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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kozak Gains Power in North Caucasus

North Caucasus presidential envoy Dmitry Kozak has been granted oversight over federal spending in the region, giving him greater power to introduce economic and social reforms.

Wednesday's decree, issued by President Vladimir Putin, sets up the Commission for Improving the Socio-Economic Situation in the Southern Federal District.

As chairman, Kozak will oversee requests for federal funds. This will enable Kozak to exercise broad authority over his district's 13 regions.

"It gives Kozak more leverage with the administrations," said a federal government official involved in the creation of the Southern Federal District commission. "The commission will become an instrument for implementing the social and economic policy of the federal government." The official asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to discuss presidential decrees.

The federal official also noted Kozak's authority exceeded that of presidential envoys from the six other federal districts.

The commission will not only be an instrument for implementing federal policy. It will also serve as a forum for regional governors to lobby for various interests -- from pet projects to streamlining federal agencies.

The commission will include regional governors, financial and social-policy ministers, the chief of the presidential administration's personnel department, and a deputy interior minister.

On Thursday, the presidential press service posted a short statement saying Putin had signed the decree setting up the commission. The decree itself was not posted on the web site.

Until earlier this year, Kozak chaired a commission that was empowered to coordinate federal spending in the region but did not have any say in local administrations' request for funds or the allocation of that money.

But in February, Putin issued a decree establishing the National Anti-Terrorism Committee, which grouped all federal law enforcement agencies under one roof. The decree also called on these agencies to submit proposals for the future Southern Federal District commission; agencies were expected to report in two weeks, but it took seven months to form the panel.

Resistance from regional authorities and bureaucratic obstacles slowed down establishment of the commission, the federal government official said.

Kozak has encountered local resistance before. Last year, the heads of North Caucasus republics, which are heavily dependent on federal support, derailed the presidential envoy's proposal which stated that all regions in which federal subsidies accounted for at least 80 percent of the budget must be managed by federal authorities.

This time, the presidents of the North Caucasus had no choice but to grin and bear it. North Ossetia's Taimuraz Mansurov and Ingushetia's Murat Zyazikov said they welcomed the commission, Interfax reported. Eduard Urazaev, spokesman for the president of Dagestan, refused to comment. Chechen President Alu Alkhanov was unavailable for comment Thursday because, his spokesman said, he was at the scene of an attack on local policemen.