Governor of Tver Region quits ahead of term

(RIA Novosti / Vitaliy Belousov)
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has accepted the resignation of Dmitry Zelenin – the governor of the Tver Region who gained notoriety by complaining over a worm in his salad in his official Twitter account.

­On Thursday Russian news agencies said that President Medvedev had curtailed the powers of the Tver governor ahead of term and appointed the deputy governor of the Ryazan Region as a temporary replacement. According to the official statement of the Kremlin press service, Zelenin had filed in voluntary resignation and the president accepted it.

Officially, Zelenin’s term as the governor was due to expire in summer 2012.

The news was only a partial surprise, as Zelenin’s resignation was anticipated already in April – Russian media reported that the Kremlin administration was holding talks with various candidates for the post that would soon become vacant. However, back then Zelenin’s press secretary denied news of possible resignation, but added that everything was in the president’s hands.

Another scandal took place in March when the United Russia party got only 40 per cent of votes at a by-election in the Tver Region, one of the lowest results in the country and much lower than the 60 per cent earlier set as an objective.

Other reasons behind the possible resignation were also mentioned in the April and March reports – they were the poor economic state of the region and lack of popularity of the administration. Also, many reporters recalled the story from November last year when Zelenin, while at a reception in the Kremlin, posted a photo of a plate of salad with a worm in it on his Twitter account. He also posted a comment that read “they serve salad with beef and live earthworms.”

The worm tweet immediately made the governor popular with Russian internet users and conventional media also paid enough attention to the incident, but it outraged officials from the presidential administration. The very next day, Medvedev’s top aide Sergey Prikhodko said that Zelenin must be fired for his stupidity. A spokesman for the presidential property department Viktor Khrekov said that Zelenin was most likely lying and promised to conduct an investigation, with a possible further lawsuit. The lawsuit has not ensued, however, possibly because Russian law recognizes only the damage to reputation of an individual, not an organization.

Zelenin made no further comments about the Twitter incident.

In Thursday comments to the governor’s resignation, however, Russian analysts said that the Twitter scandal was the least likely reason for the move. They said that United Russia’s failure at the March by-elections in the region, and also Zelenin’s inability to build good working relations with regional authorities, were much heftier arguments.

Russia switched from regional gubernatorial elections to direct appointment of the governors by the Federal president in 2004 in a bid to bring more order to remote regions and get more central control over federal subsidies. In May, President Medvedev said at a major press conference that he deemed the return to the gubernatorial elections possible in future, but stressed that at present moment the nation was not yet ready for this move.