I think that this story is quite demonstrative about who earns money in Russia and how. Vladimir Putin’s friends were granted with power for their loyalty to autocracy. They have companies, banks, governmental contracts and carte blanche to own this country. They do not hesitate to use it. Never.
Source- Novaya Gazeta
The bridge across the Pura river connects Urengoy, Tazovsky and Krasnoselkupsky districts with the mainland. It was built for two years, finished ahead of schedule, putting it into operation 9 months earlier than planned. The Yamal authorities were especially proud of the fact that there was not any investment of state money.
After the bridge was inaugurated, it became clear that, in fact, truckers will pay for the bridge built by private investors, and huge sums. It comes to 370 thousand rubles (almost $5000) for a one-way trip. The length of the bridge is 1 (one!) kilometer.
The toll bridge across the Pura River was opened on October 16. The project was called socially important: 20 thousand people live on the eastern bank of the river, who were always cut off from the world during freeze-up and ice drift. The point is hardly just about interests of the population of the Arctic villages. There are at least 50 hydrocarbon deposits on the coast of the Taz Bay. Transneft and Gazprombank took part in the project. The bridge was built by Putin’s friend Rothenberg.
The government of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug reported that the Pura bridge is the only one in Russia built without using budget funds. The investor will recoup his investments of nearly 10 billion by collecting fees from “commercial vehicles”, in other words, from truckers, while locals, according to federal law, will use the bridge for free. And the fee is not claimed to be permanent, but only for the term of the concession agreement, until 2033.
On the opening day, journalists – at the suggestion of the regional authorities – reported that the prices for travel across the bridge are quite humane, much lower than those that operated on the pontoon ferry: “A truck weighing up to 12 tons pays 12 thousand rubles for travel on the pontoon ferry, and on the capital bridge they will pay about 3 thousand rubles” – they said.
However, two weeks later, there was a traffic jam at the entrance to the bridge: the drivers refused to go, protesting against the extortionate tariffs.
It turned out that prices had risen so much that carriers started thinking about completely leaving the market.
If in spring an empty truck was transported on pontoons for 10 thousand, a loaded one – for 25, now, regardless of the availability of cargo, it is 55 thousands rubles and more. Previously, payments were based on actual weight, which greatly reduced the final cost of the flight. Companies that regularly used the ferry had preferential service contracts. In addition, there was a free winter road.
Now the tariffication is tough: regardless of the real weight of the transport, you have to pay for its fare based on the carrying capacity. The final price at least doubled.
“For five or six days there was a huge number of vehicles of the oil industry. People refused to go. The owner company had an agreement with the owners of the former pontoon ferry, benefits. They arrived – and it is closed. About 100 cars have stuck on our side.
Imagine what a sum, even if they take 55 thousand in one direction! The company suffered losses, and the drivers lost their wages, ”- says an eyewitness, an employee of a gas station located near the bridge.
“We used the ferry in the summer, in the winter we used a free winter road, we worked like that for 10 years, but now some guy has come and wants us to pay him, I think it’s unfair,” – explains businessman Konstantin Khmelevsky. – “The winter road, they said, will not be done, and the crossing was closed immediately after the opening of the bridge, the governor himself closed it.”
According to eyewitnesses, the closure of the crossing was indeed a noisy business: with the involvement of the Russian Guard, the traffic police, and the placement of concrete blocks at the entrance. The distance from it to the bridge is fifty meters, and the difference in cost is too expressive.
By the way, a similar story – and also with the participation of security officials – has already happened here. In 2017, one of two rival crossings was closed by force. In the end, the company that won the intraspecific struggle was also left with nothing.
Important bridge without any alternatives is a guarantee of a stable cash flow.
The fact that the toll bridge became the only road to the other side is perfectly legal. A year ago, amendments were adopted to the law “About Roads and Road Activities in the Russian Federation”, which allowed the construction of toll roads and bridges in the Far North without a free alternative. The explanatory note to the bill states that it is being introduced “in accordance with the appeal of the Governor of the Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug on the implementation of the project for the construction of a bridge over the Pura River.”
So, the amendments can be called lobbying – by that time the government of the Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug had already signed a concession agreement with the company of a fellow student and friend of Putin.
The concessionaire company was registered in Novy Urengoy in 2016, the payroll number of employees is 1 person, the founders are Mostostroy-11 JSC, affiliated with Mostotrest PJSC of Arkady Rotenberg.
Mostostroy-11 is controlled by the Rotenbergs and receives subcontracts for their large projects, from the Crimean bridge to the Sochi Olympic facilities.
The director of the enterprise, Nikolai Russu, last year became a deputy of the Tyumen regional legislative body, while the first vice-speaker of the Legislative Assembly is the father of the Yamal governor, Andrei Artyukhov. The Pura bridge became the first major contract of the company in Yamal, the second is on the way, and even more significant – the bridge across the Ob river.
The officials pretend not to notice the public discontent of the people. But already two weeks after the outrage of the drivers, they announced that temporary discounts were introduced for the fare – from 30% to 50%. True, they will last only three months.
Entrepreneur Khmelevsky believes that the bureaucracy works in the interests of specific businessmen: “The governor should stand for the people, and not for one businessman. If he needs to pay off a loan for the construction of a bridge, why this responsibility is shifted to a part of the population of the district, to specific people, to me? Have I lost at cards to the state? Or do I pay little taxes? Let the district budget pay for the bridge, ”- says Konstantin. He has already complained about what is happening to President Putin. The letter was forwarded to the same person the businessman is complaining about – the Yamal governor, who passed the paper over to his deputy. There is no answer yet.
Meanwhile, Konstantin insists not on the revision of tariffs, but on the complete abolition of tariffs, considering this to be contrary to common sense and the spirit of the law. His business is located on both banks of the Pura. To take the car back to his own repair box, he has to pay 100 thousand rubles.
“People had many options: winter road, crossing, ferries, negotiating with barges. People have adapted, and now all options are blocked for them, and they were told – pay. After all, this will affect not only us, it will affect all residents of the region. Because all this will be in the price of goods” – Khmelevsky says indignantly.
So far, even high tariff do not bring the concessionaires the desired income: according to official data, no more than two thousand cars pass the bridge per day, including passenger cars. The design capacity of the structure is three times higher.