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President Vladimir Putin on Monday signed a decree relieving Dagestan leader Magomedsalam Magomedov of his duties and transferring him to the post of deputy head of the administration of the Russian president. Lawmaker from the ruling United Russia Party Ramazan Abdulatipov has been appointed acting head of the republic. Experts believe tensions in Dagestan might mount because of the reshuffle. Magomedov has been president of Dagestan since 2010, the Novaya Izvestia reminds. His term only expires in 2015 but the rumors about his early resignation have continued unabated for the past two weeks. Magomedov's visit to the Kremlin last week added fat to the fire, although it seemed the visit had yielded no concrete results. A strange thing happened just before Putin signed the decree: on Sunday, Abdulatipov spoke in an interview to the Caucasus Politics magazine, already in the capacity of acting president of Dagestan, though Putin's spokesman Dmitry Peskov promptly tried to disavow the information.
"I believe Magomedov no longer suits the federal center," Alexei Malashenko of Carnegie Center Moscow told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper. "Firstly, there were disagreements over elections with comrades from the Kremlin. Magomedov claimed it was possible to hold direct elections of Dagestan leader and he probably had a chance to win. Others believed that direct elections were risky. So their opinions differed. Secondly, everybody in Moscow is expecting a miracle. They had appointed Alexander Khloponin presidential envoy and assumed that everything would become just fine in the North Caucasus. They keep waiting for what cannot happen - stability, security and absence of unemployment. Magomedov is not a stupid person, he's quite amiable by outward appearance, but he cannot resolve all the problems in one, two or three years."
"Magomedov has sufficient authority in the republic and if he's simply fired, Abdulatipov might fail to cope with this duties; his positions in the region are weaker compared with his predecessor's. His disappearance from politics could have provoked a new wave of ethnic conflicts, which could not be allowed," a Kommersant source in the Kremlin said. In the future, Magomedov "will remain in the government's eye," and chief of Kremlin staff Sergei Ivanov will personally supervise his work and report its results to the president, the source said. Supposedly, Magomedov will be in charge of national policy at the new post.
The newspaper does not rule out that the Dagestan might test a new system to appoint regional leader. "The Dagestan reshuffle is needed to show how the new "election" procedure works, because direct elections obviously will not be held there," the newspaper citied political scientist Rostislav Turovsky as saying. The main thing here is the "Moscow intrigue by representatives of the Caucasian community, in order to change the setup of forces and re-distribute power in the region." It will not solve the republic's problems, because "Dagestan has no leader capable of consolidating all the elites," the expert said.
"The reshuffle will not calm the republic, it will be the other way round. The replacement of the regional leader will lead to complete reshuffle of regional elites," political analyst Alexander Kynev told the Kommersant. The principle of division by the ethnic principle is not gone. An Avar is taking the helm instead of Dargin, so the premier and the speaker must be automatically replaced, too.