Hockey Legend Nominated As Senator

Hockey legend Vyacheslav Fetisov could become a Federation Council senator as early as next week, while the federal agency he heads could be dissolved, Vedomosti reported Tuesday, citing senior government officials.

Pro-Kremlin party United Russia on Monday nominated Fetisov, head of the Federal Sports Agency, to represent the Primorye region in the Far East in the upper house of the parliament, an unidentified senior party official told Vedomosti.

Primorye regional legislature would likely appoint Fetisov to the post on Sept. 17, the newspaper cited an unidentified source close to the presidential administration as saying.

Fetisov, a former Soviet national hockey team star and NHL standout, was appointed to be the country's top sports official in 2002 by then-President Vladimir Putin.

His agency, however, has since been moved under the auspices of the Sports, Tourism and Youth Politics Ministry, which is headed by former Russian Football Union chief Vitaly Mutko.

Vedomosti cited an unidentified government source as saying Fetisov planned to resign over a conflict with Mutko. An unidentified senior source in Fetisov's agency told the newspaper that the agency would be dissolved.

Spokespeople from United Russia, Mutko's ministry and the Kremlin refused to comment on the Vedomosti report Tuesday. Calls for comment to the Federal Sports Agency went unanswered.

Alexei Mukhin, an analyst with the Center for Political Technologies, said rumors about Fetisov's pending departure were perhaps overblown and stem from the underwhelming showing by Russian athletes at last month's Beijing Olympics.

"I don't think it will happen in the near future," Mukhin said.

Should Fetisov leave to become a senator, however, it would be "almost tantamount to dismissal," Mukhin said.

Fetisov has been locked in a long-running battle for control over national sports with Russian Olympic Committee chief Leonid Tyagachyov, whom the hockey legend has harshly and publicly criticized in recent weeks.