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St Petersburg Governor Yakovlev Inaugurated

  • Brian Whitmore

St Petersburg, June 6 (RFE/RL) -- Nearly all of official St Petersburg was packed into the Great Hall of Marinsky Palace for the inauguration of Vladimir Yakovlev as Governor of St Petersburg.

The Chairman of the city's Legislative Assembly, Yury Kravtsov, opened yesterday's proceedings, and introduced Yakovlev, who then took the oath of office.

Following speeches by Kravtsov, Leningrad Region Governor Alexander Belyakov, Presidential Representative Sergei Tsyplyaev, Metropolitan Vladimir and other dignitaries, Yakovlev gave his inauguration speech, which was a plea for unity in the city.

Outgoing Mayor Anatoly Sobchak was conspicuous by his absence.

Our St Petersburg correspondent reports Yakovlev's speech, was short on specifics, and long on declarations. It was a forceful call for unity after a contentious and bitter campaign, an admonition to those who would divide St Petersburg and a call to action in solving the city's problems.

The new governor called for all of the divisive rhetoric of the campaign to end.

"During the election campaign there was a lot of gossip about what would happen if Yakovlev won," he said. "It would mean the end of investment, the end of reform, the end of the Olympic movement. All of this nonsense needs to end today," Yakovlev said. "We must forget what has gone before," he added in reference to the election. "We do not need political censorship in our city."

Yakovlev also thanked outgoing mayor Sobchak for all of his work for the city, but left no doubt about who is in charge now.

"I wish to express words of thanks to the first mayor of St Petersburg," he said. "He (Sobchak) has accomplished much, but an election is an election."

"I wish to warn those who would destabilize the city by unifying the democratic forces against Yakovlev," he said in reference to Sobchak's announcement Monday that he plans to attempt to unite Our Home is Russia and Russia's Democratic Choice as a local opposition party. "We do not need this. We need civic accord in the city so we live in one family."

The heart of Yakovlev's speech, however, did not focus on the past, but on the future. He called for unity among the various forces in the city and between the executive and legislative branches.

"I am certain that we will find a common language with the Legislative Assembly," he said. "I am sure of this because we have a common cause." This common cause, according to Yakovlev, is to solve the city's problems and to raise its prestige. "We must now work on the city's problems. We must talk less and do more."

According to city law, Sobchak's term of office ends and all of his government must resign from the moment Yaovlev takes the oath of office. Among Sobchak's deputies, no resignations have yet been announced and no new Yakovlev appointments have been made. It is widely assumed that his coalition partners Vychaslav Shcherbakov and Igor Artyemev will occupy posts in the new government.