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#16 - JRL 7135
April 8, 2003
General appointed to look after Matviyenko
By Ksenia Solyanskaya

It is very likely that the next governor of St Petersburg will not be the presidential envoy to the Northwestern Federal District Valentina Matviyenko, appointed by Vladimir Putin last month in a move which was perceived by many as the former vice-premier’s first step to the governorship.

On Monday President Putin appointed Col.-Gen. Andrei Chernenko as Matviyenko’s deputy. Chernenko is said to be a close friend of Sergei Stepashin, the ex-interior minister, who currently heads the parliamentary financial watchdog, the Audit Chamber. Stepashin, some observers believe, has a much better chance of getting Kremlin backing to become St Petersburg governor.

On April 7 the Russian president signed several decrees reshuffling the executive vertical of power. In particular, he named Col.-Gen. Chernenko the first deputy to the presidential envoy in the Northwestern Federal District. Chernenko had held the post of a deputy interior minister and headed the Federal Migration Service, an agency under the Interior Ministry. With the same decree Putin dismissed Alexander Fyodorov from the post as Matviyenko’s deputy.

On the face of it, the reshuffle looks to be of little public interest. In truth, however, that is not so. Chernenko’s appointment as the first deputy to the presidential envoy in the Northwestern Federal District may entail some negative consequences for Valentina Ivanovna Matviyenko, who agreed to replace Viktor Cherkessov hoping, first and foremost, to use it as a launch pad for the St Petersburg gubernatorial elections in 2004. With Chernenko’s arrival in St Petersburg, the former vice-premier will probably be giving up on those hopes now.

In 1997 Chernenko, after several years of wandering from one insignificant post to another through various governmental agencies, returned to the Interior Ministry, where, in 1989 he worked as the chief spokesman. In 1997 he returned and again became the head of the ministerial press-service, and was then promoted to the head of the personnel directorate. With Sergei Stepashin’s appointment to the Interior Minister in April 1998 Chernenko not only retained his position in charge of one of the ministry’s key directorates, but also became one of Stepashin’s closest associates, taking an active part in the work on the ministry’s reform plans.

When Stepashin was promoted in April 1999 to first vice-prime minister, Chernenko followed him to the cabinet. As of May 1999 he held the second-most important post in the government, running the government’s administration (a post equal to that of a minister).

Chernenko resigned from the government immediately after Sergei Stepashin was sacked and Vladimir Putin was named his successor by Boris Yeltsin. Stepashin then became the head of the parliamentary Audit Chamber, while Chernenko went to work with the State Courier Service. Having worked at that inconspicuous post for nearly 2.5 years, in February 2002 Chernenko again returned to the Interior Ministry, this time with the rank of colonel-general. This time he secured the post of the head of the Federal Migration Service of the Russian Federation.

The experience gained by Chernenko during his two years at the Ministry for Affairs of Nationalities helped him launch the migration service reforms and to accomplish a whole series of important tasks given to the FMS by the president.

As Chernenko himself said, the president entrusted him, as the FMS chief, with 3 key goals: to create conditions for an influx of qualified workers to Russia, to tackle the problems of those people without citizenship and create a favourable climate for those seeking to work, study and receive medical assistance in Russia.

In his year at the FMS Chernenko succeeded in implementing a project introducing migration cards for immigrants coming to Russia in search of jobs, and to launch the mechanism of labour quotas. Chernenko has managed to accomplish the main task of brining illegal immigrants out of the shadows. According to Chernenko’s colleagues, his performance was highly praised both by Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov and the Kremlin.

Those in the Kremlin had no grievances against Chernenko, for they were perfectly aware of the workload the FMS chief was faced with. In this connection, one of the main reasons for Chernenko’s resignation from the post given by Gazeta.Ru sources in the Interior Ministry was weariness and his own wish to change his field of work.

''He has simply grown tired of the unbearably hard work,'' one of Chernenko’s colleagues told Gazeta.Ru. ''A normal person would have quit that post at the first opportunity, because handling such a workload is practically beyond anyone’s strength.''

And this opportunity seems to have presented itself. Henceforth, Chernenko will work as a deputy to Valentina Matviyenko, though this will not last long. If the Kremlin actually risks backing Matviyenko in the St Petersburg governor’s election, it is highly likely that Col.-Gen. Chernenko will succeed her as presidential envoy in 2004.

At the same time, some observers suggest that Matviyenko may not use the office of the presidential envoy to the Northwestern District as a stepping-stone to enter the race for the governor’s post. Chernenko’s assignment ''to look after'' Matviyenko could be perceived as paving the way for Sergei Stepashin’s victory in the governor’s election in spring 2004. Given the close friendship between Chernenko and Stepashin, it is highly likely that Stepashin would have the Kremlin’s support in the forthcoming poll, and Chernenko’s task will be to help ensure his victory. Sergei Stepashin, unlike Valentinva Matviyenko, is just the kind of person whom Putin can entrust with ruling his home city.

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