We had followed the fortunes of one of our Russian cement subscribers over the years with interest, having first met him at the Cemtech St Peterburg conference back in 1993. Initially a plant engineer, he had, following the Yeltin privatisation bonanza, gained a substantial holding in his cement factory - Caucasus Cement in what was to be the breakaway north Caucasus republic of Karachayevo-Cherkessia.
A successful period was to follow, with the plant prospering and our subscriber and family becoming quite a local success story. Regretably, it was not to last, and he and family were forced to hand over ownership of the factory at gunpoint, and flee for their lives earlier this year. Thanks to some local contacts, he now has a basic managers job in a cement factory close to Moscow, but remains shocked over his much-reduced circumstances.
The story seemed, on hearing it a little far-fetched, but events last week have brought it back into stark relief when seven charred bodies were found in a mineshaft close to the same cement factory. The men were apparently visiting the new cement plant owner, a Mr Kaitov, in October, to express their dissatisfaction with some local business deal, and then disappeared without trace. Mr Kaitov is the son-in-law of Mustafa Batdiyev, the region’s president.
Around 5000 people have subsequently rioted in the hope of forcing Batdiyev from office. He in turn has denounced his son-in-law, Kaitov, who has since been arrested, but claims he is innocent of any crime. A stand-off now seems to be in place between the rioters who claim that a criminal network of clans control both the region’s government and economy.
Meanwhile our subscriber remains low-key in Moscow with no plans, as yet, to return to the Caucasus.