Yesterday evening, following the appointment and approval of Mikhail Kasyanov as prime minister and Vladimir Ustinov as prosecutor general, President Vladimir Putin went on state television to announce that he would introduce legislation to the State Duma that would deprive regional governors of seats in the Federation Council, the upper chamber of parliament, and give the Kremlin a means to remove the governors from office and dissolve regional legislative assemblies. Calling these measures steps to “strengthen and cement Russian statehood” and fulfill “the constitutional principles of the separation of powers and the unity of the executive vertical,” Putin said the laws would allow the Kremlin to remove the regional leaders if they violated federal law and would change the way the Federation Council is formed. Putin said that regional leaders “should concentrate on the problems of their own regions,” indicating that regions would now be represented in the Federation Council by “representatives” of governors, not the governors themselves (Russian agencies, May 17). This would deprive the governors of the immunity from criminal prosecution they currently enjoy as Federation Council members (see the Monitor, May 5).
Putin made it clear that the new initiatives were a follow-up to his May 13 decree creating seven new federal districts under the control of an equal number of presidential representatives (see the Monitor, May 11, 15). While he has not yet named those representatives, some media have speculated that Viktor Cherkesov, who is currently deputy director of the Federal Security Service, will be named the presidential representative to the Northwestern district, headquartered in St. Petersburg, while Sergei Kirienko, who currently heads the Union of Right-Wing Forces, will be named presidential representative to the Privolzhsky district, headquartered in Nizhny Novgorod (Russian agencies, May 18).
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