Recently, Vladimir Putin has dismissed Sergey Furgal, the governor of the Khabarovsk territory. According to the Kremlin website, Furgal remains under arrest “due to the loss of confidence.” Mikhail Degtyarev, a State Duma deputy from the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR,) was temporarily appointed acting governor.
Before naming Mikhail Degtyarev for the position, Vladimir Putin spoke to him via videoconference. The Russian President said “this job was very responsible,” important and “essential for Russia.” However, in Vladimir Putin’s opinion, although Mikhail Degtyarev is “young, he is nonetheless well-prepared.” Degtyarev accepted the offer saying he was ready to go to Khabarovsk immediately. According to RIA Novosti news agency, he arrived there on a regular flight in the morning of July 21.
Candidate of Legal Science and Master of Sports
Mikhail Degtyarev was born in Samara, formerly Kuybyshev, the city and administrative centre in the middle reach of the Volga in 1981. He first graduated from the Aerospace vocational school in his hometown, and then from the Samara State Aerospace University in 2005. In 2012, he got a degree in law at the Moscow Institute of World Civilizations.
Since 1999 he has worked in various positions such as a travel agent, an engineer and a computer operator. At first, he joined the United Russia party but then, in December 2005, he became a member of the LDPR. In 2009, Degtyarev was included in the pool of senior executives under the patronage of the Russian President. He was twice elected to the State Duma on the LDPR list, in 2011 and 2016.
It is noteworthy that in 2013 and 2018, Degtyarev took part in the elections of the Mayor of Moscow. As a result, he gained less than 7% of votes and took the next-to-last places. Degtyarev is a candidate of legal sciences, a master of sports in swordcraft and the author of several books. He is married with four children.
What is Degtyarev Known for?
Mikhail Degtyarev is only 39 years old, but it is not his first year in politics. During his stint as a State Duma deputy, which began in 2011, he actively came up with various legislative initiatives. There were about 150 of them, although some, to put it mildly, were somewhat odd and eccentric.
For example, in 2014, Degtyarev proposed banning the dollar as a foreign currency. According to him, people having dollar accounts would be expected to transfer the funds to rubles within a designated time bracket. In Degtyarev’s opinion, banks were also supposed to get rid of dollars by selling them at the then exchange rate.
In the same year, he initiated the replacement of the state flag of the Russian Federation with the flag of imperial Russia. However, this proposal got no support.
A year earlier, Degtyarev announced that some amendments to the law on donation of blood were being drafted. In accordance with them the sexual orientation of a blood donor would be obligatory taken into account. In other words, Degtyarev advocated that gays should not be allowed to become donors.
Additionally, Degtyarev proposed to introduce all-Union State Standard on the images of Father Frost, the Slavic version of Santa Claus, and Snow Maiden in order to preserve the “correct” images of the characters.
Reaction to new Appointee
Prior to the appointment as Acting Governor of the Khabarovsk territory, Degtyarev headed the State Duma committee for physical culture, sports, tourism and youth affairs in the State Duma lower house of Parliament. Dmitry Svishchev, a member of this committee and President of the Curling Federation, said straightforwardly in an interview with RIA Novosti that new appointee Degtyarev “has every opportunity to cope with the new duties.” At the same time, Svishchev recalled that Degtyarev was introduced by Vladimir Putin, that he was nominated by the party, and that he is a dynamic and talented leader. In conclusion, SvisрСhev said that Degtyarev’s “background is impressive – valuable connections, lobbying power, and the support of the federal center and the party.” He added that experience will “come with time.”
Political Scientists on Degtyarev’s Candidacy
According to political strategist Peter Bystrov, the appointment of Mikhail Degtyarev to the position of Acting Governor of the Khabarovsk territory is an attempt to “keep up the status quo” and simultaneously to avoid triggering opposition on the part of LDPR members. In addition, he called this appointment a step towards the opposition in the State Duma that is in fact “in a tactical alliance” with United Russia. As the Vedomosti newspaper reports, it's quite difficult to predict whether the protest actions will continue in the territory, or whether they will decrease under Degtyarev.
According to political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov, Degtyarev’s candidacy is “reasonable,” but not “ideal.” To his thinking, the main question is if Degtyarev is correctly presented to the residents. If no mistakes are made, the “political instruments might be used” to reduce protest moods.
However, political scientist Alexander Kynev seems more skeptical.
He believes that “the LDPR without Furgal is a big zero.” The residents of the Khabarovsk territory, in his opinion, voted for Furgal and for the people he had supported, but not for LDPR candidates. That's why the appointment of Degtyarev, a person who has nothing to do with that part of Russia but has a “dubious background,” in no way removes the claims to the federal center made by the locals. Moreover, according to Kynev, Mikhail Degtyarev acted as a sham candidate in the election of Moscow mayor, and his legislative initiatives in the State Duma were ridiculous. For this reason, in Kynev’s opinion, the appointment of this kind is unlikely to calm down the population of the Khabarovsk territory.
So, Mikhail Degtyarev's appointment Acting Governor of the Khabarovsk territory has got ambiguous assessments. He will have to cope with a rather difficult task of bringing order to the territory. After the arrest of Sergey Furgal on July 9, rallies in support the previous governor are continuing for three weeks now. Khabarovsk’s residents have also joined the protest actions in other major cities of the region, particularly in Blagoveshchensk. Will Khabarovsk accept Mikhail Degtyarev? That remains to be seen if he manages to bring order there with the support of the federal centre and the LDPR party.
Meanwhile, the residents of the Khabarovsk territory are not very happy with the Kremlin’s decision, to put it mildly. Hundreds of angry comments demanding that Degtyarev resign immediately have been posted on Instagram. “Hands off Khabarovsk!” Khabarovsk’s residents are writing on Degtyarev’s social media account.
Mikhail Degtyarev has got the chance to take the helm in this area in times of trouble. However, it depends largely on his personal standing whether he can win over the hearts of residents of the Khabarovsk territory.