MOSCOW - The Kremlin dismissed the governor of one of Russia's Pacific regions on Tuesday after a complaint that he was stealing state funds, a move that could boost support for Vladimir Putin in Sunday's presidential election.
Putin rebuked Sergei Darkin, governor of Primorye, for running Russia’s most criminalised region in December after a member of the public asked Putin, during a televised question and answer session, to stop Darkin stealing public money.
Darkin, a former docker, dismissed the claim that his advisers said was a slur invented by his enemies.
The sacking is aimed at bolstering support for Putin in Primorye after poor results for Putin’s ruling party in the region in the Dec. 4 parliamentary election, analysts said.
"I think it was done as a gift to the voters of the Primorye region who dislike (Darkin) very strongly – as a kind of gesture after which they should vote for Putin," said Nikolai Petrov, an analyst at Carnegie Moscow Centre.
Russia rarely openly sacks senior officials and President Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, said the 48-year old Darkin had asked to resign, partly on health grounds. Darkin’s spokesman, Ivan Dukhin, declined to comment.
Darkin had served as governor since 2001 and was overseeing preparations for an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to be held in the province’s capital Vladivostok, 7,000 km (4,300 miles) east of Moscow, in September.
Vladimir Miklushevsky, rector of Vladivostok’s Far Eastern Fesderal University, was appointed interim governor, the Kremlin said in a statement.