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Backgrounder On Crimea's New Prime Minister


Kiev, March 4 (RFE/RL) - After more than a month of debate, Crimea's Parliament has elected a new Prime Minister. Arkady Demydenko had been acting Prime Minister for several months, and had been a Deputy Prime Minister in the government of former Prime Minister Anatoly Franchuk.

Franchuk was dismissed in December for his alleged pro-Kiev sympathies. Franchuk has now been elected as a member of Ukraine's Parliament.

Our Kiev correspondent cites observers who say Demydenko's election last week is expected to improbe Kiev-Simferopol relations. Demydenko is a 46-year-old engineer, who is considered a moderate.

He was born in the Kiev region. He graduated from the Leningrad Rail Institute. Demydenko began his career as a railroad electrician and eventually became first secretary of the rail regional communist party, and chief of the Sevastopol Regional Party Organization.

Demydenko was a Deputy Minister in the government of Crimea's former President Yuri Meshkov. But Meshkov fired Demydenko, citing his pro-Kiev views.

Despite his communist party background, Demydenko now is not a member of any party.

The member of Ukraine's cabinet who deals with organizational issues (Minister of the Cabinet of Ministers), Valery Pustovoytenko, characterizes Demydenko as an experienced politician, who can consolidate Crimean society. Pustovoytenko also said Demydenko's election as Prime Minister is a "constructive step toward improving relations between Kiev and Simferopol."

Ukraine's President Leonid Kuchma has also expressed satisfaction with Demydenko's election.

Demydenko has stated that he will be submitting proposals for structural changes in the peninsula's government, which, he says, will be followed by changes in personnel.

Demydenko has also promised to pursue greater economic independence for Crimea, particularly through developing offshore oil-and-gas deposits, and alternative energy sources.
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