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Russian Experts Assess Siberian Governor's New Post

Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonsky
Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonsky
MOSCOW -- Russian political scientists are debating the reasons behind the transfer of Novosibirsk Governor Viktor Tolokonsky to a presidential envoy post, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev appointed Tolokonsky as his presidential envoy to the Siberian Federal District on September 9. He replaces Anatoly Kvashin.

Tolokonsky, 57, had been the governor of Novosibirsk Oblast since 1999.

Political scientist Rostislav Turovsky told RFE/RL on September 10 that the appointment of Tolokonsky as a presidential envoy is a form of "honorary retirement." He said the Siberian presidential envoy "is the weakest of all envoy posts."

Turovsky told RFE/RL he thinks Tolokonsky was "retired" because of his connections with a scandal involving the Solodkin family. Novosibirsk Deputy Mayor Aleksandr Solodkin and his father, who formerly worked as an adviser to Tolokonsky, were arrested in February for allegedly aiding an organized crime unit that had operated in Novosibirsk for more than 20 years.

"[The Solodkins] were closely linked to Tolokonsky when he was mayor of Novosibirsk," Turovsky said. "And since the case is still being discussed, people started to say that maybe Tolokonsky needed to be dismissed, but honorably."

Nikolai Petrov, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow, said Tolokonsky's appointment is a positive step in the Kremlin's personnel policy.

"With this [economic] crisis and stagnation, the federal center's view of the envoys and their functions is changing," Petrov said. "Initially, Moscow needed harsh and ruthless generals to fill those posts in order to keep in line the sometimes dissenting regional leaders. Now we can see that, increasingly, people with a broad outlook and a good knowledge of economics are being demanded."

But Aleksei Mazur, a political scientist, told RFE/RL that the transfer of Tolokonsky to the post of Siberian presidential envoy is "a promotion."

"In terms of the power structure in Novosibirsk Oblast, it will stay the same and no more big changes will take place," Mazur said. "It seems that Tolokonsky and his cronies will continue to control the situation in the region."