Putin says no to debates; Medvedev fires governor

The Russian presidential elections are coming in early March but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin will not participate in a televised debates with rival candidates. The Prime Minister’s spokesperson says that debates are part of  an active presidential campaign which would mean taking leave from his post, something Mr. Putin’s duties do not allow.  In the words of the Putin campaign, taking part in debates would prevent Mr. Putin from “carrying out in full his duties as prime minister.”

Currently serving as Prime Minister of Russia, Mr. Putin has already served two 4 year terms as president of the Russian Federation. His opponents point out that Mr. Putin seemed to find time for marathon media news conferences yet refused to debate challengers. His advisers say that  if pressed, Mr. Putin could nominate representatives to take part in debates for him. In a question and answer session with media representatives following his annual televised phone-in last month, Putin said that it would “not be a discussion on equal grounds” if he personally took part in debates.

The Putin campaign also unveiled the new Putin for President website, saying that information on the site would answer most questions voters might have about his platform for the coming election.

New Putin election website: http://www.putin2012.ru
Meanwhile Ilya Mikhalchuk became the first Russian governor to be ditched after United Russia’s setback in the December Duma elections. President Dmitry Medvedev signed an order to immediately terminate Mikhalchuk’s powers although the Kremlin says that the resignation was of Mikhalchuk’s own free will.

Back in October 2011 Medvedev had warned Governor Mikhalchuk that his job was in danger, asking “Does Arkhangelsk have a leadership capable of handling these problems, or do we have to change it? […] We cannot tolerate this any longer”.

Arkhangelsk governor Ilya Mikhailchuk (photo: http://russia-media.ru/generalnews/morenews)

Mikhalchuk was also one of 15 governors summoned for an immediate meeting in Moscow after the ruling party United Russia fared poorly in the December 4th elections for parliament. According to Barentsnova.com several governors are in the “danger zone”, including Murmansk governor Dmitry Dmitrienko and the governor of the Vologda region, Vyacheslav Pozgalev, was fired soon after those elections.