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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Novgorod Governor Submits Resignation

Ekho MoskvyMikhail Prusak
Just over two months after being criticized by the presidential envoy to the Northwest Federal District, Novgorod region governor Mikhail Prusak, one of the country's longest serving regional leaders, resigned unexpectedly Friday.

President Vladimir Putin has appointed Deputy Agriculture Minister Sergei Mitin as acting governor. The regional parliament will meet on Tuesday to vote on his confirmation, Anatoly Boitsov the speaker of the parliament, was quoted as saying by Interfax on Sunday.

The announcement of Prusak's resignation was posted on the Kremlin web site late Friday.

Oleg Onishchenko, chief federal inspector in the region, told NTV that Ilya Klebanov, President Vladimir Putin's envoy to the Northwest Federal District, had experienced no problems with Prusak, but analysts said there was little doubt that the governor was forced out.

"He took the hints from the presidential administration," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank.

Prusak's departure was preceded by the resignation of two of his deputies, growing tension with the mayor of the city of Novgorod and pointed criticism from Klebanov.

Klebanov criticized what he called the region's "criminal environment" during a visit to Novgorod at the beginning of June to discuss law and order in the region, according to his web site.

"Extortion, murder, arson and raiding" are all used in business competition in the Novgorod region, Klebanov said.

There was no answer at the envoy's office Sunday.

"We saw the news on television," a woman who picked up the phone at Prusak's office said before hanging up.

Two of Prusak's deputies, Nikolai Ivankov and Nikolai Renkas, resigned in recent months. Ivankov is currently under investigation for fraud and abuse of office.

Prusak, 47, who has been in power since 1991, was re-elected three times by huge margins -- in 1995, 1999 and 2003.

"He never got less than 70 percent," Pribylovsky said. "Even if you count 10 percent of that as fraud, that is still popular."

"He had a reputation as a modernizer," said Pribylovsky.

Prusak tried to open up the regional economy and turned the region into one of the leaders in the country at attracting foreign investment. Multinational Cadbury Schweppes was the highest profile of the foreign companies to open operations there.

The region, with a population of 694,700 and noted for its chemical and forest industries, attracted $861 million in foreign investment from 1994 to 2003, the region's web site says. Enterprises with some level of foreign investment produced more than 60 percent of the region's gross domestic product in 2003.

Prusak's proposed replacement, Mitin, 56, was born in Nizhny Novgorod and has worked as deputy in three different ministries under Putin.

He is a member of United Russia and will have the support of the party, State Duma speaker and United Russia leader Boris Gryzlov said Saturday.

Prusak was a leader from a different time and was unwanted by the Kremlin, Pribylovsky said. He ruled the region with an iron hand but still allowed local media some freedom, he added.

In 2000, Prusak was joined by two other governors in proposing that gubernatorial elections be scrapped, a measure that was ultimately introduced following the Beslan school hostage taking crisis in 2004.

Pribylovsky said the proposal to do away with gubernatorial votes was seen at the time as an attempt by Prusak to demonstrate his loyalty to the new president. This only worked for a while, he added.