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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kozak Says Regions to Have New Powers

Presidential envoy Dmitry Kozak has proposed that regional leaders be given oversight of social and environmental issues, as well as some control over natural resources currently held by federal government bodies.

In return for their new powers, leaders will be required to report to the federal government on living standards in their regions and on their administration's financial position each year.

Kozak recommended that regional governments have control over land, water, forestry and natural resources, as well as oversight of health, education, roads and the environment, in return for extra funding from the federal budget, Kozak's spokesman Fyodor Shcherbakov said by telephone Thursday.

Until his appointment as President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Southern Federal District last fall, Kozak was in charge of drawing up proposals for the Kremlin on administrative reform.

"If you need to drain a swamp, you won't have to wait for months for the federal government to approve it," Shcherbakov said, adding that a bill outlining the proposals would soon be submitted to the State Duma.

But key functions, such as issuing licenses for the development of natural resources, would remain in the hands of the federal authorities, Shcherbakov said. The federal government will also retain control of local branches of law enforcement agencies, the Central Bank and the postal service, he said.

There was no immediate reaction from regional leaders to Kozak's proposal.

Alexander Remezkov, the deputy governor of one of the regions under Kozak's purview, Krasnodar, told that the bill would be submitted to the Duma by May and would likely be passed in time to take effect next year.

Kozak's proposals are in line with Putin's response to last September's attack on Beslan. Putin promised to give more powers to regional leaders, who since Jan. 1 are no longer elected by popular vote but nominated by the president and approved by regional legislatures.

On Wednesday, Putin used his new powers to dismiss the governor of the Koryaksky autonomous district, Vladimir Loginov, over a heating shortage in the Far East region.

Political analysts said that by shifting some powers to the regions, the Kremlin was shedding some unnecessary powers and making regional leaders more dependent on Moscow.

"The federal center is getting rid of the powers that it does not really need and that are not related to strengthening the presidential power vertical, a goal the Kremlin has been pursuing in recent years," said Alexei Titkov, regional politics analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center.

And giving more powers to the regions would allow the Kremlin to test regional leaders' response to the reform, Titkov said. "It is a new challenge that regional leaders may cope with, or may not," he said.

Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank, said the proposals would enable the Kremlin to hold regional leaders more accountable and provide the formal grounds to dismiss leaders if they fail to exercise their new powers properly. "Since regional leaders are all appointed and fully controlled, why not share some routine duties with them?" Pribylovsky said.