Could there be a harder job in the world than the one facing Alexander Khloponin, the Siberian governor and former head of the Norilsk Nickel company who was named Tuesday a special envoy to Russia’s troubled North Caucasus region by Russian President Dmitri Medvedev? As one Russia watcher pointed out Wednesday, other appointees to the region have a pretty dubious record. Yunus-Bek Yevkurov, whom Medvedev dubbed president of Ingushetia in 2008, survived an assassination attempt last summer. Government officials are regularly targeted in terrorist attacks.
The Kremlin also reorganized its stewardship of the region by creating the new North Caucasus Federal District. Comprised of Chechnya, Dagestan, Ingushetia, and several neighboring territories, the creation of the new district is part of the Kremlin’s effort to stabilize the war-torn region by boosting economic development.
“He has important experience as a politician and a businessman. He ran an economically and socially developed region. He is a man who knows how to develop a region,” said Grigory Shvedov, editor-in-chief of the Caucasian Knot Internet news agency.
“The key questions is Khloponin’s mandate. Will he have more powers than the president’s (other) envoys to the Caucasus? He needs this to be able to resolve the region’s problems promptly.”
One of the region’s many problems includes rampant corruption. While Khloponin says “I don’t see any problems we can’t solve,” critics are skeptical.
“If Khloponin starts solving the region’s financial problems he’ll either be bought off or killed,” Natalya Zubarevich, head of regional studies at Moscow’s Independent Institute for Social Policy, told Business Week. “Someone with a background in business management isn’t the best person for such a tough area.”
Last week, Bloomberg reported that Russia’s so-called “shadow economy“–the illegal trade of everything from guns and drugs to gardening equipment–represents up to 20 percent of the country’s gross domestic product. And Russian Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika recently announced that corruption charges were brought against more than 800 senior officials from Russia’s federal and regional governments in the first nine months of last year.
On Monday, Medvedev admitted that corruption was a significant issue and vowed to fix it.