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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kasyanov Sacks Chief of State Vodka Holding

Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov signed a resolution Saturday to remove Sergei Zivenko from his post as general director of state-owned liquor giant Rosspirtprom.

In his place Kasyanov appointed Pyotr Myasoyedov, a major-general formerly in the St. Petersburg tax police who in 2000 ran for governor of Kamchatka, where he headed the region's organized crime police.

Neither Rosspirtprom nor the government's information department would comment Monday on Zivenko's dismissal, which was posted on the government's web site.

Rosspirtprom was created in May 2000 to centralize the state's liquor holdings. It owns stakes in more than 100 companies, most of which are controlling, and produces some 40 percent of the nation's liquor and 60 percent of its ethyl alcohol. It posted estimated revenues last year of $1.5 billion.

From its inception, however, Rosspirtprom has been dogged by scandal, and Zivenko's removal was widely expected.

Earlier this year top managers were hauled in by the Prosecutor General's Office for questioning on a wide range of subjects. And in June, Viktor Alexeyev, manager of Rosspirtprom's 18 core distilleries, was found stabbed to death in his Moscow apartment.

Since he was named Rosspirtprom's first general director, Zivenko has been pigeonholed by the media as an aggressive opportunist -- thanks mainly to a widely-cited article in Germany's Der Spiegel that said he got the job after a private audience with Vladimir Putin, brokered by the president's personal judo instructor.

The article went on to say that Zivenko briefly married his own sister, who owned an apartment in Moscow, in order to hasten his Moscow registration.

Zivenko himself said in an interview with the Kompaniya magazine that there had been attempts on his life and that at the time of writing the price of removing him from his job was $10 million.

A representative of a rival vodka producer, who requested anonymity, said the government planned to sack Zivenko almost from the start. Zivenko, the representative said, had done the dirty work by establishing Rosspirtprom's own managers at its distilleries, and now it was time to bring in the wholesome Myasoyedov. "There are lots of problems in this sector -- things it's best for a general not to do," said the representative.

According to another industry insider the situation at the holding had become particularly strained in the past two months and employees were expecting staff changes at the end of June. "A number of Rosspirtprom representatives close to the management simply stopped coming into work," he said.

He said the fact that Myasoyedov has no direct experience in the industry does not necessarily mean he is not up to the job. "Chekists can manage anything," he said. "Banyas, oil and now vodka -- no problem! Just like the people's commissars."