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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

President Dismisses Governor of Amur

Kapital.zpress.ruLeonid Korotkov
President Vladimir Putin on Thursday fired the governor of the Amur region, who is facing a possible lengthy prison term on charges of abuse of office.

Putin signed a decree Thursday relieving Amur Governor Leonid Korotkov of his duties due to a "loss of presidential confidence," the Kremlin said on its web site.

Korotkov, whom Putin nominated for a second term in February 2005, was charged last week with illegally increasing utility tariffs from 2003 to 2006 to finance the Blagoveshchensk-based football club Amur. He also was charged with mismanaging $4.8 million from regional coffers, the Prosecutor General's Office said.

Korotkov remains free on bail, but if convicted, he faces up to 14 years in prison.

Korotkov maintained his innocence in a statement posted on the Amur regional government's web site Thursday.

"It is sad that the president, occupied with important state affairs, has not taken the opportunity to meet me in person and listen to my point of view," Korotkov said.

In a separate decree Thursday, Putin appointed Alexander Nesterenko, Korotkov's deputy head of agriculture, as acting governor of the region.

Korotkov became the third governor to be axed by Putin since a Kremlin-backed law came into effect in December 2004 empowering the president to single-handedly remove governors from their posts. It was adopted in the aftermath of the Beslan terrorist attack under the pretext of improving security.

Previously the president was required to obtain approval from the regional parliament in order to remove a governor.

In March 2006, Putin fired Koryaksky autonomous district Governor Vladimir Loginov. Five months later, he fired Yamal-Nenets autonomous district Governor Alexei Barinov, who had been charged with fraud and embezzlement.

The official explanation for Loginov's sacking was that he failed to provide heating to local residents during the winter, while the Kremlin cited a "loss of confidence" as the reason for Barinov's dismissal.

Criminal charges do not appear to result automatically in a "loss of confidence" in governors. Over the past two years, Yaroslavl Governor Anatoly Lisitsyn, Kamchatka Governor Mikhail Maskovtsev and Khakasia Governor Alexander Lebed have all been charged with abuse of office. None of them, however, was fired by Putin, and the charges were eventually dropped in all three cases.

Rostislav Turovsky, an analyst with the Agency for Regional Studies, a Moscow-based think tank, called the removal of Korotkov "an exercise in power" by Putin aimed at keeping governors loyal.

While almost every governor could be investigated for abuse of office, the Kremlin is sticking with isolated but demonstrative cases rather than initiating a wider crackdown, which could stir a rebellion among regional bosses, Turovsky said.