Russian Politics, & Personalities

Okhta Centre: The Saga Continues

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Article at Radio Free Europe on Okhta Centre.

Writing on the gazeta.ru news site, political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky suggested it had long been clear “the corncob would most likely never get built,” adding that Gazprom’s total debt “has reached $60 billion — that is, 30 corncobs.”

The energy giant, he concluded, “would have a hard time finding an extra $2 billion to build a business center. One which, if you look at it carefully and think it through, no one needs.”

When has that ever stopped the Kremlin?

It still strikes me as odd that something like an ugly sky-scraper could be used as a political catalyst, but apparently that is what many hope will happen.

[This] might also offer Medvedev a convenient and much-needed opportunity to demonstrate his professed liberal touch. Vladimir Pribylovsky of the Moscow-based Panorama think tank says it’s an issue that Medvedev may be permitted to adopt as a populist cause.

Pribylovsky says that Medvedev has difficulty showing his liberal side because Prime Minister Vladimir Putin won’t let him do so “with any serious matters, political matters. He only allows him to say a few things. But canceling the Okhta Center project is something that Medvedev could do.”

Others, however, see the fate of the Gazprom tower as the source of a bitter, inner-circle war. Vinogradov of the Petersburg Political Fund says the recent wave of high-profile opposition to the project may be only the beginning of a protracted fight for control.

“If before it seemed that fighting was useless to those who opposed the Okhta Center, then now it’s clear there’s a disagreement,” Vinogradov says.

“There will be a fierce battle. So far Gazprom is in the lead, but the initiative that they had is slowly disappearing. But still, of course, the political weight of their supporters is quite large.”

Written by Nina Jobe

October 26, 2009 at 5:25 PM

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