There was no doubt that, sooner or later, Vladimir Yakunin would become president of OAO Russian Railways. However, his appointment to this position yesterday was still a surprise to government officials.
Photo: Valery Levitin
// Vladmir Yakunin finally becomes head of OAO Russian Railways
Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed an order yesterday dismissing Gennady Fadeev from the position of president of OAO Russian Railways (RZhD) and appointing his first deputy, Vladimir Yakunin, as head of the company. Fadeev was appointed an aide to the prime minister. The shuffle in OAO RZhD's senior management came as no surprise either to industry workers or bureaucrats; however, no one thought there would be personnel changes right now. According to Kommersant's information, reason for the haste was the entry of another candidate in the battle for the position of president of Russian Railways – Transport Minister Igor Levitin.
Rumors of imminent dismissal have dogged Gennady Fadeev ever since he was appointed president of OAO Russian Railways on September 22, 2003. Sources in the industry and related departments gave Fadeev's age (he was 68 in April), the career railwayman's lack of apparent closeness to Vladimir Putin's team, and most importantly, the presence of a successor – Vladimir Yakunin – close on his heels as the main reasons for his dismissal. The St. Petersburg engineer with diplomatic experience began his advance to the position of head of the Russian monopoly back in 2000, when he went from being head of the Northwestern District Inspectorate of the president's main control department to deputy minister of transport, then, two years later, first deputy minister of the Ministry of Railways (MPS).
As soon as Yakunin joined Fadeev's team, he became an opponent. The tension in relations between Fadeev and his first deputy reached a peak right at the time OAO Russian Railways was formed in the fall of 2003. Yakunin considered himself Fadeev's direct rival for the position of president of the company. But Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Ministry for State Property, and RZhD itself presented a single candidate for the position – Fadeev – to the government.
After the order appointing him president of OAO RZhD was issued, many people predicted that Yakunin would not stay with the company, especially since, according to Kommersant's information, he had been offered a number of alternative positions, including the president's authorized representative in the Northwestern Federal District. However, according to the bureaucrats' accounts, Yakunin personally asked to be allowed to stay at OAO RZhD; and on October 24, 2003, he became first vice president of the company. At that point, according to many senior managers at RZhD, the dispute between him and Fadeev effectively ended.
Meanwhile, talk that Fadeev was about to be dismissed continued for the entire first year of his presidency, along with discussions of a wide variety of candidates for the position, right up to Aleksandr Voloshin. Finally, at the end of last year, sources close Fadeev said firmly that he had been guaranteed his position to the end of his contract, that is, until September 2006. However, a Kommersant source in the presidential administration complained not long ago that the government had no real control over the company. And industry representatives noted that at the Easter service in Christ the Savior Cathedral, Yakunin stood behind President Putin in a narrow circle of confidants.
Yesterday evening, as Fadeev was returning from Tbilisi, Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov signed the order for his dismissal. As Aleksandr Zharov, the prime minister's press secretary, explained to Kommersant, Fadeev was appointed an aide to the prime minister, and Yakunin became president of OAO Russian Railways. Government spokesmen refused to comment on the reasons for the change of leadership at RZhD. A Kommersant source close to one of the members of the company's board of directors gave assurances that there were no complaints about Fadeev. “These are planned shifts and have been in the works for a long time,” he said, “although we didn't expect it so soon. This haste isn't unclear, and the reason is absolutely unclear.”
“It wasn't that someone didn't like Fadeev,” an official of one of RZhD's largest partners agreed. “It's just that Yakunin wanted his status raised. But according to our information, the change of leadership shouldn't have taken place until mid-July.” In the opinion of a Kommersant source in the government, the official reason for Fadeev's dismissal could have been the accident on the Moscow –Grozny train on June 13. “But then, railway employees went into action absolutely professionally,” the source said. “It was probably because Transport Minister Igor Levitin has recently been actively pushing for the position of president of RZhD. It's very likely that they'll have to speed up Yakunin's appointment in order to prevent the appearance of a strong, new candidate for this position.”
The Ministry of Transport and OAO Russian Railway declined to comment on the shuffles at OAO RZhD yesterday. Neither Fadeev nor Yakunin would comment.
Kommersant will continue the subject of personnel shuffles at Russian Railways today.
All the Article in Russian as of June 16, 2005