Under pressure from Putin and coronavirus, Russian governor resigns

MOSCOW (Reuters) - President Vladimir Putin on Friday accepted the third resignation of a regional governor within two days after calling on Russia’s far-flung areas to do more to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

Russia has reported 4,149 cases of the coronavirus, with the majority of those in Moscow. But cases have now appeared in 78 of the vast country’s 85 federal regions, and regional governors are under pressure to try to slow its progress.

The governor of Kamchatka, a region more than 6,000 km (3,700 miles) east of Moscow, tendered his resignation on Friday.

The region has no confirmed cases of the virus, but has drawn criticism from Russia’s consumer health regulator over what it said was the area’s inadequate testing regime.

The head of the remote northern Komi republic was replaced a day earlier shortly after an investigation was launched into whether more than 50 people in a local hospital had been infected by a single doctor.

The governor of the neighbouring Arkhangelsk region, which has fewer than 10 cases, also resigned on Thursday, saying the president should decide who governs the region.

“By the end of the week, they (regional authorities) must determine a concrete set of preventative measures that are optimal for their territories from the point of view of ensuring the health and safety of people, as well as the stability of the economy and key infrastructure,” Putin said in a national address on Thursday.

On Friday he told a meeting of the domestic security council that it would not be practical to limit economic activity across the whole country.

Tatiana Stanovaya, head of analysis firm R.Politik, said regional governors were under pressure to deliver during the crisis which was a useful pretext for the Kremlin to rid itself of regional leaders it has grown tired of.

“Every governor in Russia knows that only the president decides who is to be replaced and when,” said Stanovaya.

Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin and Darya Korsunskaya; editing by Andrew Osborn and Andrew Heavens