- Posted October 16, 2012 by
- Leaked Black PR Emails Shed Light on Russian Media Wars
- Mazepin’s Holding Company Could Be Behind Attacks on ToAZ
- TOGLIATTI RESIDENTS ask Russia’s Prosecutor General, Presidential Envoy and Chairman of the Investigative Committee to look into situation around TOAZ
- IS HEAD OF URALCHEM BEHIND THE PR CAMPAIGN AGAINST TOAZ?
Togliattiazot Under Seige
These attacks are beginning to disrupt public peace and rattle the political equilibrium in the city, as well as upsetting the private life of the citizens. The company is a major local taxpayer and a key source of finance for many social projects in the region, so troubles for ToAZ may easily translate into hardships for the locals. Residents of Togliatti have denied these allegations and defended the company in an open letter to the Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika, Investigation Committee Chairman Alexander Bastrykin and Presidential Envoy to the Region Mikhail Babich, expressing concern over the potentially libellous allegations and what they see as attempts to disrupt the operations of a major local company and demanding a criminal investigation into these attempts. The letter was signed by Chairman of the City Veterans’ Association S.G. Yashenko, City Council Deputy A.A. Druzhinin, City Council Deputy Chairman O.Yu. Kulagin, Regional Duma Deputy A.N. Dobrotov and Togliatti church warden Yu.A. Kovtun, as well as many other Togliatti public figures.
The campaign against ToAZ is waged both locally, and, somewhat unexpectedly, in the Moscow Region, where the company does not have any assets. Agency of National News (ANN) newswire reports, citing its inquiry with the billboard owner VinEx LLC, that the ads were placed by NIKA LLC, a tiny new company with RUB 10,000 (USD 300) in registered capital, listing as many as 80 different and disparate lines of business in its Articles of Association, none of which have to do with chemicals or fertilizers. After the initial inquiry from ANN, NIKA’s phone was disconnected and its beneficiary owner and CEO Vasily Potaev could never be tracked down, confirming suspicions that NIKA is just a fly-by-night front for a much larger player with a real stake in undermining ToAZ’s shareholder value and with the financial resources to attempt this expensive proposition. Some of the billboards have been removed as clearly libellous, but ths campaign is still going strong, through various channels.
Circumstatial evidence suggests: Russian chemicals and fertilizers producer Uralchem, which acquired a minority stake in ToAZ recently, and its core shareholder Dmitry Mazepin may be behind ths campaign, although there is no conclusive proof. Evidence includes the fact that some of the most scathing billboards were posted where some of Uralchem’s assets are based and where Togliattiazot does not have a presence – in the Moscow Region. Furthermore, Uralchem may have been behind a very similar campaign to tarnish another fertilizers and chemicals producer Fosagro, a key source of materials for NPK, one of Uralchem’s lucrative fertilizer products; Uralchem was interested in taking over that company. In one of the early adverse publicity moves, Green Patrol environmental watchdog has been seen looking for harmful emissions at ToAZ; observers suspected Uralchem involvement behind this move. Dmitry Mazepin has denied these allegations, while the smear campaign against ToAZ continues. ANN cites ToAZ lawyers as saying they “have not seen anything like this since the [wildest days of] the early 1990s.” However, Uralchem and Mazepin most clearly stand to benefit from a chance to increase the stake in ToAZ on the cheap, and remain the most likely instigators of the smear campaign.
Uralchem has an abysmal environmental record, ANN reports. “Wherever Uralchem managers took over a local company, they brought with them technological disasters that caused very severe environemntal damage,” the newswire says. In Voskresensk just outside Moscow, Uralchem-owned Voskresensk Fertilizers have repeatedly released hazardous sulphurous fumes into the atmosphere. Industrial waste has found its way into the water supply of Voskresensk after Uralchem, through another fly-by-night “special-purpose vehicle” Dantes, started dumping printing waste for Germany’s Siegwerk Group. Voskresenks is no exception, ANN reports. Kirov-Chepetsk Chemicals Plant has repeatedly polluted water in the Kirov Region, endangering the water supply for the 500,000 residents of the regional capital, Kirov. Uralchem’s Azot Plant (based in Berezniki, Perm Region), has released ammonia into the atmosphere, ANN also reports.
Ealier in his career, Dmitry Mazepin was also a capable corporate “raider” (which in Russia means businessmen ousting current shareholders from companies through illegal means), according to ANN, taking almost all the ammonia assets away from Sibur, a Russian chemicals giant in the 1990s. His personal connections with the head of the Russian Federal Property Fund Vladimir Malinin enabled him to snatch Kirov-Chepetsk Chemicals Plant from under Gazprom.
In the meantime, Dmitry Mazepin appears to be taking precautions for the eventuality of his alleged campaign backfiring. He has been reported to be investing heavily in Latvian assets. ANN sees this as an exit strategy if criminal charges are levied against him on allegations of illegal corporate ousters, asset transfer overseas, and tax evasion.
ANN believes that Dmitry Mazepin’s possible emigration to Latvia may put an end to the media war on Togliattoazot.