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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abramovich Tenders His Resignation

Itar-TassPrime Minister Mikhail Fradkov and Abramovich conferring on Wednesday.
Billionaire mogul Roman Abramovich on Wednesday asked President Vladimir Putin for permission to resign as governor of the polar Chukotka region.

Abramovich, the richest man from Russia, believes he has done everything he can to help the barren peninsula, said his spokesman, John Mann.

Putin has yet to give a formal reply, the Kremlin said on its web site. Abramovich is the first appointed governor to ask to step down.

Mann portrayed Abramovich as a "crisis manager" who had turned things around in Chukotka and now wanted out.

Abramovich first visited Chukotka when he campaigned for a seat in the State Duma in 1999. He won that race. "He came out, ... saw people starving and wanted to help," Mann said.

Today, Mann said: "People live there on a par with the better regions in Russia, the infrastructure is in place, housing is renovated, schools and hospitals work and the economy is in good shape."

Abramovich, who invested hundreds of millions of dollars of his own money into Chukotka, is serving his second five-year term as the region's governor. He was first elected to the post in 2000, and Putin reappointed him in October 2005.

This is a good time to step down, Mann said, because next year's budget has been approved.

Abramovich will still run his two charity funds in Chukotka, Mann said.

Asked whether being governor of Chukotka had been a considerable financial burden for Abramovich, Mann chuckled. "That's the most stupid thing I heard today," he said.

Abramovich asked to step down at a meeting with Putin in the Kremlin, the Kremlin web site said. "Putin highly appreciated" the work Abramovich had done in the region, the Kremlin statement said.

Political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky said Abramovich had wanted to quit ever since selling his oil company, Sibneft, in 2005.

Valery Khomyakov, an analyst at the Council on National Strategy, a think tank, hypothesized that Abramovich was simply tired of being governor. "I feel sorry for Chukotka residents," Khomyakov said. "They consider him a god."

Abramovich could need more time to dedicate to football and his business interests, Khomyakov said. Abramovich owns the English football club Chelsea.

One of his latest ventures has involved the steelmaker Evraz Group. Abramovich, through his investment vehicle, Millhouse, has a 41 percent stake in the company.

Evraz is in the process of buying U.S.-based Oregon Steel; Oregon Steel's board of directors agreed Nov. 20 to be sold for $2.3 billion.

But before the deal can go through, the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment will reportedly examine Abramovich's ties to the Kremlin.

Millhouse has denied any links between Abramovich and the Kremlin.

Appearances aside, Abramovich is trying to sever his ties to Russian officials, said Sergei Mitrokhin, a leader of the liberal Yabloko Party.

Those connections, Mitrokhin said, "used to be a source of wealth, but now they are a source of his problems in the West."

Political analyst Sergei Markov, who is close to the Kremlin, said Abramovich was simply following the latest trend in Kremlin policymaking: creating big companies that can compete on the world stage.

"He will be creating a world leader in metallurgy," he said, referring to Evraz. "He needs to spend a lot of time and money on this."

Abramovich's life after politics will actually be more political, Markov said. "Chukotka was not politics. It was social welfare. The building of a major metallurgical company is politics," he said.

Staying out of politics -- at least overtly -- is a good idea until the 2007 State Duma elections and the 2008 presidential election are over, said Roland Nash, chief strategist at the investment bank Renaissance Capital.

In addition to Chelsea, Abramovich spends money on football in Russia.

As chairman and financier of the National Football Academy, he is reportedly funding the construction of a $40 million training center near Moscow for the national football team.

The Russian edition of Forbes magazine said earlier this year that Abramovich was worth $18.3 billion.

Valentina Matviyenko, a close associate of President Vladimir Putin, was appointed Wednesday as St. Petersburg's governor for another five years.

As governor, Matviyenko has sought to boost the city's commercial and political clout.