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By John Helmer, Moscow

The Prime Minister has asked Russians to send him their choices of a name for a young Bulgarian shepherd dog, which was presented to him by the dog fancier, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov, when the two met in Sofia on November 13.

Borisov has been a fireman, cop, karate exponent, bodyguard, and mayor of Sofia. A rightwinger in Bulgarian terms, he is believed to hold a grudge for the execution of his great-grandfather who was on the pro-German side in World War II until the Bulgarian left, backed by Moscow, took power in a coup in 1944. Borisov has been commercially anti-Russian since his election in July 2009, but he has recently become more amiable towards Gazprom and Rosatom, and also more sentimental, for reasons better not gone into here.

Putin’s press secretary, Dmitry Peskov, has announced that Putin has decided to rename the dog, who was originally called Yorgo (Georgy) by Borisov. Putin has invited Russians to suggest their names for the dog via the Internet, and Putin will look though them all. The press office at the prime ministry says that in the week since this announcement, thousands of names have been sent in.

As the longest serving foreign correspondent in Russia, I have standing to propose five candidate names for the dog:
 

ADAMO

 

YATSKO

 

AKSKO

 

POCHKO

 

FRANKO

Putin is well-known for his forgiving nature toward subordinates who have erred; he is famously reluctant to sack ministers of state. Bulgarian shepherds are famous for doing what shepherd dogs are supposed to do – keep their sheep in the fold at night, when there are wolves about, and nip their heels when they need hurrying along to the slaughter-house. They are not to be confused with the Karakachan dog, a much more ancient breed which was famous in Thracian times, three thousand years ago. Borisov is one of many Bulgarian breeders who have been crossing the Karakachan with the St Bernard and the Ovcharka, for domestic pets rather than for guard work.

The five names put forward were all ministers of the Russian state. They have the distinction to have been among the very few to have been sacked by Putin – Yevgeny Adamov, sacked as Minister of Atomic Energy, on March 28, 2001; Boris Yatskevich, sacked as Minister of Natural Resources on June 16, 2001; Nikolai Aksyonenko, sacked as Minister of Railways on January 3, 2002; Alexander Pochinok, sacked as Minister of Labor and Welfare on March 9, 2004; and finally Sergei Frank.

He was removed as Minister of Transport, also in Putin’s cabinet purge of March 9, 2004, a few days after Mikhail Kasyanov, the last of the Boris Yeltsin trusties, was sent packing. But the circumstances of Frank’s removal are unclear. Justice Andrew Smith, in his judgement in the UK High Court last Friday ruled that Frank is dishonest. However, he noted that during Frank’s appearance in court, “it was suggested to him that his real reason for ceasing to serve on the General Board [of Sovcomflot] was that he faced allegations of corruption, but no convincing evidence supported the suggestion and I reject it.”

In his report of the British court’s discrediting of Frank, the leading Russian maritime analyst, Alexei Bezborodov, has noted that the prospects for Sovcomflot to sell its shares next year on the international market have diminished. “Such a management nobody loves,” commented Bezborodov, “so, such shares nobody will buy.” If the Prime Minister names his dog Franko, Sovcomflot’s initial public offering may stand a chance.

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