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    Legislators in Sakhalin appoint Khoroshavin as governor

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    YUZHNO-SAKHALINSK, August 9 (RIA Novosti) - Legislators in Sakhalin, in Russia's Far East, overwhelmingly voted Thursday to appoint Alexander Khoroshavin, 48, as governor, a RIA Novosti correspondent said.

    President Vladimir Putin accepted Tuesday the resignation of Governor Ivan Malakhov, who quit following criticism over his handling of a relief operation following an earthquake in Nevelsk, southern Sakhalin, last Thursday that killed two and left hundreds homeless.

    The president appointed Khoroshavin, who has held the position of Okha mayor in northern Sakhalin since 2001, as acting governor and nominated him for the post. His candidacy was approved earlier in the day by 20 out of 22 local legislators.

    However, Malakhov said he planned to continue working in Sakhalin. "I am not going to leave Sakhalin, and I will live and work there," the former governor said adding that he was ready to pass his "achievements" onto his successor.

    The latest reports quoted Kamil Iskhakov, Russian presidential envoy to the Far Eastern Federal District, as saying that he had put Malakhov's name forward for a state award.

    Khoroshavin said his priority would be to tackle the aftermath of the earthquake in Nevelsk, where he plans to go later in the day. "None of the victims or homeless will be forgotten. We will mobilize the entire regional construction sector."

    Russian Regional Development Minister Vladimir Yakovlev who visited the earthquake-hit region said earlier the relief operation would cost around $177 million-196 million. He said a document had been drafted to grant Sakhalin a loan worth $79 million.

    When addressing legislators Khoroshavin also said a five-seven year regional development program would be a strategic task. Among other things he said it was a priority to improve the local education system, support the fishing, transport and agricultural industries and develop better seismic measures across the island.

    "We only get one life, and no one has the time to wait for good times and changes to happen. We should do all we can so that pensioners can enjoy the results of our work, and our children do not leave the region for studies initially, and then for good."

    Large foreign energy companies, including Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and BP, are involved in oil and gas projects on Sakhalin, Russia's major oil-producing region.

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