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Putin Dismisses Ex-Tank Factory Foreman Who Offered To Help Quash Protests


Igor Kholmanskikh

Russian President Vladimir Putin has dismissed his representative in the Urals federal district, Igor Kholmanskikh -- a former tank-factory foreman Putin had elevated to the post after the obscure manager offered to help him quash opposition protests.

A decree posted on the Kremlin website on June 26 said that Putin replaced Kholmanskikh with Nikolai Tsukanov, a former Kaliningrad governor who had been his representative in northwestern Russia since 2016.

Kholmanskikh came to Putin's attention during a live TV broadcast in December 2011, amid large protests in Moscow that were attended by Russians dismayed by his plan to return to the presidency in a March 2012 vote after a stint as prime minister.

A foreman at the Uralvagonzavod tank factory in the Urals city of Niznhy Tagil, Kholmanskikh offered to travel to Moscow "with the guys" to put an end to the protests in the capital.

Putin won a third presidential term in that vote and appointed Kholmanskikh after his inauguration in May 2012, a move widely seen as a show of support for Russians outside the big cities and a demonstration of the importance he places on loyalty.

Kholmanskikh's dismissal came less than two months after Putin was sworn in to his fourth term, following a landslide victory in an election that international observers said did not offer voters a genuine choice.

Putin also replaced his envoys in two other regions of Russia, naming former Communications Minister Igor Shchyogolev as his representative in the Central region and Major General Aleksandr Matovnikov as his representative in the North Caucasus.

Matovnikov, who has taken part in Russian military operations in Syria, replaces Oleg Beloventsev.

Putin created the system of federal districts with plenipotentiaries in 2000, as he moved to increase central control over Russia's far-flung regions in his first year as president. There are now eight such districts overlying more than 80 regions.

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