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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Zubkov Taps Nashi Leader

Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov has appointed Vasily Yakemenko, leader of pro-Kremlin youth movement Nashi, to head the newly established State Committee for Youth Affairs, the White House press service said Wednesday.

President Vladimir Putin announced the creation of the committee along with changes to the makeup of the Cabinet on Sept. 24, but no one was named to head the committee. Yakemenko, 36, has been at the center of speculation over who would get the post.

Putin's decree gave the committee responsibility for shaping and implementing youth policy, as well as providing it with the authority to "manage state property" and "state services" in the process.

Yakemenko founded his first youth organization, Moving Together, in 2000 and switched his focus to Nashi in 2005.

The movement is best known for organizing large rallies of students -- who are shipped to Moscow from all over central Russia -- to proclaim their support for Putin and his policies. It has also achieved notoriety in the last year by harassing Estonian and British embassy personnel when relations with their countries soured.

The leader of another pro-Kremlin organization, Mestniye, praised Zubkov's choice. "This will give [the committee] a very good push," Sergei Fateyev said, Interfax reported.

Yabloko youth leader Ilya Yashin said Yakemenko's departure from Nashi could bode ill for the organization. Yashin said he thought Nashi would cease to exist after the presidential election in March.