Putin renamed Kirsan Ilyumzhinov as the president of the republic of Kalmykia, the Kremlin said in a statement. The nomination must now be approved by the regional legislature in line with a recent law that abolished popular elections of regional governors and gave president the power to name them. Ilyumzhinov, a millionaire who also is president of the world chess body FIDE, has ruled Kalmykia, an impoverished province in southern Russia, since 1993.
Last year, the local police dispersed more than 2,000 protesters who demanded that Ilyumzhinov step down, pointing at the region's high unemployment and accusing him of violating human rights and stifling dissent.
Earlier, some of Ilyumzhinov's opponents claimed they had received death threats, been dismissed from jobs and generally harassed in the run-up to local elections.
Kalmykia is a barren region, populated in part by descendants of Mongol nomads who settled there in the 17th century.
Half of the region's 300,000 residents are Buddhists, and the region received global publicity when the Dalai Lama visited last November. A.M.
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