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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Reformist Kiriyenko Accepts Job

First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov on Friday formally handed over the Fuel and Energy Ministry to his erstwhile deputy, Sergei Kiriyenko, a man analysts described as reformist and dependable.


But opinions differ on just how much experience he brings to the job.


"I don't anticipate radical changes at the ministry," Nemtsov said as he presented Kiriyenko to the press. "I am happy to be succeeded by Sergei Lvovich [Kiriyenko], who is a former associate of mine from Nizhny [Novgorod]."


A beaming Nemtsov later hugged and congratulated the slight, bespectacled Kiriyenko, who clutched bouquets of flowers offered by ministry officials and journalists.


The appointment brings to the fore another young reformer from Nizhny Novgorod who moved with Nemtsov from the regional to the federal game board in April. Now, as head of the energy ministry, Kiriyenko oversees a sector of the economy that provides Russia's federal budget with more than half its revenues.


Analysts predicted that Kiriyenko would keep the course of reforms on track, despite mixed views of just how seasoned he is for the job.


"Kiriyenko is viewed as someone who was helping shape policy behind the scenes," said Matt Thomas, an oil analyst with Creditanstalt. "He was one of the experienced energy men behind Nemtsov all the time."


But Olga Spiranskaya, oil and gas analyst with Rye, Man & Gor Securities, said Kiriyenko is a banker whose only experience is at the Fuel and Energy Ministry and, prior to that, six months at the helm of the Norsi Oil company.


Indeed, Kiriyenko had been a candidate earlier this year to succeed former fuel and energy minister Pyotr Rodionov, but specifically was rejected due to his relative inexperience in the oil industry. Experience aside, Kiriyenko has demonstrated himself to be an organizer with a head for business, Spiranskaya said, adding that he is believed to have handled day-to-day operations at the ministry for the past six months.


He also has been credited with boosting tax collection in the sector.


In presenting Kiriyenko, Nemtsov said the most pressing tasks at the ministry involve boosting energy output, lowering tariffs for manufacturers and maintaining Russia's influence over Caspian reserves.


The whole energy complex is overburdened with taxes, he said, adding that the draft tax code would rectify this. Collecting money owed to gas monopoly Gazprom is another urgent task, Nemtsov said. "People still want to get gas for free, but Gazprom is not a charitable organization," he said. "This cannot go on."