Kohtla-Järve power vacuum now into its third month

Virve Linder talking to AK on December 29,2022. Kohtla-Järve city hall is in the background.
Virve Linder talking to AK on December 29,2022. Kohtla-Järve city hall is in the background. Source: Rene Kundla/ERR

A power vacuum in the eastern Estonian city of Kohtla-Järve has lasted two months now, with incumbent mayor Virve Linder (Isamaa) still in the process of forming up a new city government to replace the last one, which departed wholesale following a corruption scandal.

Linder told ETV news show "Aktuaalne kaamera" (AK) that she has selected three candidates for the city council committees, adding she hopes that they will receive the approval of the council in the new year."

Part of the problem is the image the city now has of being in turmoil, both politically and economically, in the wake of the fallout from the collapse of the last city government, council leadership and city administration, all of it linked to local businessman Nikolai Ossipenko, who effectively runs the town of 35,000 people.

"I would be telling lies if I said that it is easy to attract people to work for Kohtla-Järve city government in the current situation, since we're talking about a politically extremely unstable situation, and it is no secret to anyone that the city is in a very difficult economic situation too," she said.

The heads of three committees were elected at a Kohtla-Järve council meeting held on Thursday.

"I am very satisfied with these results, because they clearly showed that those council members who have had criminal suspicions placed against them were not elected as committee chairs."

Council chair Hendrik Agur (Restart Kohtla-Järve) concurred, telling AK that: "This represents a healthy trend, because everyone equally understands that as long as there are suspicions in place, it is not reasonable and apparently not a good thing that these people hold leading positions in committees and in the management of the city."

Linder, a project manager at the Viru Prison, and Agur, were voted into their posts just over a month ago, following several weeks' stalled negotiations.

In autumn,, nine of the city's 25 councilors, along with city government officials and other local businesspeople, were effectively charged with being in Ossipenko's pocket, mainly in relation to the granting of various municipal service contracts in Kohtla-Järve and in neighboring Jõhvi.

A vote of no-confidence in late October led to the dissolution of the city government and the council leadership.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Merili Nael

Source: Aktuaalne kaamera

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