- Posted October 18, 2012 by
- Manufactured News: The Dirty Underside of Dark PR Campaign
- 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
- Togliattiazot Under Seige
IS HEAD OF URALCHEM BEHIND THE PR CAMPAIGN AGAINST TOAZ?
ToAZ has come under a fierce attack in the media, on outdoor posters and banners and in graffiti on fences, building walls and even inside communal hallways of apartment buildings in Togliatti, a major industrial city in the Samara Region. Staged rallies with paid participants around the city are calling for environmental audits and change of management. The attacks focus on the ammonia producer’s alleged environmental violations and accuse the ToAZ core shareholders and management of criminal negligence, embezzlement, and other violations. The attacks are unnerving for the locals, because ToAZ is a major local taxpayer and a key contributor to many social projects in the region, so troubles for ToAZ may lead to hardship for the locals, the Agency of National News (ANN), a newswire, reports. Experts believe whoever is behind the campaign is breaking the key rule of PR warfare and inflicting collateral damage on the “civilians.”
The campaign against ToAZ is waged both locally, and in the Moscow Region, where the company does not have any assets. ANN reports, citing its inquiry with the billboard owner VinEx LLC, that the 5 by 15-meter ads were placed by NIKA LLC, a tiny company registered in late 2011 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 from cleaning services and retail trade to construction. 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 destroying or taking over ToAZ. Some of the billboards have been removed as clearly libelous, but they have been replicated online on various websites attacking ToAZ.
Circumstantial 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.
Residents of Togliatti have strongly rejected 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 said, "we are very concerned about the unwholesome situation artificially pumped up in Togliatti over the past several months, which now affects many of the city residents. An all-out information war is waged against one of the city’s core industrial companies, the world’s largest ammonia producer Togliattiazot, with its instigators balking at no method, however cynical, which is turning city residents into hostages.” The signatories also felt that “these actions have clear signs of criminal and administrative violations.”
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 French printers which are part of Germany’s Siegwerk Group.
In the meantime, environmentalists representing Green Patrol, an environmental watchdog, have descened upon Togliatti to look for hazardous emissions from ToAZ, Lentacom reports. Bloggers instantly suspected the environmental activists of doing the tests at Dmitry Mazepin’s requests, possibly accepting payment for their “services,” which clearly aim to exacerbate the situation around ToAZ even further.
Togliatti residents have few doubts left that the PR campaign against Togliattiazot was initiated at Mazepin’s reqiest, and want to see an end put to these efforts.