In Tver Oblast, deputies of the Nelidovo Town Duma divested Chairman Sergei Pogodin (the United Russia Party), who opposes the construction of a landfill in the town, of authority. Earlier, the Head of Nelidovo Vladimir Pashedko removed him as headmaster of Secondary School No. 4 with no explanation. Read 7x7’s story of how Pogodin and local residents are fighting against the construction of the landfill.
"If they build a landfill, it will be game over"
Reports that a landfill would be built in Nelidovo appeared a year ago. In the autumn of 2019, deputies of the Town Duma, headed by the Head of the United Russia Party’s local branch Sergei Pogodin, were asked to vote for new territory use and development rules, providing for the allocation of a land plot for the construction of “an ecotechnopark.” It was planned to build a landfill for waste from six districts of the region next to the Central Forest Biosphere Reserve. Local residents, environmentalists, and social activists opposed the construction.
“The whole world lacks fresh water. Underground subsoil waters run through the watershed of Valdai. Here is some spring flowing, and water can flow into it from about 50 kilometers away. The smallest concentration of dioxide and other substances is dangerous to health! All this will flow to the Western Dvina, the Volga, then to Belarus, and then to the Baltic States. We are at the very top of the watershed [of Valdai], where the rivers join the Dnieper, the Western Dvina, and the Volga. If they built it [the landfill] on the watershed now, it doesn't matter if it is in Nelidovo or anywhere else, it will be game over,” Vitaly Kochetkov, a researcher at the Central Forest Biosphere Reserve, told 7x7.
According to Kochetkov, social activists offered a "tried-and-tested option" for each district to collect waste separately and hand it over to a waste sorting station in district centers, from where it would be taken out for recycling after sorting. However, no one considered the offer. Vitaly Kochetkov also said that, according to his information, only 7% of waste brought from the districts will be processed at the landfill, it is planned to dump the rest of it. In addition, according to Kochetkov, there are railway lines near the landfill. Local residents are sure that they will be used for waste transportation from other regions of the country in the future.
As a result, residents of Nelidovo collected 10 thousand signatures against the construction of the landfill, given that a little more than 18 thousand people live in the town.
Dismissal with no explanation
Local residents were actively supported by several deputies of the Town Duma, headed by Chairman Sergei Pogodin. He did not bring up the issue of new land use rules for vote for a year. In addition, deputies have repeatedly appealed to Igor Rudenya, the Governor of Tver Oblast, with demands not to build a landfill. However, Rudenya has not publicly responded to the appeals of residents and deputies so far.
At the end of August, the Head of Nelidovo Vladimir Pashedko removed Sergei Pogodin as Headmaster of Secondary School No. 4, where he had worked for 15 years, with no explanation. Pogodin himself says, that the only possible reason for the dismissal is his viewpoint on the construction of the landfill. The head of the administration Vladimir Pashedko said in the Rossiya 24 TV Channel’s report that the school needed staff turnover, and the teacher needed a promotion.
“Sergei Pogodin was offered working as a teacher in any educational institution. If he wanted to, we considered it possible to offer him the position of the Deputy Head of the Department of Education. We believe that Sergei Valerievich can succeed as official,” said Vladimir Pashedko, trying to slip away from tough question from local residents and journalists. By the way, the report shows that Pashedko’s driver was crossing a traffic lane marking when trying to take the official away from the outraged residents quickly.
It should be noted that if Pogodin accepted the offer of the head of the administration and took the position of the Deputy Head of the Department of Education, he would have to give up his parliament seat, since a deputy cannot hold public office by law.
Residents of Nelidovo collected 4 thousand signatures in support of the headmaster and Chairman of the Town Duma and sent an appeal to the president. Soon, Andrey Turchak, the Secretary to the General Council of the United Russia Party, reacted to the publication about the dismissal of headmaster Sergei Pogodin for opposing the construction of the landfill. He promised to find out all the details of what happened and said that dismissals for beliefs or personal animus were unacceptable. Later, State Duma deputies Yevgeny Revenko, Andrey Krasov, and Alexander Avdeev came to Nelidovo, talked with local residents, and listened to the officials’ viewpoint.
As Sergei Pogodin told 7x7, the appeals of local residents and the support of fellow party members did not help – he was not reinstated as headmaster. He went to court. According to Pogodin, the head of the administration of Nelidovo Vladimir Pashedko hired two lawyers from Moscow, whose work is paid from the municipal budget. To this date, one court session has been held, the next one was postponed to November 3 due to Pogodin and his lawyer being ill.
The second resignation
According to Sergei Pogodin, he brought up the agenda that was published in mass media by law for vote at a regular session of the Duma on October 16. But the deputies rejected it. Then the Chairman left the chair and withdrew together with his supporters, the remaining deputies having resumed the meeting and voted for his resignation.
“I was expecting that, especially after I was removed as headmaster. I saw that the attack would continue. The time seems to have come for the authorities to do this urgently [to vote]. Someone was broken, someone was threatened by them. Not everyone was able to handle the pressure. I represented the interests of people, as any deputy is supposed to do. 10 thousand residents collected signatures against the construction, how can you go against them?” Sergei Pogodin told 7x7.
Now the deputies who support Sergei Pogodin are thinking about giving up their parliament seats, thereby making the Duma illegitimate. After that, new elections to the Town Duma should be held. However, according to Pogodin, the Duma may disapprove the termination of authorities, thus its dissolution will not take place.
“They have already chosen a new Chairman, who might bring up this issue [about new territory use and development rules] before the Town Duma, and most likely, the decision will be made. I do not think the community will be silent about this. I really do not want another Shies here. But, unfortunately, this is quite likely, as no one wants to hear from people,” Pogodin added.
Ekaterina Lobanovskaya, «7х7»