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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Matviyenko Wants a Piece of the State Pie

A debate is under way whether to move the country's highest courts from Moscow to St. Petersburg -- and the Central Bank to Krasnoyarsk and the Cabinet to Yekaterinburg.

Newly elected St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matviyenko is pushing to move the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court and the Supreme Arbitration Court to the imperial capital.

Matviyenko told reporters Friday that the issue is being considered by federal authorities and it is now up to the president to nix or back the plan.

Vremya Novostei reported that the plan has made so much progress that authorities are looking at two buildings in downtown St. Petersburg that could potentially house the courts.

Matviyenko said the relocations would raise St. Petersburg's status and benefit the city in other ways. She did not elaborate.

State Duma Deputy Valery Galchenko, a proponent of moving some state agencies out of Moscow, said the creation of several political, judicial and business centers in the country would give regional economies a shot in the arm and help consolidate the nation.

Galchenko submitted a bill to the Duma on Oct. 1 that, if passed, would put the seat of the Cabinet in Yekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains, the Central Bank in Krasnoyarsk in western Siberia and the Constitutional Court in Vladivostok in the Far East.

Analysts dismissed the notion that putting the judicial branch in St. Petersburg would translate into more money for the city.

"I don't think this would increase investment attractiveness and revitalize economic life," said Konstantin Simonov, head of the Center for Current Politics in Russia think tank. "The status of the judicial system in the hierarchy of power is not that high."

He said he believed Matviyenko's drive to move the courts is an attempt to show off her clout with federal authorities.

The Supreme Court also does not appear to be open to the proposal. "I don't know any of my colleagues who would embrace the idea," Supreme Court Judge Vladimir Koval told Izvestia last week.

He said many of the court's 100 judges and 450 assistants and consultants would not agree to move to another city and this would mean due process would be interrupted as replacements were recruited and trained.

Veniamin Yakovlev, chairman of the Supreme Arbitration Court, reiterated the concerns in an interview published in Gazeta last Thursday.

Reached by telephone Friday, Constitutional Court officials refused to comment about the plan.

Critics argue that the biggest downside about the move would be the cost. Judges would have to be given new apartments, and prosecutors and other federal officials would have to travel from Moscow to attend hearings.

Mikhail Barshchevsky, the Cabinet's representative to the Constitutional, Supreme and Supreme Arbitration courts, told Izvestia that such expenses would be "unjustified" and the move "inexpedient."

"The outlays may exceed the hoped-for effect," Simonov agreed.