A ladies’ man

People | The Kremlin’s representative in Murmansk is counting on the efforts of his young, female staffers to help him win the gubernatorial election this September

Acting governor Andrey Chibis and his deputy Maria Derunova (📸: Atle Staalesen)

By Atle Staalesen, The Independent Barents Observer

Behind the acting governor of Murmansk is not just one powerful woman, but a whole group of them. They are young, they are attractive, they come from all around Russia, and Andrey Chibis hopes they will help him land the governorship permanently.

Oksana Demchenko

Immediately after his appointment to the postion in March, Mr Chibis, 40, started to beef up the regional administration with new faces.

He now has three new deputies, all of them women. Two of them come from the federal construction and housing ministry, where Mr Chibis previously served as deputy minister.

Among them is Oksana Demchenko, who worked closely with Mr Chibis to manage the Smart City program, a federal initiative to promote efficient housing.

Ms Demchenko, 45, is from Norilsk, the north Ural town that is dominated by mining and metallurgy company Norilsk Nickel.

Maria Derunova

Another of the appointees, Maria Derunova, was also instrumental in the Smart City program. Ms Derunova, 35, has a degree in journalism from Moscow and is now responsible for the governor’s information policy, including relations with Moscow and foreign partners, according to the regional government. She will also deal with youth policy, culture and tourism.

The third new deputy-governor is Zoya Sandzhieva, a former minister of economic development in the south Russian region of Kalmykia.

Ms Sandzhieva will be responsible for public-private partnerships and business development, Mr Chibis said this May when presenting her as deputy-governor. She was the owner of a cosmetics shop and cafe in the regional capital of Elista before she entered the foreign ministry’s diplomatic academy in 2016. Later that year, she was appointed minister in the regional administration.

Zoya Sandzhieva

Mr Chibis has more women in his regional government than any of his predecessors. Five of the eight deputy-governors are now women. In addition, four of his cabinet members are women, including the finance minister, Yelena Dyagileva.

And that is not all. Among Mr Chibis’ top four assistants are three women, all of them new appointments. Both Olga Vovk and Zinaida Razzhivina will have special responsibility for regional housing developments, according to the administration.

Nadezhda Aksenova is assistant to Mr Chibis. The 33-year-old was appointed in June and, not surprisingly, previously worked in the housing and construction ministry.

Zinaida Razzhivina

Mr Chibis might very well need his fresh, new team if he is to charm the regional electorate. The gubernatorial election is scheduled for September 8, and voters are likely to be sceptical of an outsider.

If he wins, Mr Chibis would not be the not the first Murmansk governor to be hand-picked by Moscow.

In 2009, the Kremlin installed Dmitry Dmitrienko as governor. Like Mr Chibis, he brought many of his staff members with him. He soon became unpopular with voters.

Nadezhda Aksenova (Photo: Facebook)

Mr Chibis was appointed governor on March 22 by Vladimir Putin. He replaced Marina Kovtun who had served as regional leader since 2012.

This article was originally published by The Independent Barents Observer.

The Rasmussen’s People articles are interviews or profiles of the individuals who shape – and are shaped by – the region.

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