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MOSCOW, May 21 (Itar-Tass) — Russian President Vladimir Putin appointed Igor Kholmanskikh, a workshop manager at the Uralvagonzavod machine building plant in the Urals, to the position of the Plenipotentiary Representative in the Urals Federal District. This appointment was met with bewilderment in expert community and stirred up discontent in the region.
This appointment caused such a bewilderment that five experts well-in with top-ranking officials refuse to provide any comment, the RBC daily writes. “Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev promised changes in the power bodies, and I think Kholmanskikh is the first swallow,” said Sergei Guriyev, the rector of the Russian Economic School and a member of the Dmitry Medvedev’s “open government” working group. “This appointment is a response to popular discontent. Will a workshop manager work up to the expectations? I don’t think the answer matters.”
Kholmanskikh’s dramatic career jump was taken warily both in the political and expert communities. This appointment, the Kommersant writes, is a signal to both the opposition and elites. According to political scientist Dmitry Oreshkin, Vladimir Putin, has once again “demonstrated the federal centre’s disdain to regional problems,” although elites are unlikely to offer any articulated protest. The view was shared by professor of the Moscow State University Rostislav Turovsky, who called this appointed as Putin’s “attempt to humiliate” regional elites. Local elites, however, might simply ignore the new presidential envoy until the federal centre strengthens his team, he added. “If Kholmanskikh asked the president to sack anyone and appoint someone from his team, or if he were a governor who has real financial flows in his hands, the reaction would be totally different. On the contrary, he embodies the people who support the authorities’ policy and are against any revolution threats,” Alexei Makarkin, a vice president of the Centre for Political Technologies, told the newspaper.
According to director of the Institute of Election Technologies Yevgeny Suchkov, Putin “wanted to bring it home that he would appoint to top positions proceeding from the principle of personal loyalty, paying next to no attention to education, experience, or intellectual properties.” According to Olga Kryshtanovskya, a sociologist specializing in the study of elites, the country’e elite will take this appointment with understanding. “Sure, a couple of people, who sought to occupy this position, were upset at this appointment. But in general everybody is aware that in order to survive Putin needs to have a grass-roots response and to hear people’s aspirations for renovation,” she said.
Vladimir Putin has relaxed so much that is handing out government posts as a gratitude for personal participation in his canvassing campaign, the Izvesyia daily cited political scientist Stanislav Belkovsky.
Director of the Levada Centre polling agency Lev Gudkov, in a comment to the Vedomosti newspaper, called this appointment a purely populist move geared towards the opposition. Analyzing the reasons underlying this appointment, the newspaper says it is a many-moved game. First, the appointment is a tribute publically paid to a man who embody the working class support to Putin. Second, it is a promise to all who would openly support the new president: the authorities will not leave a favour unanswered. Third, it is a signal that political lifts are available to all. Fourth, it is a message to enemies – opposition activists and protesters, whose rallies Kholmanskikh promised to disperse “with his guys.”
Apart from that, this appointment demonstrates that Putin is all alone and has no one to rely upon in the current political elite. Amid traitors and thieves, the only hope, like in the glorious Soviet times, rests with the working class.
The regional elite however took this appointment as a sign of lowering role of the institute of presidential envoy in the region, the Nezavisimaya Gazeta writes. By a single resolution of the head of state, the office of the presidential envoy in the Urals has been crossed out of the list of centers of political influence. The appointment stirred up popular discontent in the region. A Saturday rally in Yekaterinburg voiced criticism of Kholmanskikh. But the rally failed to draw as many protesters as used to gather here in the winter. This appointment only caused more popular apathy, since people are getting more and more aware that they have no tools to influence politics and any further struggle is a mere waste of time.