Ruling party boss to head troubled Russia region: Kremlin

23rd August 2010, Comments 0 comments

President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday named the local ruling party boss to head Russia's westernmost region after the incumbent was ousted over economic problems and opposition protests.

Nikolai Tsukanov, head of the United Russia party for the Kaliningrad region, was chosen by Medvedev as his candidate to head the exclave wedged between EU members Lithuania and Poland, the Kremlin said in a statement.

The appointment now needs to be rubber-stamped by the local parliament, which is expected this week.

Kaliningrad -- part of the former German territory of East Prussia which became part of the Soviet Union after World War II -- has become a major headache for the Kremlin due to economic problems and opposition protests.

Its outgoing governor Georgy Boos was not included on the list of candidates presented by the ruling party to Medvedev, in what was seen as the most brutal ousting of a regional leader in Russia in recent times.

Boos's term in office expires at the end of next month.

"There are very many problems in the Kaliningrad region... above all unemployment," said Tsukanov in a statement posted on the United Russia website.

On January 30, more than 10,000 people attended a demonstration opposing Boos and Russia's strongman Prime Minister Vladimir Putin in Kaliningrad, the biggest protest in Russia since the economic crisis started in 2008.

Local police said 700 opposition supporters attended a similar protest on Saturday. However opposition movement Solidarnost said the protest could have mustered as many as 5,000 people.

According to the Vedomosti daily, Kaliningrad's economy contracted by 13 percent in 2009 and suffered a dramatic 30-percent drop in investment in the same period.

Tsukanov, 45, was born in the Kaliningrad region and became head of United Russia's regional branch this year.

United Russia, whose overall leader is Putin, has an overwhelming majority in Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma.

© 2010 AFP

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