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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

UES: Remezov Fired; CEO Won't Go

MTRemezov leaving Mosenergo?s headquarters Monday after addressing supporters.
Unified Energy Systems said Monday that it had sacked Alexander Remezov, but the City Hall-backed Mosenergo CEO refused to go, adding a new twist in the increasingly bitter -- and public -- struggle for control of the city's power supply.

UES said that a tally of the yes-or-no vote on Remezov's future, put to shareholders at an extraordinary meeting Aug. 31, gave it the right to "terminate [Remezov's] powers."

Andrei Trapeznikov, board member of UES, which owns 50.87 of Mosenergo, said that only UES votes were counted because the mail-in ballots of all the other shareholders were returned to them on Remezov's orders, but they were more than the 50 percent plus one share needed.

Remezov, who has managed to hang on to his job since UES chief Anatoly Chubais called for his ouster two months ago, said the ballots were returned because of court orders banning the extraordinary meeting.

A confident-looking Remezov continued his defiance Monday at a rally with supporters in front of the company's offices. Remezov told a group of trade union activists and sympathetic employees who held an all-day demonstration against his removal that the vote tally wasn't binding and four separate court decisions proved it.

"No one can get into this office by force while I have so many defenders," said Remezov, pointing to a small crowd of demonstrators.

UES countered that all court decisions that declared the Aug. 31 meeting illegal had been revoked. And as for Remezov's vow to bar UES representatives from entering the building, UES spokesman Yury Melekhov said his company wasn't worried.

"Any lock can be picked," Melekhov said by telephone.

It remains unclear who exactly is now in charge of Mosenergo.

Trapeznikov said UES decided to vote on only one of the two items on the Aug. 31 meeting's agenda -- Remezov's sacking. The other item, who to replace him with, it decided to ignore until it could work out an agreement with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Moscow region Governor Boris Gromov over a candidate suitable to all parties.

City Hall owns about 3 percent of Mosenergo and the utility is the sole supplier of heat and electricity to some 16 million people in the city and the region.

"Whatever the personal relationship between UES and Luzhkov, we understand that we depend on each other and inevitably will be looking for a mutually acceptable candidate," Melekhov said.

Luzhkov, a long-time political opponent of Chubais, has publicly railed against UES for its attack on Remezov.

In what one legal expert called a "clearly ordered decision," Moscow court bailiffs ordered a ban on UES voting with its Mosenergo shares.

The move came in response to an order by the city tax department in charge of major taxpayers for UES to repay its debt to the city within five days.

The tax inspectorate ruled that bailiffs could arrest and sell UES property to clear the power grid's 3.992 billion ruble ($140 million) debt to the city and the portion of the federal road fund it administers.

"UES is perplexed by the tax inspectorate's decision," UES said in a statement, adding that in March the same body said UES debts to the city were only 3.5 billion rubles.

Trapeznikov said city authorities had no right to arrest shares "because that would deprive shareholders off their lawful right to vote."

A legal expert for brokerage Renaissance Capital said that "it is a clearly ordered decision, though, theoretically, Russian jurisprudence tolerates the arrest of shares."

With further legal action regarding Remezov's fate expected, UES said it expected the Mosenergo board to meet shortly to elect an acting director and to set the date of another extraordinary meeting of shareholders to choose a new general director.

By law, an extraordinary meeting cannot be held for at least 45 days after it is called.