KYIV -- Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has dismissed the head of Kyiv's city administration and appointed his ally as the capital's new top official, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.
Presidential decrees dismissed Leonid Chernovetskyy and named Oleksandr Popov as the new head of the Kyiv city administration. No reason was given.
Chernovetskyy will remain Kyiv mayor, an elected position, his adviser said today. The two positions are separate in Kyiv.
Popov, 49, has served as Kyiv's first deputy city government head since June. Before that, he was minister for housing and communal services.
Opposition politicians and some experts in Ukraine have questioned the legality of the presidential decrees.
In 2003, the Constitutional Court ruled that only the elected mayor of Kyiv can serve as the head of the local administration.
In September 2010, the parliament amended the law on the Ukrainian capital to allow the president to appoint the chairman of the city administration in accordance with "Ukraine's Constitution and laws."
Political expert Kostyantyn Matviyenko told RFE/RL that by appointing a new city administration head, the president was showing "who is boss" in Kyiv.
Matviyenko expects that Popov, who is a member of the ruling Party of Regions, will now have more freedom in personnel and financial decisions.
In a September interview with RFE/RL, Popov said that his immediate priorities in the Kyiv city administration were ensuring drinking-water supplies for local residents and building new subway stations.
Chernovetskyy, a former banker, was first elected Kyiv mayor in 2006 and was reelected in 2008.
He made headlines by trying to introduce entrance fees for people visiting cemeteries, and was nicknamed "Сosmos" because of his erratic behavior. Once he publicly said that he would travel into space with his cat.
Law enforcement officials earlier this year started investigating the activities of several former associates of the Kyiv mayor, but not Chernovetskyy.