Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 99

President Vladimir Putin yesterday named seven men to serve as his representatives in seven newly created federal districts. General Viktor Kazantsev, commander of the North Caucasus Military District, will be the presidential representative in the North Caucasus district (headquartered in Rostov-on-Don). General Konstantin Pulikovsky, deputy commander of the North Caucasus Military District, who was deputy commander of the Russian forces in Chechnya during the 1994-1996 war, will represent the president in the Far Eastern district (Khabarovsk). Viktor Cherkesov, deputy director of the Federal Security Service, will be in charge of the Northwestern district (St. Petersburg). Georgy Poltavchenko, a KGB veteran who has headed St. Petersburg’s tax police, will supervise the Central district (Moscow). Pyotr Latyshev, a deputy interior minister, will be the presidential representative in the Urals district (Yekaterinburg). Sergei Kirienko, the former prime minister and head of the Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS), will be Putin’s representative in the Privolzhsky district (Nizhny Novgorod). Leonid Drachevsky, previously minister for the Commonwealth of Independent States will represent the president in the Siberian district (Novosibirsk) (Moscow Times, May 19; see the Monitor, May 11, 15, 18).

Many commentators have noted the distinctly military/security cast of the presidential representatives, given that only two of them, Kirienko and Drachevsky, are civilians. Some of the more cynical observers even downplayed the significance of the civilian appointments. One newspaper wrote today that Kirienko was probably appointed simply to give Putin’s federal reorganization initiative a “light liberal coloring” and to “remove” him from Moscow to the Privozhsky district, where he will likely get “bogged down.” The Privozhsky district includes Tatarstan and Bashkortostan–two tough nuts to crack (Segodnya, May 19). Kirienko, it should be noted, is a native of the Privozhsky district’s center–Nizhny Novgorod. Boris Nemtsov, who is also a leader of the SPS, said he was glad to see Kirienko appointed as a presidential representative. Nemtsov, however, criticized the fact that five of the representatives are military or security service officials, saying there should have been “more politicians and fewer generals” (Russian agencies, May 18).

Putin has also said that he will introduce legislation which would allow the Kremlin to remove regional leaders who violate the law and would deprive them of their right to sit in the Federation Council, the parliament’s upper chamber, automatically. Surprisingly, some of the country’s major regional leaders, including Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev, said that they approved of the latter idea. “Tatarstan is prepared to elect predictable people who aren’t weaker than Shaimiev to the upper house,” the Tatarstan leader said. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, however, said the change would violate the spirit of Russia’s constitution (Russian agencies, May 18). Various regional leaders, meanwhile, have come out against some of the other proposals. Yuri Spiridonov, head of the Komi republic, spoke out yesterday against the introduction of new presidential representatives, saying that they would end up carrying out the will of the presidential administration, not the head of state himself (Russian agencies, May 18). Yegor Stroev, head of the Federation Council, is reportedly planning to insist on a “compromise,” whereby the regional heads will agree that they can be removed by the president–and, accordingly, have the right to remove mayors, as Putin has promised–but will retain their Federation Council seats, which come with immunity from criminal prosecution (Segodnya, May 19).