Leader of oil-rich Russian region stands down

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The long-serving president of Russia's oil-rich Bashkortostan republic resigned on Thursday, after ruling the region as its president since the fall of the Soviet Union.

Murtaza Rakhimov, 76, was elected president of the oil-rich republic in central Russia in 1993 and had held onto office ever since as one of the strongman leaders of Russia's regions.

Rakhimov handed his resignation to President Dmitry Medvedev, who in televised remarks thanked him for his "huge work" and said that Bashkortostan was "well developed as a whole" and had a "high standard of living."

Medvedev nominated Rustem Khamitov, a top manager at RusGidro state hydroelectric company, as acting president, Russian news agencies reported.

The widely anticipated announcement came after the head of the Russian presidential administration Sergei Naryshkin said on Tuesday after meeting Rakhimov that he would not stand for another presidential term.

Rakhimov's latest term ended in October 2011.

International observers criticised Rakhimov's election victory in 2003 for fraud. Rakhimov is also slammed by opposition politicians for his family's control over the republic's oil refining industry.

His son, Ural Rakhimov, was listed as Russia's 54th richest businessman by the Russian edition Forbes magazine this year, with a fortune of 1.2 billion dollars from controlling stakes in oil refining companies.

Rakhimov served as an MP until stepping down last week in what was described as a voluntary decision.

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.

© 2010 AFP

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