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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chernomyrdin Takes Jab at Gazprom Head




Prominent politician and "peacemaker" Viktor Chernomyrdin on Tuesday fired off a discreet salvo at embattled Gazprom chief executive Rem Vyakhirev, saying he would be happy to take on the role of board chairman at the firm he helped establish.


Speaking at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, Chernomyrdin said he "would not rule out" the possibility that he would be nominated for the post of chairman of Gazprom board of directors, Itar-Tass reported.


The former prime minister f and current government representative on the Gazprom board f couched his words in a manner that any Russian official would take to mean that the possibility he was talking about was being actively considered.


He concluded his remarks by saying,"Gazprom f it is my life."


Gazprom chief executive Vyakhirev was once Chernomyrdin's "right hand," but relations between the two have cooled in recent years as Vyakhirev has become more and more powerful and less and less willing to pay heed to government figures such as his former boss.


Chernomyrdin is viewed as a close ally of President Boris Yeltsin and his powerful family, as well as having strong ties to shadowy business tycoon Boris Berezovsky, analysts said.


When he left the gas company in Vyakhirev's hands to go into politics, Chernomyrdin was confident that he could depend on the loyalty of the managers he left behind, said Andrei Piont-kovsky, an analyst with the Center For Strategic Studies.


But Vyakhirev gradually began drifting toward a more independent stance, openly opposing Chernomyrdin last year when the former prime minister failed to get Berezovsky allies onto the Gazprom board, Piontkovsky added.


"Chernomyrdin has faced some disobedience in his former domain," Piontkovsky said.


The latest sally against Vyakhirev follows a very public, government-initiated confrontation between Vyakhirev and Cabinet ministers regarding the government's role in Gazprom. The state holds a 38.37 percent stake in the gas giant.


After government figures, including First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksyonenko, floated the possibility of terminating the trust agreement under which Vyakhirev has managed a 35 percent stake out of the government's holding for several years, the Gazprom boss struck back by effectively telling the government to mind its own business.


Vyakhirev said there were plenty of other shareholders besides the state and claimed he was opposed to any changes in the board at the company's annual shareholders' meeting scheduled for June 30. He said that he was against removing the current board chairman, Property Minister Farit Gazizullin.


Thanks to its 38.37 percent stake, the government is likely to get four to five seats on the panel, analysts said. It has put forward some 10 candidates for the board, including Chernomyrdin.


Once the make up of the 11-member board is set, it will elect a chairman from among its number. That is when the infighting will really begin, analysts said.


"For the board members, their relations to the government and to Gazprom management will drive their final decisions on the panel chairman," said Ivan Mazalov, an analyst with Troika Dialog brokerage.


In addition to Vyakhirev, the list of board nominees from private shareholders includes Vladimir Chumak, the general director of Yugtransgaz, Viktor Tarasov, the head of Gazprom's pension fund, former government minister Boris Fyodorov, who is also the founder of the United Financial Group brokerage, as well as Lev Mitrofanov, the chairman of the oil and gas workers trade union.


The president of pipeline construction company Stroitransgaz, Arngolt Bekker, is also likely to get on the board, thanks to his firm's 4.83 percent stake in Gazprom.


However, German gas consortium Ruhrgas will not receive any board seats, despite its 4 percent stake in Gazprom, according to a Gazprom statement released earlier this year.