Russian officials to leave top jobs at state firms

AP News
Posted: Mar 31, 2011 9:03 AM
Russian officials to leave top jobs at state firms

Cabinet ministers representing the government on the boards of state-controlled companies will have to step down, an adviser to Russia's president Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday.

Arkady Dvorkovich, said those ministers will include the powerful energy czar Deputy Premier Igor Sechin, an ally of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and chairman of the board at OAO Rosneft.

Sechin, who is believed to one of the most influential people in Russia's oil and gas sector, oversaw a $16 billion share swap deal between Rosneft, Russia's largest oil company, and BP in January.

Other officials ordered to leave the boards of state-run companies by the midyear include Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Transport Minister Igor Levitin. They will be replaced by independent directors, Dvorkovich said.

The details came a day after Medvedev said the change would help "reduce the excessive influence of state companies on the investment climate," a climate he described as "very bad."

The president told his modernization commission in the Urals city of Magnitogorsk that corruption and state involvement in the economy were holding Russia back.

"The grip of corruption is still strong," he said. "It holds the whole economy by the throat."

Medvedev also asked the government to present a clear dateline on the privatization plan.

Russia plans to sell an array of assets worth at least 1 trillion rubles ($35 billion) over the next three years.

The asset sale kicked off in February when the government raised more than $3 billion by selling 10 percent of VTB, Russia's second-largest bank. The privatization spree includes such lucrative assets as Rosneft and oil transit monopolist Transneft.

Although the government is going to retain control in those companies after the sale, their executives have said they do not see much sense in privatizing the government's shares in their firms.

Russia's respected business daily Kommersant in its Thursday's front-page story described these proposals as "revolutionary" and "worth an election program" and wondered why Medvedev announced them a year away from the end of his term in office.