Former cosmonaut Aleksandr Volkov became Head of Star City Administration on 22/10. Coincidentally, he did two long space missons with Sergei (Mir Principal Expeditions 4 and 10). (Roskosmos interview, only in Russian). There was a scandal surrounding the initial candidate, as described in this news article (reproduced below), where Colonel of the FSB Nikolay Rybkin was arrested for allegedly organizing the illegal delivery of an exceptionally large contraband of Chinese goods through Baltic Customs. This caused much indignation in Star City as he was a popular figure, and some thought the arrest a set-up.
The Star City scandal
By: Aleksandr Emelianikov, Vladimir Bogdanov
Yesterday, Star City held mayoral elections for the first time. The elections took place in scandalous and highly strung conditions related to the recent arrest of the main candidate, resigned Colonel of the FSB Nikolay Rybkin.
The situation got so heated that many respectable residents of Star City wrote to the president, asking him to support the free will of the citizens. 63-year-old Rybkin was detained late night on the territory of Star City on June 24. The next day, Basmanny Court gave orders for his arrest.
Rybkin is suspected of organizing the illegal delivery of an exceptionally large contraband of Chinese goods through Baltic Customs. A dummy organization was used, Rosmoravia, and Rybkin, a former chekist (KGB serviceman), is one of the founders of the company. These goods, with an estimated cost of 10 million roubles, were later sold on the Russian market. The judicial investigation suggests that part of the contraband was directed to Moscow’s Cherkizovo market.
The criminal case against the members of Baltic Customs involved in the smuggling from China and selling the goods on the markets of Moscow Oblast and other regions, including on markets the group of companies of ACT, was initiated in February of this year. The cofounders of LLC Rosmoravia, Tarakanov and Potocky, have also been arrested.
The Head of the Investigation Committee, Aleksandr Bastrykin, announced that he will be fighting to eliminate the Cherkizovo market:
“We have been searching for those responsible for these illegal goods in the amount of $2 billion. No one knows who had delivered these products here,” he commented on the outcomes of the investigation for the first six months of the investigation during the board meeting of his committee. He continued to say that “this pigsty needs to be shut down, and we will bring it to an end in the near future. Though not everything is so simple. When one digs deeper into the problem, protection rackets come to light that one cannot even dream of.”
Rybkin’s arrest provoked a huge response in Star City. The suspect was considered a respectable figure of authority who did many things for Star City’s residents. He was considered a great sponsor of the town. One of his widely known acts was reintroducing twelve swans that inhabit the town’s lake. There was a time when Star City was proud of these birds, but during perestroika, someone ate the swans and sent the bones to the town’s administration. Rybkin, once again, ordered the swans from abroad. He restored fountains. Near his house, he built an exact copy of the home where Yury Gagarin was born and raised in the Smolensk Oblast, and opened a museum named after Gagarin.
According to our sources in the special services, the chekist headed the local counterintelligence department for the last 25 years. In his youth, for several years he was a radio-gunner on a Tu-16 bomber. He then graduated from the KGB school, and in 1976 began working at the cosmonaut training center where he ensured the protection of classified government intelligence on human spaceflight.
In his line of work with counterintelligence, he got promoted to the post of Deputy Chief of the Center. He completed missions abroad. In particular, he took part in rescuing hostages in Somalia and Ethiopia, for which he was awarded the Order of the Red Star. In 1995 he stopped a dangerous criminal who was responsible for 200 crimes, including 28 murders. For that, the former KGB man was awarded the Order of Courage.
Right after the arrest over the scandal, his attorney Roman Smadych announced that his client would be prepared to go on hunger strike if there was not going to be an impartial investigation into his case, or if he isn’t granted the constitutional right to participate in the Star City mayoral election. Rybkin, however, did not go on a hunger strike after all, and his surname can still be found on the list of mayoral candidates.
Many residents of Star City are connecting Rybkin’s arrest with the elections. They think that someone is trying to eliminate the leading candidate from the race.
Aleksandr Volkov, Commander of the Cosmonaut Corps (1991-1998), and Hero of the Soviet Union: “I’ve known Nikolai Rybkin for more than 30 years. I doubt I will be mistaken if I say that no one worries about Star City more than he does: he worked with pensioners, cared for the veterans of the Great Patriotic War and those of the Afghanistan war. This is a person who cares about the future of this town, and the people who live here.
“One ought to consider that many people cast their votes well before the court ordered his arrest. I know that Aleksey Leonov cast an early vote. He especially went to Shchyolkovo to vote. And if one were to judge from our two houses, the election day turnout must have been high as well. Everyone perfectly understands that the decision of who will lead Star City depends on our vote.”
A curious bit of trivia noted in the article is that some Australian black swans (one of which can be seen in this Roskosmos news report) inhabit the Star City lake! (Some hapless swans got eaten.)
«Звездный с трудом снимает погоны» (“Star City difficult to demilitarize”), Roskosmos, 23/10 (only in Russian). Interview with Sergei Krikalyov on the problems of administrating Star City and transferring it from military from civilian control. A lot of the infrastructure is old and needs upgrading. The Russian Air Force/Defence Ministry seems eager to secede control over Star City – I thought it would have been an asset? One reason for the transfer is cost-cutting by Minister of Defence Anatolii Serdyukov (source). Something they may regret?
Soyuz TMA-14 landed on 11 October. Guy Laliberté was still wearing that blasted red nose! (I really hate clowns.)