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Battle for Sevastopol: How a Crimean Romantic Fought a Kremlin’s Bureaucrat

It was the happiest day of Alexei Chaly’s life, he says. On March 18, 2014, the “people’s mayor” of Sevastopol strode by the golden doors of a intemperate Kremlin gymnasium to sign the documents that would make Russia’s cast of Crimea from Ukraine official.

He couldn’t enclose himself. The vaulting arches, news cameras and expensive suits of the Russian chosen decorated before him demanded inside solemnity. But the emotion was so clever he found it tough not to laugh out loud. Clasping the hand of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he punched the air in delight.

Three weeks earlier, Chaly’s seizure of administrative energy in Sevastopol, the crumbling naval city of 400,000 on the Black Sea coast, had catapulted the charismatic businessman to fame and power. Russians fawned over him as the romantic insubordinate superficial of Crimea’s new dawn. He became the city’s premier energy broker.

But dual years on, Chaly has stormed off the top list of Sevastopol’s politics amid a cloud of vitriol. Almost as shortly as Sevastopol assimilated Russia, Chaly began to fight with the city administrator allocated by the Kremlin, a career naval officer named Sergei Menyailo.

The two organisation could not be some-more different. One is a bearded operative who never wears a suit and built a prospering multinational association with yearly revenues of $300 million. The other is a vice admiral in haven who treats commands as sacred. In the difference of Georgy Chizhov, a political analyst, “Chaly is a revolutionary. Menyailo is a Russian bureaucrat.”

Hidden in their brawl is the story of how Sevastopol’s insubordinate hopes for life inside Russia were forced to make approach for the most reduction glamorous existence of Kremlin rule.

Planning the Russian Spring

All Russian revolutions start in the alps, says the stocky 54-year-old Chaly. It was from there, holidaying at an Austrian ski resort, that he watched with fear as travel protests in Kiev strong in early 2014.

Chaly had prolonged nursed dread in Ukraine. Backed by the West, Kiev’s devise to create a nation state had, he said, for two decades trampled on the Russian language, story and culture of Crimea and Sevastopol. Now, the protesters exchanging blows with troops in the Ukrainian collateral wanted closer ties with Europe. If they won, Chaly pronounced in an interview, it would tinge out hopes of keeping his city in the Russian zone.

Chaly, a Russian citizen, wasn’t prepared to allow that. He was laying the groundwork for a counterstrike. While Ukrainian protesters burnt tires on Maidan, he was fanning his possess promotion by organizations and media in Sevastopol underneath his control. “We were scheming to seize power.”

On Feb. 22, the protests in Kiev suspended Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and pro-European army took over. That same day, Chaly packaged his skis and headed for the airport. Driving by the alps, he pronounced he felt like Max Otto von Stierlitz, the television favourite of a 1970s Soviet view play who earnings to Nazi-controlled Berlin in 1945 — not given he was systematic to, though given he feels he must.

“I’d been streamer for this for 20 years,” he says. “I didn’t feel fear, usually anguish.”

What he was considering was treason, and he didn’t know how events would unfold. On the craft to Crimea his mother was silent. His daughter “fretted all the way home,” perplexing to persuade him not to do anything risky.

The following day, Feb. 23, a crowd of 20,000 rallied in Sevastopol opposite “fascism” in Ukraine. The atmosphere was electric. Informants within the local supervision fed Chaly updates. He suspicion they were not going distant enough. With a group of allies, he motionless to have the crowd announce him “people’s mayor,” and give him de facto control of the town.

An ally of Chaly’s, Yekaterina Altabayeva, after said: “There are times when story thickens in a sold person. It thickened in him, and he accepted it perfectly.” It took Russian authorities another week to arrive on the stage in Sevastopol, Chaly says. During that time, internal militias seized control of the peninsula.

Marriage of Circumstance

When the takeover began, Sergei Menyailo had been out of town for years.

The dark-skinned, wiry chain-smoker from the plateau of the North Caucasus had from 2009-11 been clamp admiral of the Russian Black Sea Fleet, formed in Sevastopol’s deep, dagger-shaped bay.

Like Chaly, the 55-year-old Menyailo was a patriot. He was also one with a deep, conspiratorial distrust of the West. When he saw the uprising begin, he boarded a boat to Crimea. He arrived on Feb. 24 and says he helped the militias holding control of the region’s infrastructure and negotiated with Ukrainian servicemen holed adult in their bases, uncertain of what to do.

Chaly frequency knew Menyailo. But the annexation threw them together. Chaly didn’t wish to deal with the nitty-gritty of administration. He wanted to work on strategy. Already on March 18, after punching the air, he handed the beginnings of a city growth devise to Putin. He sought someone else for the pursuit of administrator.

Chaly told The Moscow Times that Menyailo was suggested by Oleg Belaventsev, a naval officer who had been allocated presidential attach� to Crimea by Putin. After a day spent picking Menyailo’s brains, Chaly motionless they could work together.


It fast became transparent that they couldn’t.

According to Chaly, apropos administrator immediately went to Menyailo’s head. In August 2015, Chaly exploded. He published a video summary to the people of Sevastopol. In it, he pronounced that interjection to his mistake, “people have come to power who have a rare multiple of qualities: insufficiency and arrogance.” He pronounced he had attempted to correct his error, though had been “betrayed” by people tighten to him.

Under vigour from Moscow, they swept their brawl underneath the carpet. Chaly was inaugurated to the internal council in the fall. He took adult the role of speaker, and the open rubber-stamped Menyailo’s appointment as governor.

Menyailo had betrothed to support Chaly’s vital plan, that betrothed “breakthrough development” for the city by encouraging private craving and investment. As speaker, Chaly dictated to monitor the implementation.

But the cease-fire failed. “Menyailo publicly upheld [Chaly’s] plan,” says Igor Ryabov, who heads an consultant organisation that advises the Crimean supervision in Simferopol. “But in fact he sabotaged it.” It was replaced, Chaly says, with nothing.

On every front they seemed to clash. Menyailo attempted to push by legislation to nationalize businesses in Sevastopol, extend land to special projects and allow building on protected land and in areas of natural beauty — all of which was fiercely resisted by Chaly in the internal parliament.

Chaly saw in Menyailo — who spent 38 years in the navy — the dead palm of centralized bureaucracy and the rigidness of the armed services: Menyailo is accustomed to waiting for orders from above, says Chaly. “He sees usually the military supervision style: There’s the commander and the subordinates.”

Menyailo himself told distinguished Russian publisher Vladimir Pozner in a radio talk in March, “I’m for a oppressive energy vertical.” Unlike Chaly, who is disposed to comments such as “the law is innate out of argument,” and “I will not be silent,” Menyailo has a deep distrust of democratic institutions.

“I am heedful of people who put themselves adult for election, people who wish something” he told the Vedomosti journal in April. “When we was portion and I was told to go somewhere, we always answered ‘Yes, sir’ and went.”

Menyailo has consistently rebutted Chaly’s outbursts, job them “emotional” and claiming not to understand the source of his complaints. Pressed for an explanation, he has pronounced he sees in Chaly the same control-freak tendencies and hunger for power that Chaly sees in him.

Their attrition spilled into a quarrel for influence that extended by final year. Chaly sought to control or destroy Menyailo’s administration by open statements and behind the scene maneuvers; Menyailo duration sought to limit Chaly’s influence.

Chaly’s support bottom in the city legislature began to shrink, from more than 20 of the 24 members to only 13. Chaly blames this on pressure from the governor’s office, that “frightened some, bought others.” However, one internal deputy, Boris Kolesnikov, told The Moscow Times that Chaly was simply dynamic to obstruct the work of the legislative chamber.

Chaly’s shenanigans gradually mislaid him support in Moscow as Menyailo’s grew, says Crimean domestic researcher Alexander Formanchuk. Finally, at the finish of December, Chaly told the city council that Menyailo’s supervision had achieved zero some-more than to destroy hopes of positive change, and he would renounce as speaker. Last month, he stepped down.


He should have seen it coming, says researcher Chizhov. “Fighting to join Russia, Chaly didn’t know that people like him aren’t unequivocally in demand here,” he said. “His ideas about life flattering fast collided with the Russian reality.”

A Russian central is not ostensible uncover restlessness with what’s going on, Chizhov continues, that is “difficult” for anyone used to competitive business: “His form [of person] is cursed to defeat in today’s Russia.”


If Chaly has been unhappy by developments given Mar 2014, the city has also been disillusioned.

Russia was meant to be the answer to Sevastopol’s problems. People approaching a growth emanate after fasten Russia. But it hasn’t happened. Western sanctions on the peninsula and its misleading authorised standing meant Sevastopol is struggling to attract investment into its tourism or private sectors. Whether due to Menyailo’s insufficiency or the deadlock with Chaly, internal authorities have mostly unsuccessful to act. The average monthly income in Sevastopol final year was around 23,000 rubles ($330), according to official statistics.

“The city has left downhill,” says Inna Kireyeva, a local journalist. She says that given the annexation, the city has turn dirtier and the series of potholes has increased, while Menyailo’s supervision mostly ignores complaints.

Sevastopol, the scene of two sieges that are mythological in Russian troops history, stays nationalistic and pro-Russian. But, “right now there is a high turn of hatred toward the governor,” says Chaly. Kireyeva agrees: “Negativity is building. People consider something competence blow up.”

That instability simply underlines the mismatch between Chaly and the complement of which he is now part. Chaly has pronounced he has no goal of returning to street politics in Sevastopol, at least until Menyailo is gone. But he also suggested that he had the power to again move people out in popular protest.

That energy cuts opposite each instinct in the Russian domestic system. Chaly might be gentle with travel protest, though the Kremlin has a deep fear of it.

“Chaly was the people’s mayor, and he stays the people’s mayor,” says Kireyeva. That creates him a rarity in Russia, and, perhaps, a future insubordinate as good as only a past one.

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/564940.html