Kremlin Fires 4 Governors, Gordeyev

President Dmitry Medvedev dismissed four governors and demoted Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeyev in an unprecedented shuffle Monday that analysts said smacked more of a publicity stunt than an anti-crisis measure.

Medvedev ousted the governors of the Oryol, Pskov and Voronezh regions and the Nenets autonomous district and proposed that Gordeyev become the Voronezh governor, the Kremlin said.

No successor was immediately named to the Agriculture Ministry, where Gordeyev has served since 1999.

Gordeyev welcomed the shuffle, saying a decade was a long time to serve as minister and his reappointment coincided with his own wishes.

"For almost 10 years, I have been ruling a major economic sector, the agricultural sector. Based on managerial criteria, I think this is the maximum term for holding an office," Gordeyev said, Interfax reported.

By firing four governors in a single day, Medvedev appears to be trying to show the population that he is involved actively in managing the country, said Rostislav Turovsky, a regions analyst with State University -- Higher School of Economics.

Medvedev hinted that he was ready to make tough personnel decisions in a televised address Sunday.

"It is impossible to pat someone on the head and say, 'You know, you need to pull up your socks,'" Medvedev said, speaking about ineffective civil servants during the economic crisis. "We will be obliged to make some important decisions if previously adopted laws are not implemented."

Kremlin deputy chief of staff Vladislav Surkov, who oversees domestic policy, told reporters Monday that the latest rotation of governors would not evolve into a "campaign" to shake up regional administrations.

"This doesn't mean that there is a certain plan," Surkov said, Interfax reported. "One should not believe that such a plan is being developed."

The Kremlin's press service said the four governors -- Yegor Stroyev of Oryol, Mikhail Kuznetsov of Pskov, Vladimir Kulakov of Voronezh and Valery Potapenko of Nenets -- had submitted their resignations.

Stroyev, 72, is one of the country's oldest governors, heading Oryol since 1993 and simultaneously serving as Federation Council speaker from 1996 to 2001. He was appointed to his current term by then-President Vladimir Putin in 2005, and it was to expire in April.

Medvedev appointed Deputy Agriculture Minister Alexander Kozlov as acting governor and nominated his candidacy as governor to the regional legislature.

Stroyev's spokesman Nikolai Pyanov refused to comment, saying he had no documents confirming the governor's resignation.

Medvedev proposed Gordeyev's candidacy to Voronezh lawmakers.

Medvedev named Deputy Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Fyodorov as acting Nenets governor and Federation Council Senator Andrei Turchak as acting Pskov governor.

Pskov governor's spokesman Maxim Kostikov was unavailable for comment Monday, said a spokeswoman in his office. Spokeswomen for the Nenets and Voronezh governors declined comment.

Pskov's outgoing governor, Kuznetsov, 40, was a co-founder of MDM-Bank and a State Duma deputy from 1995 to 2003. He was elected governor in a popular vote in December 2004, and he joined United Russia in July of the following year. His term was to have expired in December.

Kulakov, 64, a former head of the counterintelligence department at the Voronezh branch of the KGB, was elected governor of Voronezh in 2000 and re-elected in 2004. His current term was to expire in March.

Potapenko, 50, a career intelligence service officer, served in St. Petersburg and the Leningrad region from 1992 to 2004 and then as a chief federal inspector in the presidential envoy's office to Nenets until August 2006, when Putin named him governor. His term was to expire in August 2011.

The dismissals show that the Kremlin only tolerates governors whose power dates back to the time of President Boris Yeltsin in rich regions like Moscow, Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, said Alexei Titkov, a researcher with the Institute for Regional Studies.

"Stroyev's Oryol region is not so crucial, and rumors of the Stroyev's imminent departure have circulated since he hit 70 in 2007," he said.

The three other governors have failed to build strong ties with the Kremlin and to effectively manage local elites, analysts agreed.

This particularly concerns Nenets, where elections for the regional legislature are scheduled for March 1, Titkov said.

The choice of candidates to replace the outgoing governors indicates that Medvedev still has not compiled a list of clear criteria for recruiting civil servants, despite his rhetoric about the need to develop a pool of highly professional managers, Turovsky said.

He called Turchak's nomination to Pskov a "manifestation of lobbying" and a "cadre experiment."

Turchak's father, Anatoly, is reportedly a close ally of Putin's, and the two helped lead the St. Petersburg branch of Our Home Is Russia, then the party of power, in the mid-1990s. The political career of the younger Turchak began in 2005 when he was put in charge of United Russia's youth politics.

Both Turovsky and Titkov called Gordeyev's appointment a demotion.

One of the longest-serving members of the Cabinet, Gordeyev has failed to offer any promising strategy to develop the agricultural sector, the analysts said.

It was unclear Monday who would replace Gordeyev as agriculture minister. The ministry asked that questions be sent by e-mail, and it did not reply to a request for comment sent Monday afternoon.

Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov was unavailable for comment, and his cell phone was out of coverage.

Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov welcomed the governor reshuffle as timely but said he wished Medvedev had picked candidates more open to "socialism and democracy," Interfax reported.

Liberal Democrat Party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky said he was pleased with the president's choices, saying Medvedev should replace 90 percent of Russia's 83 regional leaders within two years.