Gromov Said to Be Preparing for Kiev

Boris Gromov, the long-serving governor of the affluent Moscow region, is in line to become the country's next ambassador to Ukraine, national media reported Monday.

Gromov has already signed his resignation and the State Duma will consider his appointment later this week, the web site reported, citing a source close to structures tied to the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of post-Soviet states.

Sources within the Ukrainian parliament also confirmed his nomination, Ekho Moskvy reported.

Gromov, a highly decorated general who oversaw the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989, served as Commander of the Kiev Military District until 1990.

Since January 2000, he has been governor of the Moscow region, which has a population of more than six million and encircles Moscow, with area the size of Switzerland.

Spokesmen for the Moscow Region Administration and the Kremlin said Monday that they knew nothing about an imminent appointment. Repeated calls to the Foreign Ministry went unanswered.

Spokespeople for the Duma's committees on International Affairs and on the Commonwealth of Independent States also declined to comment.

The possibility of Gromov's appointment to the Kiev post was greeted unenthusiastically in some corners.

Sergei Markov, a lawmaker with the pro-Kremlin United Russia party, said that the move would be a mistake because Gromov lacked the necessary political skills.

"We should appoint a political figure as ambassador to Ukraine, and not a manager like Gromov," Markov said.

He said that the current ambassador, Viktor Chernomyrdin, a former Gazprom chairman and prime minister under President Boris Yeltsin, was chosen at a time when ties to Ukraine were governed by economic issues, but that after the 2004 Orange Revolution, which brought pro-Western President Viktor Yushchenko to power, an international relations expert who can also understand the tactics of political spin is needed in Kiev.

"Gromov has no experience in this field," he said.

Chernomyrdin, 70, was appointed in 2001. He recently underwent surgery and will be recalled for health reasons, reported.

Dmitry Oreshkin, the head of Mercator, a think tank, said Gromov's only experience in foreign policy was leading the Soviet Army in Afghanistan.

"If he is appointed, this means that [better] relations with Ukraine are not a direction that Russia wants to develop diplomatically," Oreshkin said.

Alexander Dergachyov, an analyst with the Institute of Political and Ethno-national studies of the Ukrainian Academy of Science, said that appointing Gromov would signal that Moscow was sticking to its current course in diplomatic relations with Kiev.

"Gromov is not a diplomat, but an anti-diplomat," Dergachyov said by telephone from Kiev. "He is not a politician."

Dergachyov argued that Russian ambassadors usually had little decision-making powers, as most matters were solved at governmental levels.

Valery Ryazansky, a United Russia Duma deputy and senior party official, said he thought Gromov would make a good candidate, however.

"He is a well-balanced politician and knows the country very well because he headed the Ukrainian military district," Ryazansky said. "I think the Duma would support him."