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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Picks Safonov to Tackle Far East

President Vladimir Putin has appointed Oleg Safonov as presidential envoy to the Far East Federal District, the Kremlin said in a statement Wednesday.

Safonov, like Putin, served in the intelligence services in the 1980s. Putin signed the decree officially appointing Safonov to the new post on Monday, the Kremlin said on its web site.

"You are heading to one of the most difficult and most important regions for the country," Putin told Safonov on Tuesday, Interfax reported. "Decriminalizing the region will be one of your priority tasks."

Despite being rich in mineral resources, fish and timber, the Far East remains one of the country's most depressed regions -- a black spot on the overall picture of economic growth seen during Putin's eight-year presidency.

Safonov had served as deputy interior minister since his appointment in November 2006.

(MT, Reuters)