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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Putin Fires Minister in Medvedev's Cabinet

Correction appended

President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday fired Regional Development Minister Oleg Govorun, whom he had publicly chided a month earlier, and appointed the former governor of Kostroma, Igor Slyunyayev, in his stead.

Govorun, a member of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's Cabinet, had been on sick leave since late September, shortly after Putin publicly criticized his performance at a budget meeting.

The sacking comes just five months after Govorun's appointment as minister. Analysts and former top officials said Govorun might have asked to resign, being unable to fulfill Putin's orders and believing he might become a scapegoat.

"He was an experienced member of the king's court, and he probably understood that his mission was impossible," Ivan Starikov, a Federation Council senator during Putin's first presidential term and now a member of the opposition, told The Moscow Times on Wednesday.

During aSept. 19 budget meeting, Putin reprimanded Govorun andtwo other ministers forinsufficiently carrying out orders that he had signed onthe day ofhis inauguration, May 7.

"All those promises would be carried out by regions, and if governors couldn't carry them out, Govorun would become a scapegoat," Starikov said by phone.

Reports that Govorun had submitted his resignation toPutin circulated forseveral weeks, but theKremlin and the Regional Development Ministry repeatedly denied them. OnTuesday, Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, again rejected areport that Govorun had resigned.

TheKremlin said Wednesday ina brief statement onits website that Putin had signed anorder dismissing Govorun.

Two other ministers Putin reprimanded at the mid-September meeting, Labor and Social Services Minister Maxim Topilin and Education and Science Minister Dmitry Litvinov, remain in their posts.

Alexander Pochinok, labor and social development minister during Putin's first presidential term, called the dismissal a push for other ministers to work harder.

"Changing ministers after five months is extraordinary," Pochinok said. "By dismissing Govorun, the president is sending a signal that he wants to push the system to work more efficiently."

Putin greeted the newly appointed minister, Slyunyayev, at his Novo-Ogaryovo residence, outside Moscow, on Wednesday. The president urged him towork quickly andefficiently toconstruct andrepair provincial housing.

"The ministry faces many problems, but I beg you never toforget andto pay special attention toone ofthem: dilapidated andunsafe housing," Putin said during the meeting, according toa transcript onthe Kremlin's website.

"We have arelated program that allocates funding, andit is important that every ruble is spent effectively toresolve ina timely manner theproblems that have accumulated over decades," he said.

Slyunyayev praised theprogram, theHousing Reform Fund, as a"very efficient, effective tool that has helped resolve theproblem ofold anddilapidated housing inrecent years."

He said one ofhis first tasks as minister, however, would be tomake sure that housing across thecountry receives sufficient heating this winter.

Slyunyayev, anOmsk region native who turned 46 onOct. 4, graduated froma Moscow police academy with adegree inlaw andworked ata private bank inthe 1990s before entering government service. He served as deputy transportation minister from2000 to2003 and as a Federation Council senator representing theAltai region in2006.

Putin appointed him inOctober 2007 as Kostroma's governor, aposition he held until he resigned without explanation inApril.

Slyunyayev joined aflock ofgovernors leaving office ahead ofthe return ofdirect gubernatorial elections last weekend. Theearly departures allowed theKremlin toinstall new governors, thus limiting thenumber ofgubernatorial elections andensuring that allies remained inoffice.

Mikhail Vinogradov, an analyst at the St. Petersburg Politics think tank, told Kommersant FM radio Wednesday that Slyunyayev had a controversial stance during his stint in Kostroma.

"He had a reputation of being a market reformer, but his style and political views resembled those typical of a former law enforcement official," Vinogradov said.

The prime minister wished Slyunyayev well Wednesday but warned of the pressures to fulfill his duties.

"Experience has shown that the minister of regional development has to have strong nerves," Medvedev said on an official visit to the Kaliningrad region, the RBC news agency reported.

Correction: Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Ivan Starikov was prime minister during Vladimir Putin's first presidential term. In fact, Starikov was deputy economic minister under Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov at that time.

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