As BarentsNova has found the way home after a month-long vacation, we resume coverage of local news and events. This is to summarize what generally happened while we were away in July 2013.
Though summer in normally a blissful uneventful period in Murmansk, the city drew a lot of attention from around the globe this July.
July 09, the deputy chairman of the Russian Government – Arkady Dvorkovich – paid a visit to Murmansk to discuss Russian presence on Svalbard and aftermath of the delimitation agreement signed between Russia and Norway in 2010. The main issue on the discussion agenda was development of certain measures ‘aimed to secure Russia’s legal rights and interests on Svalbard archipelago till 2015’.
Murmansk commercial port is no longer a state-owned company. It becomes official with a decree signed by Dmitry Medvedev. The port is in private hands of Andrey Milnichenko through his companies – EuroChem (chemicals, fertilizers) and SUEK (coal).
In the meantime, Siberian Business Union (SDS-Ugol) dropped its idea to construct a coal terminal Lavna in the Murmansk region. SDS-Ugol sold its 50% share to another stakeholder – Kuzbassrazrezugol – who shows willingness to develop this project alone. However, as reported by Kommersant, a new investor may pop up; and Russian-Finnish billionaire Gennady Timchenko might become one of them. Leaving Murmansk behind, SDS-Ugol says it wishes to focus on its Far East project instead.
Murmansk city is putting finishing touches on its branding effort. According to the brand developer – Stas Marketing – the existing image of Murmansk is very 'static' while it requires more ideas of ‘youth’ and ‘motion’. Six major symbols of Murmansk are listed in the document: the icebreaker Lenin, Polar Day/Night, the Port, fish, the Northern Fleet, and the monument to the WW2 defenders of the High North known as Alyosha. Among different ideas for promotion of the Murmansk region, the authors suggest the area should take a slogan of ‘Living on the Edge’. “Here they can LIVE a life of a modern city, not of a rotation camp. On the EDGE of inhabited lands, while there is only water and ice beyond it. On the front EDGE”, underlines the paper which is worth a million RUB.
Russian federal veterinary control agency Rosselkhoznadzor has again angrily reacted to allegedly unreliable certification of Norwegian fish. In July, Holmfoss vessel brought several tons of cod liver to the port of Murmansk. To amazement of local veterinary officials, the production date stamped on the product was September-October 2014. Seemingly a simple mistake, but it triggered another wave of indignation from the Russian veterinary watchdog. The director of Rosselkhoznadzor Sergey Dankvert sent a letter of concern to his Norwegian counterpart (Mattilsynet) – Harald Gjein.
The head office of the biggest Murmansk food and alcohol retailer Euroros was ransacked by Russian federal security officers on July 19. Euroros is facing five criminal charges, says the investigation committee. An official version of the events is investigation of ‘fake registration of legal entities’. Investigators are not willing to spill out more details. Murmansk netizens believe the reason is the conflict that sparked between two brothers who co-own the retail holding.
July 20, sad news came from the Murmansk-based daughter enterprise of Norilsk Nikel – KGMK (Kolskaya Mining Company). Sergey Selyandin, the director of KGMK, died in a road accident. Riding a motorbike nearby Alakurtti, he slid into ditch for yet unknown reasons.
Another day, another tragedy. July 21, a helicopter crash took lives of two British salmon fishers and their Russian guide. Though not all circumstances are yet clear, the chartered helicopter was assumedly pushed by a wind gust while attempting to take off; it banked on one side and killed the tourists with its rotating blades. Criminal investigation is underway.
Russian bureaucracy attempts to put an end to a sailing trip towards Franz Josef Land led by a famous German adventurer - Arved Fuchs. His boat - Dagmar Aaen – was not allowed to leave the port of Murmansk as some documents were not there. In a very unclear manner, Russian border guard officers say that ‘one more procedure should be completed though it has not been yet developed by the Transport Ministry’. So far the boat has been kept at the Murmansk coal terminal for almost two weeks, and is still there waiting for more permitting documents. Altogether, there are seven Germans, one Swiss and two Russians aboard.
Murmansk gained more international media attention thanks to the recent trip of four Dutch citizens to the city. With ‘cultural exchange’ visas in their passports, the Dutch were filming a documentary about gays and lesbians in a local youth camp. One of the youngsters interviewed for the film was reportedly under 18 which might mean problems for movie makers. As Russia strengthens its homophobic policies, the country has recently adopted a controversial law banning ‘gay propaganda among minors’. Accordingly, the four Dutch were told to appear at court the other day, but the hearing was postponed and then cancelled. The activists were fined for breaching the visa conditions.
A Japanese tourist was a victim to robbery as he was driving his car from Norway to St.Petersburg via Murmansk. Staying overnight in his car nearby Olenegorsk, his sleep was interrupted by two people who sprayed some liquid to his face and robbed him of money and car keys. Two other Murmansk citizens helped the unfortunate tourist to find the police. The search for the two suspects is on.
As air companies are no longer legally obliged to pay regular fees to the weather forecast monopolist – Aviamettelekom – the latter one suffers financial losses and begins thinking of its cost-efficiency. Therefore, starting August 01, the state-owned weather observer is about to reduce its working hours in the airports of Murmansk, Arkhangelsk, Petrozavodsk, Kaliningrad and others. If so, then the Murmansk airport may operate on workdays only at 08.00 am – 05:00 pm. The Murmansk governor Marina Kovtun has approached the ex-President’s aide Arkady Dvorkovich to help sort out this problem and keep the Murmansk airport working 24 hours.
Though Murmansk’s ambitions to become the Arctic harbour for international voyagers are yet to be realized, the city has recently seen quite a few cruise liners packed up with foreign travelers. The last (the eighth) tourist ship this season – Deutschland - will call at the Murmansk port on August 01.