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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Candidate Putin Stumps in Russia's Northwest

PETROZAVODSK, Northern Russia -- Acting President Vladimir Putin was nominated for president Wednesday by a gathering of prominent political and cultural figures and received an enthusiastic reception from revenue-hungry provincial governors during a campaign-style trip to Russia's north.

Governors of the Northwest Regional Association in Petrozavodsk, the capital of the Karelia region, couldn't get enough of the new acting president, slipping him papers, asking him for meetings in Moscow and declaring that the regions need a bigger cut of federal tax revenue.

Boris Yeltsin's resignation Dec. 31 made Putin, Yeltsin's prime minister, interim president until a special March 26 presidential election.

Scores of top politicians, business leaders and cultural figures formally nominated Putin for the special election, The Associated Press reported.

He now must formally state his consent and present half a million voter signatures by Feb. 13 in order to be registered. His backers said Wednesday they could easily beat that deadline. "I think the signature-gathering procedure will take no longer than 10 days," said Chukotka region Governor Alexander Nazarov, who joined about 200 other Putin supporters in a Moscow hotel to announce the nomination.

The elite group included the president of the Russian republic of Tatarstan, Mintimer Shaimiyev; Rem Vyakhirev, chief of gas giant Gazprom; Anatoly Chubais, who heads electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems; and theater directors Yury Lyubimov and Mark Zakharov.

Although Putin's press officials told journalists not to ask about the presidential campaign, Putin did what candidates usually do, such as visiting a children's hospital, a paper factory and a helicopter base and meeting the people.

He promised to raise the salaries of government workers, including teachers and doctors, expressing his dismay at the 500 ruble a month salaries of doctors at the hospital: "It's outrageous that the salaries of medical personnel are lower than average pensions," he said. On Tuesday, he said pensions would be raised 20 percent instead of 12 percent.

He continued working on paperwork during the meeting, signing a decree brought to him by staff. Putin's travels, including a New Year's Eve dash to visit troops in Chechnya, appear intended to contrast his vigor and capacity for full-time work to the part-time habits of the frail Yeltsin.

He got an enthusiastic greeting from the governors in the form of a statement from the association's head, St. Petersburg Governor Vladimir Yakovlev, declaring the group's support for Putin for president.

His meetings focused on how the state could help develop business in the region, which depends heavily on forest products. But he said he would "do nothing simply because it is in the interests of the election campaign." He vowed that he would not make "populist decisions."

He advocated making wood exporters invest some of their profits in domestic wood-products factories, which would let Russia capture the economic gain from producing finished products rather than being only a source of raw materials.

Regional governors, many of whom depend on the Kremlin for budget funding, have rushed to Putin's presidential banner, even though many supported the Fatherland-All Russia bloc of Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in Dec. 19 parliamentary elections.

Other declared candidates include Communist Gennady Zyuganov, State Duma Deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Yabloko party leader Grigory Yavlinsky.