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Henri Kaselo elected new mayor of Kohtla-Järve

Incoming Mayor of Kohtla-Järve Henri Kaselo (SDE) with the person he replaced, Virve Linder (Isamaa), November 28, 2023.
Incoming Mayor of Kohtla-Järve Henri Kaselo (SDE) with the person he replaced, Virve Linder (Isamaa), November 28, 2023. Source: Sergei Stepanov/ERR

Henri Kaselo (SDE) has been voted in as new municipal mayor of Kohtla-Järve, Ida-Viru County.

Kohtla-Järve City Council had voted in favor of a motion no confidence in the existing city government led by mayor Virve Linder (Isamaa).

Linder, a former Viru Prison governor, attracted media attention on becoming Kohtla-Järve mayor almost exactly a year ago, a move seen at the time as a means of resolving an impasse stretching all the way back to the October 2021 local elections.

Since that time, a major corruption scandal had dogged the city of around 35,000 inhabitants, and no functioning coalition had been properly installed.

Ten deputies opposed the vote of no confidence in the city government with no abstentions, meaning it passed.

Later, 14 deputies at the 25-seat chamber voted in favor of Kaselo as mayor, with four opposed, two abstentions and four absences.

Outgoing mayor Linder made a speech in which she noted that necessary cuts in the city had been clearly stated when entering office, adding that these were necessitated by corruption and mismanagement in the town, going back to the restoration of Estonian independence in the early 1990s.

"This is not an ethnic conflict here, but a conflict of values," Linder stressed. An estimated over three-quarters of the city's inhabitants speak Russian as their native language.

Odinets, the top politician of the ruling party, is a part of the same system," he added.

The new mayor himself has said some schools and kindergartens in the jurisdiction will be closed, in order to hike teachers' wages, adding that he would also be making efforts to attract firms and investment to the area, to attract or retain younger residents, and would also make use of the EU's Just Transition Fund, which is applied to Ida-Viru County.

"Viru Keemia Grupp and other private companies operating here could give something back to the city," Kaselo went on, with reference to large firms involved in fossil fuels and other emissions-heavy industries.

Viru Keemia Grupp's (VKG) headquarters are in Kohtla-Järve.

The motion of no confidence was presented by the Center Party's leader, Sergei Lopin, last week, and was signed by several Center deputies as well as those from the Social Democrats, including MP Eduard Odinets.

In the fall of 2022, a widespread corruption scandal engulfed the bulk of the city government members, the council chair, and other officials, leading to the administration's wholesale resignation. Most of the issues related to the granting of municipal service contracts in Kohtla-Järve and in neighboring Jõhvi, and alleged favoritism over these contracts, to the benefit of local businessman Nikolai Ossipenko.


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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Mari Peegel

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