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Russian President Fires Four Regional Governors

One analyst says the move was a message that President Dmity Medvedev "is decisive and capable of such forceful moves."
MOSCOW (Reuters) -- Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has removed four regional governors following growing signs of Kremlin concern over social unrest during the global economic slowdown.

A Kremlin spokesman said Medvedev had signed decrees terminating the terms of the governors of the Orel, Pskov, and Voronezh Oblasts and the Nenets Autonomous Okrug. All four had asked to step down, the spokesman said.

A presidential decree released by the Kremlin confirmed the changes and said Medvedev had nominated Agriculture Minister Aleksei Gordeyev to take over as governor of Voronezh.

If elected by the local legislature, Gordeyev will have to step down as minister, a job he has been doing for nearly 10 years under three Russian presidents.

Russia's "Vedomosti" daily reported on February 15 the Kremlin was planning a purge of governors in regions where unemployment was high. The economic slump pushed up the national jobless rate to a 2 1/2-year high of 7.7 percent in December.

"There's an obvious nervousness at the top because of potential unrest," Masha Lipman, analyst with the Carnegie Moscow Center, a think tank, told Reuters.

"For example there's the diminished incomes, unemployment which could cause social discontent and might even evolve into a political crisis."

She said it was the first time four prominent regional leaders had been removed simultaneously.

"It's a message to the public and the elites that the president is decisive and capable of such forceful moves," she said.