Fourth Russian governor dies tragically, political intrigues suspected

Mikhail Yevdokimov, a former comedian, was elected governor of his home Altai region in 2004

Mikhail Yevdokimov, the governor of the Altai region in Russia's Siberia, formerly known as an artist of the comic genre, was killed in a car accident yesterday, August 7. The governor, his wife and their bodyguard were traveling to a regional settlement to participate in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of cosmonaut Gherman Titov. The governor, the bodyguard and the driver of the car were killed in the accident; Yevdokimov's wife was injured.

It became known as a result of preliminary investigation that the car accident occurred because of the driver's fault. The governor's Mercedes vehicle was racing at high speed, when it suddenly went out of the driver's control, veered off the road and hit a tree.

A former comedian, Mikhail Yevdokimov, was elected governor of his home Altai region in 2004. Yevdokimov's victory in the election was perceived as scathing mockery of the regional electorate at all other Russian politicians. Yevdokimov's death put an end to the longstanding conflict between the comic governor and the local political and business elite. It is noteworthy that the federal center of Russia found itself in an awkward situation because of that conflict: the Russian law stipulates that it is the president, who is personally responsible for governors' activities after their election.

Judging upon the fact that a governor is supposed to maintain coordination and consent between various influential groups in this or that region at least outwardly, one may say that Mikhail Yevdokimov failed to execute his duties on the position of the Altai region governor. Regional authorities intended to impeach Yevdokimov twice on account of the governor's inability to create an adequate governing team in the region. “The policy, which the head of the Altai regional administration was running in 2004 and 2005, was absolutely unsystematic. The governor could not form a professional team to administer the region, which negatively affected the socio-economic situation in the Altai region of Russia,” a statement, which the local parliament released in June said.

It is not ruled out that the former Altai region governor, Alexander Surikov, could be involved in the political crisis of his former territory too. When Mikhail Yevdokimov won the gubernatorial election in 2004, he could not break and change the previous political system in the region without Moscow's support. Surikov, the former governor, preserved strong ties with the entire system of the Altai administration.

The Kremlin administration was not going to agree upon the intention of the Altai regional parliament to impeach their governor: if Mikhail Yevdokimov had been impeached, it would have given a signal to all other elite groups across Russia to rebel against their local governors too. Such a decision would subsequently demolish the entire system of power vertical, which became one of the most important achievements of the Russian government during the recent years. Mikhail Yevdokimov eventually received the Kremlin's support after numerous consultations: the Russian administration appointed a former federal inspector, Mikhail Kozlov, on the position of the governor's deputy. Kozlov was supposed to help Yevdokimov in the creation of the new regional government.

The problem has become a lot simpler now, when the governor is dead. Mikhail Kozlov, the now acting governor of the Altai region, has all chances to take the office on the president's initiative in the future.

It is noteworthy that Mikhail Yevdokimov became the fourth Russian governor, whose death came in handy to other members of the political game. General Alexander Lebed died in an air crash in 2002: he gave up the idea to struggle for the position of the Russian president in return to the office of the Krasnoyarsk regional governor. Like Mikhail Yevdokimov, Alexander Lebed failed to find common language with local elites. The general was killed in the Mi-8 helicopter crash: the crash was said to have occurred because of pilots' fault. The governor of the Magadan region, Valentin Tsvetkov, was assassinated in the center of Moscow in 2002 shortly before the start of the investigation of the so-called fish mafia case, in which several politicians of the federal level were involved. To crown it all, the governor of the Sakhalin region (the Far East of Russia), Igor Farkhutdinov, was killed in a helicopter crash in 2003.

On the photo: Mikhail Yevdokimov

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Author`s name Olga Savka