersburg. Waste reform started, the first weeks of the year waste was taken out irregularly, heaps accumulated in the yards. In addition, utilities have traditionally been unable to cope with heavy snowfalls. The artist blamed Alexander Beglov for these problems. They tried to connect the campaign with the confrontation between the governor and Yevgeny Prigozhin, but the latter replied that he had nothing to do with Shnurov's work, although he sang about "the right things". At the same time, the musician was the author of the soundtrack for a number of films that were shot with the support of Prigogine.

Several more conflicts between Prigozhin's structures and the authorities of St. Petersburg are connected with real estate objects. Thus, Alfa, which is a subsidiary of one of the structures associated with the merchant, was not allowed to participate in the competition for the lease of the building of the stable department. The historical monument in the very center of St. Petersburg has been empty for several years, and the authorities are going to transfer it to private hands under the “meter for the ruble” program, but with mandatory restoration. As a result, the competition was won by the Moscow company BakhchaSaray, and Alfa is trying to challenge the results in the courts.

In 2021, the authorities of St. Petersburg agreed with Prigozhin's company Megaline on the development of the territory on the shores of the Gulf of Finland in the village of Gorskaya. Tourism infrastructure facilities were supposed to appear here. A year later, the city announced at the international economic forum that Gazprom would develop this site, and the Megaline project would not be implemented.

The most recent case is related to PMC Wagner Center, an office building built on Zolnaya Street in St. Petersburg, which Prigozhin’s representatives promised to populate with patriotic bloggers, media and entrepreneurs. They will receive square meters for free. The complex was opened with pomp a few days ago, while it turned out that the object had not yet been accepted and put into operation due to the position of the city authorities. The news about this coincided with Prigozhin's toughest statements about the mayor. If earlier he only criticized Beglov in an interview with journalists, this time he wrote a statement to the Prosecutor General's Office demanding to check Beglov under the article "Treason" of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. The statement was written on November 13, what facts formed the basis of it was not disclosed. At the same time, on November 18, it became known that the Gosstroynadzor of St. Petersburg issued a permit for the commissioning of the PMC Wagner Center.

Back to the 90s

Arguing about how typical such a vivid confrontation between the governor and representatives of the business elites, experts interviewed by Novye Izvestiya agree that it is now customary to resolve such conflicts behind the scenes. And the bright public attacks against Beglov are most likely dictated by the personality traits of his opponent.

“This confrontation is more typical of the period of the 10s, when governors often entered into direct conflicts with large regional businessmen”, - says Petr Bystrov, vice president of the Russian Association of Political Consultants. - Prigozhin partly remained at the time when such issues were resolved in the public field. Now business groups, which are not satisfied with something in the policy of the heads of subjects, are using other hardware methods. In the 90s and 2000s, such a public war could have led to the resignation of the governor, but now is a different time. The stability of the position of the head of the region does not depend on business and does not depend on how he managed to build relationships with major players, to which Prigozhin belongs. It is important to note that the criticism of Beglov is based on many objective points that reflect the real dissatisfaction of a significant part of the townspeople.

Director of the Institute for Contemporary State Development Dmitry Solonnikov recalls that the governors of St. Petersburg, as a rule, leave their posts ahead of schedule. Such a scenario is possible even now.

“The governors and business have never lived in peace and harmony,” the expert says, “both Sobchak and Yakovlev have always had conflicts, not everyone was happy with Matvienko or Poltavchenko, now there is the same confrontation. The fact that the conflict took such a form - with statements to law enforcement agencies - is due to the character and mentality of Prigogine. But the city authorities are not a hundred rubles to please everyone. There will always be dissatisfied. On the other hand, Prigozhin is a bright politician of our time, he participates in federal projects and feels strong behind him, he can afford what other business representatives cannot afford”.

The expert does not rule out the possibility of a settlement agreement, or the end of the conflict in a natural way with the departure of Beglov to another position.

“Agreements are quite possible, but the question is how they will be formalized and who will moderate them,” says Dmitry Solonnikov, “but we all walk under God and the conflict can be resolved in another way. Beglov may get a new appointment. If you look at the history of the governor of St. Petersburg, then the last mayors finished their work without waiting for the end of their term. And Yakovlev, and Matviekno, and Poltavchenko did not finish their work until the end of the term. At the same time, a powerful media campaign rather plays to save Beglov, because the federal center does not like to show that it bends under the influence of information, regardless of whether there is an underlying reason or not. I do not rule out that Prigozhin may lose interest in St. Petersburg, he has his own plans and they may not apply to the Northern capital”.

Political strategist Aleksey Mogilyansky believes that the resolution of the conflict is possible only with the participation of the federal center and, most likely, it will be delayed in time.

“Such a confrontation is in no way out of the political tradition, this is the tradition,” the expert says. - The move with a statement against Beglov is not trivial, but absolutely in the spirit of Prigogine. Peter was famous for high-profile scandals, mainly before the arrival of Mativienko. Already in modern history, Makarov (the former chairman of the Legislative Assembly, now a deputy of the State Duma. - ed.) and Beglov fought, but already mostly under the rug, although the whole city knew about it anyway. Businessmen, the fathers of the city, also traditionally do not like noise. But Prigogine is not a typical businessman. He's more of a media figure now. A kind of St. Petersburg Elon Musk. He is prone to shocking actions - some publications of his press service are worth something. Of course, such a campaign format is a personality trait. This, by the way, can play a plus for him - our people miss sharpness in politics. But by itself, a peaceful outcome will definitely not come. A divorce in the corners is theoretically possible, in much the same way as a high-profile scandal with resignation, if a victim-lightning rod is needed. But I would rather put on a compromise - the attenuation of the scandal and the quiet departure of Beglov, not directly connected with the scandal. Say, in case the governor again fails to cope with the winter".