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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Nemtsov Resigns From Bank Post

VedomostiBoris Nemtsov
Liberal politician Boris Nemtsov said he had resigned from his post as a director of Neftyanoi Bank on Monday, just a little more than a week after prosecutors raided the bank in a money-laundering investigation.

Nemtsov, speaking by telephone from Nizhny Novgorod, declined to provide any details, saying only that he wanted to reduce political problems.

"I think I need to eliminate political risks," said Nemtsov, a former leader of the Union of the Right Forces, or SPS, and a vocal critic of President Vladimir Putin. He said he had also stepped down as board chairman of Neftyanoi Concern, the parent company of the bank.

Anna Yartseva, a spokeswoman for Neftyanoi Bank, refused to comment.

Prosecutors, accompanied by a squad of masked OMON officers, raided the bank earlier this month and said they had found evidence that the bank was involved in illegal activities, including money laundering.

Nemtsov said at the time that the raid may have been a political attack linked to his friendship with former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who has declared his intention to run for president in the 2008 election.

Stanislav Belkovsky, head of the Council for National Strategy, said Nemtsov's ties to another Kremlin foe, Ukraine's President Viktor Yushchenko, had cost him his post at Neftyanoi. "You cannot be radically anti-Putin and lobby the interests of a bank at the same time," Belkovsky said. "The bank sacrificed him in order to be left in peace."

But Dmitry Dmitriyev, a banking analyst with UFG brokerage, said politics was not at issue, pointing instead to raids on a number of smaller Moscow banks last week. The sweeps fit into a bigger effort by authorities to crack down on illegal activities at lenders, he said.

Alexei Buzdalin, chief expert at Interfax Center for Economic Analysis, agreed. "There is no need to look for conspiracy here," Buzdalin said. "It most likely has to do with the activity of the bank and of its clients."

Nemtsov was appointed as director of Neftyanoi Bank two years ago, after the SPS failed to enter the State Duma in the December 2003 elections. He has since thrown his support behind Kasyanov's efforts to unite the nation's liberal parties and run for president.

The Dec. 8 raid on Neftyanoi came a day after Interior Ministry investigators searched MDM Bank, which is associated with a group of businessmen and officials who -- like Nemtsov -- were close to former President Boris Yeltsin.