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Russia's Far North to promote “American” governor?

The last governor elections in the foreseeable future of Russian history to be determined by the joint venture of major Russian and American oil companies…

Governor elections in Nenetsk autonomous region located in Russia's Far North are set for January 23, 2005. The region contains abundant supplies of oil. According to experts, the amount of extracted oil amounts to no less than 1 billion tons. In addition, massive supplies of hydrocarbon are concentrated on the shelf. The situation in the region is quiet nerve-racking at the moment.

The oil supplies appeal first of all to Norway. On January 17th Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Peterson paid a visit to Arkhangelsk. In fact, such visits of high-ranking officials from Norway have become a norm already (Nenetsk region along with the capital in Naryan-Mar territorially is located within the Arkhangelsk region).

For the past few days the regions capital has been visited by an entire array of Russian business and political elite. President of Russia’s major oil company LukOil Vagit Alekperov has arrived to Naryan-Mar on his private jet on January 19th. His visit has been devoted primarily to the talks with Alexei Barinov, whom experts consider to be the favorite of the elections campaign. Barinov used to be LukOil’s senior manager. Reliable sources inform that he left LukOil due to disagreements with the company's politics.

Mr. Barynov's rating has been escalating in the course of the past six months. Igor Koshin, who is a delegate of the Regional council, is second. General manager of Russian-American oil company “Polar Lights” Alexander Shmakov occupies the third place. Russian Rosneft and American company Conoco Filips are the stock holders of “Polar Lights”. Shmakov is considered an Americanized manager. He often visits Huston, which makes Russians think of the YUKOS' case. Russia did not welcome American justice attempt to interfere in YUKOS' fate.

Shmakov barely has a chance to make it to the second round of the elections. That is why Alekperov decided to visit Naryan-Mar. He tried convincing Barinov to remove his candidacy in order to make way for Shmakov. However, Aleperov’s mission suffered total fiasco. Nonetheless, LukOil intends to use its lobbying capacities to pressure Barinov and Koshin. According to a source in the Russian parliament, Arthur Chilingarov is scheduled to pay a single day visit to Naryan-Mar on January 20th. LukOil considers the man the most trustworthy politicians.

The oil tycoon is doing all he can to see Alexander Shmakov the next governor of Nenetsk. According to political analysts, this has to do with certain strategic agreements between LukOil and Conoco. Perhaps, this has something to do with probable transportation of nenetsk oil to the American East Coast through Murmansk and Rotterdam as well as with the expansion of LukOil’s gas stations on the East Coast. It is still rather unclear at this point whether strategic interests of LukOil and American Conoco coincide with those of Russia. Most likely, they do not coincide at all.

So, the last governor elections in the foreseeable future of the Russian history will be determined by the joint venture of major Russian and American oil companies. Should Alexei Barinov win the elections, it will prove the fact that the dominant influence of oil lobbying in the history of Russia is slowly ceasing to exist.    

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