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Moscow Times
June 23, 2009
Zurabov 'Most Probable' Ambassador
By Natalya Krainova / The Moscow Times

One of the most unpopular ministers of recent years, former Health and Social Development Minister Mikhail Zurabov, is "the most probable candidate" to serve as Russia's next ambassador to Ukraine, a State Duma deputy said Monday.

Konstantin Zatulin, first deputy head of the State Duma's CIS Affairs Committee, told The Moscow Times that President Dmitry Medvedev might submit Zurabov's candidacy to his committee already this week and predicted that it would be approved because "it is not acceptable to reject a candidacy proposed by the president."

Zurabov, 55, who serves as a presidential adviser since being ousted as minister in September 2007, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Spokesmen at the Kremlin and Foreign Ministry refused to comment on who might be appointed as ambassador or when the appointment could take place.

Kommersant, citing a source close to the Kremlin, reported Monday that Zurabov had been named as a candidate three months ago.

Medvedev fired Russia's long-serving ambassador to Ukraine, Viktor Chernomyrdin, on June 11. Chernomyrdin seemed to describe Zurabov when he told a news conference in Kiev on Friday that the new ambassador would be "attractive, young, dark-haired, a former minister," RIA-Novosti reported.

Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vasil Kyrylych said Monday that the ministry had not received an official proposal from Russia about the new ambassador, Interfax reported.

Zurabov drew criticism during his stint as health and social development minister from 2004 to 2007 because he was associated with the unpopular monetization of social benefits in 2005 and changes to a state-subsidized drugs program that left thousands of people short of medicine in 2007.

Zatulin, the deputy, called Zurabov's possible appointment a "mistake," lambasting his lack of experience in Ukrainian affairs and public activities.

According to the procedure, the ambassadorial nomination for Ukraine must be considered by Zatulin's committee before it can go its counterpart committee in the Federation Council and then to the president for final approval, Zatulin said.