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Alina Kabayeva

Alina Kabayeva

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Medvedev Targets Teens and Maybe Khorkina20 July 2009By Anna Malpas / The Moscow TimesPresident Dmitry Medvedev indicated on Friday that he is actively looking for young people to join the government and hinted that Olympic medal-winning gymnast Svetlana Khorkina might be in line for a governor's post.

"There are two charming women sitting here.

I mean Svetlana Khorkina and [Nashi activist] Marina Zademidkova.

You look like you belong here.

Maybe I should appoint you as governors?" Medvedev said at a State Council meeting on youth politics, RIA-Novosti reported.

While many of the points he made to the regional governors and top officials were routine, such as a lower age limit for young people to take part in municipal politics, the comment to Khorkina stood out.

It didn't appear later in the transcript on the Kremlin's web site.

Khorkina was elected as a State Duma deputy for United Russia in 2007, three years after ending a career as a gymnast that included two Olympic gold medals.

She is a deputy chairwoman of the Duma's Youth Affairs Committee.

The Sun described the 2007 Duma intake that included Khorkina, now 30, and former rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva as the "Puty-cat Dolls." Controversially, Khorkina has posed for men's magazines including the Russian version of Playboy, although she didn't take all her clothes off.

She has also dabbled in pop singing and acting.

Zademidkova is a Nashi activist who took part in a protest against U.S.

foreign policy outside the U.S.

Embassy on Halloween last year.

Khorkina later told the United Russia web site that she wasn't ready to become a governor.

"Of course it's a very flattering offer, but I understand that I need to study a lot for this," she said.

"I have just begun this journey and am only beginning my work in politics." In other remarks, Medvedev said that nationwide, people should be able to run in municipal elections from the age of 18, while in some regions the age limit is 19 or 20.

"This is a kind of restriction on young people's rights because we are one country," Medvedev said in the transcript of the speech published on the Kremlin's web site.

Young people, defined as those aged 14 to 30, make up 27 percent of Russia's population, Medvedev said.

The speech also touched on restrictions on selling alcohol and tobacco to young people.

Medvedev called for harsher punishments for those who sell to minors.

He recalled the anti-alcohol campaign of the Mikhail Gorbachev era, saying here were "idiotic bans and mistakes," but that the campaign did prompt an ­"unprecedented" improvement in the death statistics.

Alexander Morozov, an independent political analyst, said Medvedev's remarks were linked to a Kremlin need for a new generation of politicians to replace those from the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Medvedev first called for a "reserve" of young people to be fast-tracked to top government and business posts in July last year.

In February, the Kremlin published the top 100, although the oldest person on the list was 50.Khorkina and Zademidkova are not on the list.

Many regions have responded by creating their own recruitment pools.

"We did not create the recruitment pool so that we can account for ourselves and say that we have a group of people who when they're closer to pension age will be appointed to certain posts," Medvedev said Friday, Interfax reported.

"Colleagues, you should appoint them and recommend these people for work in public ­organizations and business structures." This year, Medvedev has nominated several young governors: Andrei Turchak, 33, in the Pskov region and Nikita Belykh, 34, in the Kirov region.

"The selection of a reserve of personnel really is happening in the regions.

It's creating big disputes, but it's the right thing," Morozov said.

He said 18-year-olds should go into local politics in the regions, where he said there is a "huge hunger for recruits." However, Alexei Mukhin, an analyst at the Center for Political Information, was dubious about Khorkina becoming a governor.

"I don't think that Svetlana Khorkina will become a governor in the near future, although who knows?" he said.

He described Medvedev's words as primarily a "signal" to older governors that they should toe the Kremlin line.

Medvedev warned governors in his speech, saying, "I support the suggestion of including work with young people in the list of criteria used to assess the effectiveness of the leadership of the regions." Mukhin said the governors would take Medvedev's comments as a signal, rather than an order to act.

"The older governors aren't so sensitive and ­flexible in their reactions to ­suggestions from the authorities," he said.

"They have their own visions of how to manage regions."
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