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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Energia Picks New President

Shareholders of Energia, the country's flagship space industry company, met on Tuesday to dismiss Nikolai Sevastyanov as president of the Korolev-based firm, and to replace him with the little-known director of a St. Petersburg research institute.

The appointment of Vitaly Lopota, who until recently headed the Central Scientific Research and Development Institute of Robotics and Technical Cybernetics, was supported by over 97 percent of shareholders present at the company's extraordinary general meeting.

The Federal Space Agency has been pushing for the removal of Sevastyanov for months over what insiders described as his extravagant promises, including sending manned missions to Mars and the moon.

Speaking after his appointment, Lopota said he would put Energia, which is the country's lead contractor in the international space station, into emergency administration in a bid to address the crippling debt accrued under Sevastyanov's tenure, Interfax reported.

Lopota said Energia's debt to creditors and suppliers had increased from 3.9 billion rubles ($153 million) to 7.75 billion rubles in the two years Sevastyanov had been running the company.

"We plan to introduce crisis management for the corporation, because the financial idealism that has existed here would have lead to bankruptcy not to the moon," Lopota said, Interfax reported.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, sources at Energia and the Federal Space Agency said earlier this month that the head of the space agency, Anatoly Perminov, had personally lobbied for Sevastyanov's ouster over what they described as his outlandish promises.

Lopota's assessment was shared by space industry veteran Yury Semyonov, who ran Energia until the Federal Space Agency forced him to resign in May 2005, to give way to Sevastyanov.

Semyonov told reporters after the shareholders' meeting that while debt had accounted for about 30 percent of the corporation's annual turnover during his presidency, this amount soared to 97 percent under Sevastyanov, Interfax reported.