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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gref to Shed His Aviation Obligations

Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref will step down from leadership positions at the state's main airport and flagship airline, effective when shareholders next meet, to focus his energies elsewhere.

Gref will no longer chair the board of Sheremetyevo Airport and will give up his membership on Aeroflot's board according to lists of government candidates for these boards made public last week. Gref's deputy Yury Isayev is the government-nominated heir for both positions.

"He [Gref] was overloaded with work, so it was decided that he should focus on key companies like Unified Energy Systems and Gazprom. The rest of the workload will be distributed among his deputies," said Gref's spokesman, Konstantin Bogdanov.

It was not immediately clear how this reshuffling will impact the fate of either company.

Any optimism that accompanied former State Property Committee chief Sergei Belyayev's appointment as Sheremetyevo's general director in late 2001 quickly dissipated after Belyayev had a falling-out with Gref, who had nominated him for the job.

Their dispute revolved around the construction of Sheremetyevo-3, a new terminal intended to relieve the overcrowded Sheremetyevo-2 and pave the way for Aeroflot to join the Delta-led Sky Team alliance.

But Belyayev locked horns with Gref over what body would operate the much-needed terminal.

Belyayev wanted Sheremetyevo to have a controlling stake, while Gref insisted that a foreign investor should get control.

The standoff ended last November when the all-government Sheremetyevo board sacked Belyayev, pressing criminal charges against him for abuse of power. Belyayev's deputy, Yevgeny Bakhteyev, was named to succeed him as the airport's acting general director.

In the meantime, progress on Sheremetyevo-3 has stalled and government officials have shied away from commenting on its future.

The terminal was originally planned to open later this year, but there has been little activity at the site since the February 2001 groundbreaking ceremony. Sources close to the government said last week that the matter will not be addressed before a new general director is appointed.

Meanwhile, Aeroflot CFO Alexander Zurabov may replace Transport Minister Sergei Frank as Aeroflot chairman following the annual shareholder meeting April 26. Frank has said he is stepping down. Zurabov features on the nine-member list of state candidates for Aeroflot's 11-seat board and is considered a leading candidate due to his recent appointment as aviation adviser to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov.