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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Abramovich Will Remain Governor of Chukotka

APAbramovich disembarking from a helicopter during a 2002 visit to Chukotka.
Roman Abramovich wanted a transfer away from Chukotka, but President Vladimir Putin isn't letting him go.

Billionaire oil tycoon and Chelsea football club owner Abramovich will stay on as governor of the Chukotka region, the Kremlin said Friday, suggesting that Putin has rejected the resignation that Abramovich tendered late last year or persuaded him to withdraw it.

"He agreed to stay on," said a spokesman for the billionaire who mostly spends his time in Europe, including Britain where he has property.

Since his election in 2000, Abramovich has invested hundreds of millions of dollars and used his close Kremlin ties to fight poverty in the sparsely populated region lying just across the Bering Strait from Alaska.

His work in Chukotka has been widely cited as an example of what Kremlin-loyal oligarchs should do to help the country.

The development suggests that Putin wants Abramovich to remain in the office so that he can continue to show loyalty to the Kremlin by pumping money into the impoverished region, which has experienced significant improvements since his election in 2000.

Abramovich submitted his resignation as Chukotka governor in December, and a spokesman at the time said he was resigning because he felt his mission of helping rebuild the bleak, frigid region across the Bering Strait from Alaska had been accomplished.

But he changed his tune by Friday, news agencies quoted him as saying there was still much to be done, including implementation of a strategic development plan approved by the federal government last fall.

An Abramovich spokesman said the businessman wanted to take part in a new long-term development program that includes efforts to make Chukotka more self-sufficient. "Last autumn, the Chukotka administration developed a long-term strategy for the development of the region," the spokesman said. "The governor wants to participate in the initial rollout of the program."

Putin's press service confirmed news agency reports that Abramovich would remain governor and that Putin had praised his work in the job, but declined to say whether Putin had rejected his resignation or to explain how the decision had been made.

Abramovich, who bought Chelsea in 2003, was first elected governor of Chukotka in 2000 and was appointed by Putin in 2005 after direct elections of regional leaders were abolished.

(AP, Reuters)