* Putin humiliates once-mighty oligarch in public
* Premier hands out tongue-lashing to Deripaska, businessmen
* Move comes as business leaders gather in St Petersburg
(Pvs MOSCOW, Adds details, spokesman's quote, background)
By Oleg Zagoruyko
PIKALYOVO, Russia, June 4 Russian Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin publicly humiliated a top oligarch on Thursday,
accusing him and other factory owners in a crisis-hit town of
greed and likening them to "cockroaches".
Putin, playing on the anger of protesting workers in the
town of Pikalyovo, forced Oleg Deripaska, a top metals tycoon
and once Russia's richest man, to sign a contract for supplies
to help idle factories restart operations.
"You have made thousands of people hostage to your
ambitions, your lack of professionalism -- or maybe simply your
trivial greed," Putin told Deripaska and two other businessmen
who own cement and alumina factories in the town.
"Where is the social responsibility of business ?", he said
in the confrontation broadcast on national television.
Putin travelled to Pikalyovo, where hungry workers blocked a
motorway this week to protest over unpaid salaries, as world
business leaders gathered for Russia's premier annual economic
summit in St Petersburg, 270 km (170 miles) away.
He rounded on Deripaska and the two other businessmen,
making a veiled threat to expropriate their property unless they
sorted out the situation quickly.
"Why was everyone running around like cockroaches before my
arrival? Why was no one capable of taking decisions?" Putin said
as Deripaska stared blankly.
"Has Oleg Vladimirovich (Deripaska) signed? I do not see
your signature. Come here and sign it," Putin said, throwing a
pen dismissively onto the table.
His head hanging low, the once-mighty oligarch walked up to
the premier's table, read the document covering raw material
supplies to the factories and added his signature.
After the meeting, workers cheered Putin and shouted
"Hurrah" as he told them the problems at the plants had been
resolved. Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the premier had
been "quite strict".
"The signal here is simple. The crisis and other
difficulties cannot serve as an indulgence from social
responsibility and you cannot solve your problems without taking
care of people, you cannot try to put all responsibilities on
the shoulders of the state," Peskov said.
"They (businessmen) were not thinking about people at all.
There was no hot water, heating, people were not working and
were not getting their salaries..."
RESIDENTS IN POVERTY
Residents in Pikalyovo called on the authorities to
intervene after all three factories in the town halted work and
stopped paying full wages. Trade unions say about half the
23,000 inhabitants of Pikalyovo are living in poverty.
Russia is facing its worst recession in a decade and has 7.7
million unemployed, raising fears of unrest and threatening
Putin's main legacy in his previous role as president, eight
years of steadily rising prosperity.
Putin also told the businessmen to clear debts of 41 million
roubles ($1.33 million) by the end of the day and threatened
nationalisation unless the factories' owners solved the
"If the owners cannot agree among themselves, then the ...
complexes will be restarted anyway," Putin said. "If you cannot
agree among yourselves it will be done without you."
Lawmakers from Russia's ruling party on Wednesday had
introduced a bill to nationalise the three factories. It was not
clear whether that legislation would go forward.
Deripaska, last year estimated by Forbes to be worth $28
billion, has lost most of his fortune in the crisis and is
trying to restructure billions of dollars of loans owed by his
flagship company UC Rusal to Western creditors.
UC Rusal, in which Deripaska is the largest shareholder, is
the world's biggest aluminium producer.
(Writing by Michael Stott and Conor Humphries; editing by