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St Petersburg governor on his way out - NTV
Source: NTV Mir, Moscow, in Russian 1700 gmt 14 Jun 03

Russian NTV reported that St Petersburg governor Vladimir Yakovlev is likely to step down. The move, it intimated, is forced, and it is imminent. The following is excerpted from a report by the Russian external TV service NTV Mir on 14 June:

[Presenter] We have learnt that the St Petersburg governor has been offered the post of deputy prime minister in Moscow - an offer he can't refuse - to be responsible for administrative reform.

On Monday, Russia's chief auditor [Sergey Stepashin] once again recalled the billion roubles that, strangely, went into the planting of new trees in Russia's northern capital. Thus, one St Petersburg native gave a hint to another to move to Moscow, in a gesture which was not exactly friendly but to which we are all now quite accustomed. It is all set to happen on Monday [16 June], they say in St Petersburg, while President Putin is there. With the anniversary celebrations over, the city is once again full of anticipation. Here's Yuriy Zinchuk, with a look at the situation.

[Passage omitted]

Indications of Yakovlev's early departure

[Correspondent] No sooner had the St Petersburg anniversary celebrations come to an end than talk began openly of governor Yakovlev's early departure. Yakovlev, it was said, is done here, and can now leave. Behind the scenes, this has been known for a long time. It was quite obvious that, with the appointment of Valentina Matviyenko as plenipotentiary for the northwest, Yakovlev's visits to Moscow became unusually more frequent. To look for work, why else, was the consensus.

[Sergey Mironov, upper house speaker] Vladimir Anatolyevich Yakovlev is, indeed, a federal-level politician. It is quite possible - this is my prediction - that Vladimir Anatolyevich is holding talks about where he will be posted next.

[Correspondent] Leadership change is always a painful process, the more so in the president's home town. Here, everything acquires a special meaning, be it the position the Kremlin takes, the mistakes Smolnyy [seat of city authorities] makes, or the man to be named as governor.

Ever since their work on [late mayor of St Petersburg Anatoliy] Sobchak's team, we have known about the fact that relations between Yakovlev and Putin have not been easy. After the city's anniversary celebrations, Yakovlev himself was the first to say openly that he would not remain in his post as governor forever.

[Yakovlev, on GTRK [State TV and Radio Company] Petersburg's "Governor Time" programme] A governor is entitled to quit at any time. He is under no obligation to stay the whole distance, so to speak, in office. The fact is that situations, circumstances and decisions vary. Some decisions may not be up to the governor himself.

Two successors already lined up

[Correspondent] Were Yakovlev to quit, under the city's charter, elections could be scheduled to take place as early as this September. For all candidates other than Valentina Matviyenko and deputy governor Anna Markova - the beneficiaries of great amounts of spin by now - any such dates are tantamount to a political suicide. With - if that is the case - little over two months to go, no amount of financial backing will help them to become prominent enough, political technologists believe. The main aim of Yakovlev's early abdication is, thus, to get rid of all unwanted competition.

[Yakovlev, with Matviyenko next to him] It is very important for this period of a democratic transition of power to be accompanied by normal work as befits our city, rather than by political turbulence.

St Petersburg's political establishment eager for Yakovlev to go

[Correspondent] Despite his outward calm, the noose around Yakovlev has lately been tightening. First, Aleksandr Garusov, chairman of the city's electoral commission, is pensioned off after it transpires all of a sudden that he lacks the legal education necessary for this post. It was Garusov who oversaw Yakovlev's every election win. His departure is a body blow to Smolnyy. Then Aleksandr Beglov, chief of the city administration's chancellery, is elected chairman of the St Petersburg branch of One Russia. It is Beglov who, if Yakovlev resigns, should, under the law, take over as a stand-in for governor. And with Beglov now in the camp of One Russia - the party of power - all levers of administrative control will in effect fall into the hands of the Kremlin.

Yakovlev is silent. Legislators are openly expectant.

[Yuriy Gladkov, St Petersburg legislator] The governor's voluntary departure would make things better. We would be able to elect a new governor more quickly and minimize the period of transition and instability that invariably accompanies leadership change.

[Vadim Tyulpanov, St Petersburg legislature speaker] As it is, the political situation is tense. There is already a degree of destabilization. With things as they are, this degree cannot but grow. So if there is no resignation very soon, the political situation will, I believe, deteriorate still further.

[Mikhail Amosov, St Petersburg legislator] The city needs a new governor. It is absolutely obvious. Thus, if in the situation Yakovlev were to step down early, many, I think, would thank him, in his own administration, in the legislature and city folk alike. It would be a brave step in the right direction.

[Correspondent] Vladimir Yakovlev, the 61st man to head St Petersburg since the city was founded, is an electromechanical engineer by trade who has risen from shop steward to governor. The names of Menshikov and Trotskiy, Zhdanov and Kirov, could now, in a few days' time, be joined by Yakovlev after seven years in power, seven years which changed St Petersburg. Now, however, one perhaps ought to get used to the addition of the word former to the title governor everybody got so used to over those seven years.

[Yakovlev, on a wintry stroll in a park with a child in a pram and a dog] It is probably in our blood that we like work more. As for rest, we shall rest soon enough.

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