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Putin’s Longest-Serving Minister Appointed to Run Moscow Region

President-elect Vladimir Putin’s longest-serving minister, Sergei Shoigu, was unanimously approved as Moscow Region governor today by local lawmakers, according to a statement on the regional parliament’s website.

Shoigu, 56, has been Emergency Minister since 1991, including two years as the head of the ministry’s predecessor. He said he’ll be inaugurated as governor on May 11, RIA Novosti reported. He’ll replace Boris Gromov, who’s held the governor’s post since 2000.

“Polls show Shoigu was the most popular minister of all time,” Grigory Kertman, a senior analyst at the Public Opinion Foundation, said by phone.

According to an October 2011 VTsIOM survey, Shoigu had an approval rating of 69 percent, beating Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov by 26 percentage points. “The federal government considers Shoigu’s new role so important, that it’s ready to have a Cabinet without its popularity anchor,” former Kremlin adviser Gleb Pavlovsky said by phone.

With 7 million residents, the Moscow region is Russia’s second-largest region by population behind the capital it surrounds. President Dmitry Medvedev last June announced a plan to expand Moscow’s borders to absorb the region and create a “metropolitan federal district.”

“It’s about creating a mega region that will compete with the rest of Russia in terms of property volumes and human resources,” Pavlovsky said, adding that Putin won’t let this project be run by only one person. “Shoigu and Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin will manage it in tandem.”

The appointment will be “a strong impulse for the development” of Moscow and Moscow region cooperation, Sobyanin said in a congratulatory letter to Shoigu, according to the mayor’s website. Shoigu may replace Sobyanin after the project is completed, Pavlovsky said.

Shoigu is like “Batman, always coming to people’s rescue,” with a charismatic TV personality, Konstantin Abramov, deputy head of the All-Russian Center for the Study of Public Opinion, or VTsIOM, said in 2010 interview.

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