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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Ex-Premier Named to Gazprom

In a sign that the government and Gazprom are moving toward greater cooperation, the state said Friday that it will nominate former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin to represent its interests in the natural gas monopoly.

Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Generalov said Chernomyrdin, who headed the gas company before it was privatized, would be nominated to represent the government on the board of directors. A final decision must be made by Gazprom shareholders, he added.

The former prime minister acknowledged the nomination Friday, saying that it indicated that "I mean something for Gazprom, for the government."

Chernomyrdin, who spent 90 minutes in discussion with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov behind closed doors earlier this week, could serve as a powerful ally for the state in Gazprom.

Gazprom, the single largest contributor to the budget, has brought in about a quarter of all taxes over the past few years, but much of those payments have been in barter. The International Monetary Fund has complained of those opaque arrangements.

State Tax Service chief Georgy Boos trumpeted on Friday Gazprom's announcement earlier this week that it will pay 2 1/2 times more taxes in cash than in 1998. Boos later claimed that the views of the Russian government and the IMF showed "considerable convergence" regarding Russia's tax plans, Interfax reported. Richard Highfield, an IMF adviser to the Tax Ministry, confirmed Boos' claim.

Meanwhile, the government may lower excise duties on gas supplied by Gazprom to customers in Russia and Belarus to 15 percent from 30 percent and abolish export duty for the company, Generalov said. An export duty of 5 percent of the customs value was imposed on gas on Jan. 1.