Date: 17 May 2022 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński

Putin Appoints Acting Governors In Display Of Power

Frustrated at the failure of Russia’s army to quickly defeat Ukraine and Western sanctions against Moscow, the Kremlin is making efforts to consolidate its grip on the regions. Russian President Vladimir Putin made his supporters acting governors of five regions while much is now said about eliminating popular regional elections across the country.

The trial of Sergei Furgal, the former governor of the Far Eastern Khabarovsk Krai, began on May 11 in a Moscow court. His arrest and dismissal sparked mass protests in Russia’s Far Eastern region. Furgal is charged with attempted murder and ordering two killings in 2004 and 2005. He faces a life sentence if convicted. Furgal, a member of the nationalist Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, was elected in 2018 in a runoff that he won handily against the region’s longtime incumbent from the Kremlin-backed ruling United Russia party. His arrest on July 9, 2020, sparked mass protests in Khabarovsk Krai’s capital, Khabarovsk, and several other towns and cities in the region. The protests were held almost daily for many months. The Furgal case and the riots that followed might make the Kremlin introduce a new law on the pretense of an emergency amid the war with Ukraine. Recent months have seen some reports on the Kremlin’s plan to scrap direct elections in the country’s regions. In fact, before 2013, local authorities would be tasked with picking new governors––under the watchful eye of the Kremlin. Putin used the Beslan hostage-taking crisis and massacre in September 2004 to justify the end of direct elections for regional heads. Regional elections are scheduled across Russia for September 11, 2022; fifteen governors will be picked––except for the Republic of Adygea where the local parliament appoints the governor––alongside deputies to six local parliaments, twelve administrative centers, and deputies to self-government bodies. Putin has in the past often replaced officials ahead of elections with the aim of fielding stronger candidates backed by the Kremlin. That is what now happened. Russian President Vladimir Putin on May 11 appointed acting governors to five regions of the country. All five are known as strong supporters of Putin. The former governors stepped down on the same day. In the changeover, Putin named Pavel Malkov, the chairman of Russia’s Statistics Agency, as the acting governor of the Ryazan region, who replaced Nikolay Lyubimov as he announced he would not seek another term. Roman Busargin was made the acting governor of the Saratov region to replace Valery Radayev who quit. Aleksandr Sokolov became the acting governor of the Kirov region and replaced Igor Vasiliev. Vladimir Mazur is now the acting chief of the Tomsk region after Sergey Rumakhin quit the office. Last but not least, Yury Zaitsev was appointed the acting head of the Republic of Mari El.

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