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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

United Russia Taps Yakunin for a Top Post

Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin is to join the leadership of United Russia, a first step into political center stage for a man some tip as a future president.

Commentators said the party post could be a springboard for Yakunin -- who until now has stayed out of politics -- if President Vladimir Putin anoints him as his chosen successor when he steps down in 2008.

United Russia's supreme council voted Friday to recommend Yakunin as a new member of the council. He is almost certain to be voted in when the party holds its congress this weekend.

"Reading the tea leaves, this may be linked to the fact that he will be named as the president's successor," said Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Panorama think tank. "Yakunin as a compromise candidate is quite possible."

United Russia's supreme council also nominated for membership Sergei Chemezov, a long-standing Putin acquaintance who now heads massive state weapons company Rosoboronexport, the party said on its web site.

Yakunin, a suave and tanned 58-year-old, was appointed head of Russian Railways in June last year. He has spoken of the need for Russia to have a strong national identity rooted in material interests, spiritual faith and morality. Like Putin, Yakunin studied in St. Petersburg.