Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Putin’s Dismissal of Khabarovsk Head was Illegal, Lawyers Say

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 26 – Vladimir Putin violated Russian law when he dismissed Khabarovsk head Sergey Furgal, according to a suit brought by Khabarovsk lawyer Aleksey Zhdanov (eastrussia.ru/news/advokat-iz-khabarovska-podal-na-putina-v-sud-iz-za-otstraneniya-furgala/) and a legal analysis by Elena Lukyanova (echo.msk.ru/blog/elukyanova/2682341-echo/).

            The Russian Supreme Court has rejected his suit, saying he did not have standing to bring it although not ruling on its content; but Zhadanov’s argument is compelling, Lukyanova points out. At the very least, their arguments will intensify anger at the Kremlin for what it has done and may very well change the way in which Putin approaches future dismissals.

            According to Lukyanova, there are only four bases for the legitimate removal of a governor by the Russian president: the failure of the governor to fulfill his responsibilities, corruption, maintaining bank accounts abroad, and using foreign financial instruments during his period in office. There are no others, and Furgal was not accused of violating any of them,

            That means, she continues, that Zhdanov is entirely correct in his argument regardless of the rulings of the courts.

            Putin has dismissed seven other governors. In six of the cases, criminal charges will lodged against them; and even though they had not been convicted, the government could argue that the Kremlin had sufficient knowledge of their activities to justify their removal – even though none of the six admitted guilt.

            Lukyanova points to one additional extra-legal factor: All those regional heads Putin has removed up to now were either elected by the population or installed not by him but by quondam president Dmitry Medvedev.

            The one exception to this general pattern was that of Mikhail Ignatyev who was removed after scandalous comments and actions in January. Ignatyev challenged his removal in court, but he died from the coronavirus before his case could be heard. That the court accepted his case for hearing, however, lends weight to the Khabarovsk one -- even if the latter case isn’t heard either.

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