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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chernomyrdin Fired as Envoy to Kiev

RIA-NovostiMedvedev giving Chernomyrdin a medal at a Kremlin ceremony on May 20.��
President Dmitry Medvedev has dismissed Russia's long-serving ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, months before the presidential elections in a country that handles most of the Russian gas transit to the European Union.

Chernomyrdin's replacement, who hasn't been named yet, may pursue a tougher Moscow line in relations with Kiev but display more courtesy and be more public in promoting the Russian policy, observers said.

Medvedev ordered the dismissal Thursday night, appointing 71-year-old Chernomyrdin as special presidential envoy for economic cooperation with the Commonwealth of Independent States, or CIS, the loose group of former Soviet republics.

In the same decree, Medvedev canceled the position of a special presidential envoy for developing trade and economic ties with Ukraine, which Chernomyrdin also held.

Russia's choice for the new ambassador will probably reflect the frostier relations between the two neighbors after the 2004 Orange Revolution that brought more pro-Western political leaders to power in Kiev, said Vladimir Zharikhin, deputy director of the CIS Institute, a think tank. That person will also have to bring a more diplomatic style to the job, as opposed to Chernomyrdin's colorful but sometimes offensive language and overall lack of public statements and appearances, Zharikhin said.

"The style will be less of behind-the-scenes stuff and more about openness … and conformity with the traditional diplomacy, including ethic rules," he said Sunday. "An ambassador must be reserved about his feelings and emotions. Aphorisms are good but not enough."

Chernomyrdin said in one of his most recent newspaper interviews, in February, that Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko and Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko "fight like cats and dogs," prompting an official reprimand from Kiev.

Russia could appoint a "tougher diplomat" to represent Moscow's more aggressive foreign policy, said Grigory Perepelitsa, director of the Foreign Policy Institute at the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry's Diplomatic Academy.

"For us, the next ambassador will obviously be more difficult and more of a problem than Chernomyrdin," he said, Interfax reported.

Chernomyrdin was willing to seek compromises, he said.

The new ambassador will likely have the task of making clear Russia's preferences for the next Ukrainian president. The parliament will soon call a presidential election for some time at the end of this year or the start of next year.

The chairman of the Ukrainian parliament's international relations committee, Oleh Bilorus, named Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin as a possible candidate for the posting.

Interfax, however, cited "well-informed" Russian sources as saying Karasin was not in the running. They declined to give any names.

Chernomyrdin is a former head of the Soviet gas monopoly that later became Gazprom and a longtime prime minister under former President Boris Yeltsin.

Despite his history with Gazprom, Chernomyrdin's role in the recent gas disputes with Ukraine that left European countries without heat during the winter months was limited, at least publicly.

His stint as ambassador passed the eight-year mark on May 30.

The dismissal came after vigorous denials in December that he was on his way out.

Reacting to speculation about Chernomyrdin's departure, Karasin called it "media brouhaha" and "blatantly offensive."

Chernomyrdin bid farewell at a Kiev reception on Thursday dedicated to the Russia Day holiday.

"My presence here is drawing to an end, but I don't regret the years that I spent in Ukraine," he told the guests. "Thank you for everything."