Criminal Case Opened Against the Mayor of Astrakhan

November 15, 2013
The Mayor of Astrakhan, Mikhail Stolyarov | Kommersant/Dmitry Lebedev

The Central Investigation Department of the Investigative Committee of Russia (SKR) has opened a criminal case against the detained mayor of Astrakhan, a member of United Russia, Mikhail Stolyarov. According to investigators, he demanded 10 million rubles from an Astrakhan entrepreneur, as well as a stake in his company in exchange for a land parcel. United Russia said it would suspend Mr. Stolyarov’s membership in the party.

Investigators have opened a criminal case against the detained Astrakhan Mayor Mikhail Stolyarov under Part 6 of Art. 290 of the Criminal Code (bribery on a large scale).

“According to the investigation, in October of this year, an Astrakhan entrepreneur approached Stolyarov with a request to provide him with a 3,000 square meter land plot for construction of an office building in the city of Astrakhan. ​​ Stolyarov agreed, but demanded a bribe of 10 million rubles, and also asked to assign 25% equity stake in the entrepreneur’s company to his trustee. The businessman reported these demands to the law enforcement agencies, who controlled all the subsequent events. Today, the agents from the Russian Interior Ministry department of economic security arrested Stolyarov in an Astrakhan restaurant, when he was receiving the 10 million rubles,” according to the Investigative Committee.

On Wednesday afternoon, special police agents stopped the mayor’s car in the center of the city, handcuffed the official and brought him to the building where the regional police department is located. Then, a search was conducted in his office.

United Russia has promised to consider suspending Mr. Stolyarov’s membership in the party and in the General Council. “We have always maintained that all are equal before the law. The case of the mayor of Astrakhan is no exception. In this regard, it is decided to suspend Stolyarov’s membership in the party and its General Council in connection with the criminal case opened against him. The investigation must be carried out as objectively as possible,” said Sergei Neverov, the Secretary of the General Council of United Russia.

Rumors that Mikhail Stolyarov was having trouble with the law started to circulate after a post on Twitter by the Governor of Astrakhan Region Alexander Zhilkin.

Mikhail Stolyarov was born in 1953 in the village of Volzhsky in Astrakhan region. He graduated from the Astrakhan Radio Technical College, Novocherkassk Polytechnic Institute, Saratov State University, and the Academy of National Economy under the Government of the Russian Federation. After serving in the Soviet army in 1974, he worked as an electrician at the “Astrakhan electrical networks.” From 1974 to 1994 he worked in the energy sector as a manager of Astrakhanskaya substation and then as the manager of Astrakhan electric networks. In 1994, the Ministry of Energy of the Russian Federation and the regional government appointed Mikhail Stolyarov the CEO of Astrakhan electrical networks. And in 1999, with the support of the four thousand employees he became the General Director of JSC Astrakhanenergo. In this position, he demonstrated his abilities as an efficient manager, a leader of a large team. In 2005, JSC Astrakhanenergo was awarded the title of “Leader of the Russian economy,” and Mikhail Stolyarov was named the best manager.

In 2001 and 2006, Mikhail Stolyarov has become a deputy of the State Duma of Astrakhan region. He is an honorary citizen of Chernoyar district. In 2007 Mikhail Stolyarov was awarded the title of Honored Energy Worker by a Presidential Decree. In 2008 he received a medal “For Merit to the Astrakhan Region.”

What could be the reasons for the removal of the Astrakhan Mayor

The main problem could be the criminal proceedings instituted against some of his subordinates. Thus, in March 2013 Andrei Kovalev, a deputy mayor responsible for public utilities, was arrested attempting to receive a bribe of 450,000 rubles.

From 2009 to 2011, Mikhail Stolyarov was the vice mayor of Astrakhan. On March 4, 2012 amid a major controversy, he was elected the mayor of the city, with 60% of the votes. The main rival of Mr. Stolyarov Oleg Shein of the Just Russia party (who came second with 29.96% of the votes), claimed a massive electoral fraud, and on March 16, the day of the inauguration of the new mayor, he began a hunger strike joined by his supporters. It lasted for 40 days. At that time, the city held numerous rallies in support of Mikhail Stolyarov, and in support of Oleg Shein, who was visited by the entire faction of the Just Russia party in the State Duma on April 15. Based on the video recordings from cameras, the Central Electoral Commission noted procedural violations at 128 out of 202 polling stations, but the head of the Commission, Vladimir Churov, ruled that “they cannot be considered fraud.” In April, Mr. Shein filed a lawsuit with the Kirov District Court of Astrakhan demanding to void the election results. On June 15 the court decided to dismiss the claim.