Authorities Rethink Dagestani Appointment

Federal authorities have backed down on their decision to select Vladimir Radchenko as Dagestan's new tax chief after ethnic tensions over the appointment prompted street protests, a tax official said Thursday.

Radchenko has already left Dagestan as a result of not being able to fulfill his duties, the tax official in the Dagestani branch of the Federal Tax Service told The Moscow Times by telephone from Makhachkala.

The reversal came after President Dmitry Medvedev met with Dagestani President Mukhu Aliyev in the Kremlin on Wednesday. Officials close to Aliyev said Medvedev agreed to recall the tax chief and allow Aliyev to chose his own candidate, Gazeta.ru reported.

Radchenko's appointment, which came into force on Feb. 2, led to mass street protests by local residents, who demanded that an ethnic Lezgin be named as tax chief. In clannish and multiethnic Dagestan, local authorities preserve a balance of power between ethnic groups by dividing government posts among their representatives. The previous head of the tax office, who quit in November, was an ethnic Lezgin.

Last week, Radchenko was briefly abducted from his Makhachkala office by unidentified armed men who threatened him with a gun and demanded that he leave Dagestan.

Dagestani authorities apparently also resisted the appointment of an outsider to the post. Radchenko previously headed the tax office in Kabardino-Balkaria.

The Kremlin had to back down or face turmoil that would inevitably result in Aliyev's resignation, said Alexei Makarkin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies.

"The Caucasus are a very unstable region, and it's very important not to act aggressively," he said.