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Russian oil region appoints new leader

Russia’s oil-rich Bashkortostan voted into office the central region’s new leader on Monday, shutting the door on the 17-year rule of an outspoken veteran of the Yeltsin era.

The parliament of Bashkortostan approved Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s choice of 55-year-old Rustem Khamitov as the leader of the largely Muslim, oil-producing region, a regional parliament spokesman said.

“Everyone voted unanimously” in favour of Khamitov’s candidacy, spokesman Marsel Vakhitov told AFP. “He assumed office.”

Murtaza Rakhimov, 76, whose latest term was to end next year, resigned last Thursday and Medvedev nominated Khamitov, deputy board chairman of state-run hydropower company RusHydro, as acting president.

Medvedev has talked of a need to recruit a new generation of political leaders and Rakhimov is the latest of a number of long-serving governors to step down this year.

Rakhimov was elected president of the oil-rich republic in 1993 and had held onto office ever since as one of the strongman leaders of Russia’s regions.

A veteran politician of the era of president Boris Yeltsin, he was one of the few regional heads to openly criticise Kremlin policies. He once famously said the ruling United Russia party headed by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin never “ruled over three hens.”

His son, Ural Rakhimov, was listed as Russia’s 54th richest businessman by the Russian edition of Forbes magazine this year, with a fortune of 1.2 billion dollars.