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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Deripaska Offers Ministers Spot on Board of Paper Mill

Oleg Deripaska on Thursday invited two government ministers to join the board of a troubled paper mill that he controls a week after he was reprimanded by the prime minister for his management of another plant.

The offer by Deripaska, who reportedly lost most of his $28 billion fortune in the financial crisis, appears to be an olive branch to the powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

A statement from Continental Management, the firm that owns the Basic Element stake and manages Baikal Paper Works, said Deripaska had asked First Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov and Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin to join the board of directors of the factory. Both are close Putin allies.

Deripaska owns 51 percent of the paper mill on the banks of Lake Baikal through his investment vehicle Basic Element. The government owns the remaining 49 percent.

Putin intervened in an industrial dispute at another Deripaska-controlled factory earlier this month and humiliated him on national television by likening him to a "cockroach" and forcing him to sign a document reopening supplies to the factory.

Thursday's statement said that if the two ministers joined the board, it would help find "an early solution to the socio-economic problems of the town of Baikalsk and its inhabitants".

The plant is the main employer in the town, providing more than 2,200 jobs to a population of 17,000.

But the factory has been mothballed since the last quarter of last year, and last Monday, workers at the mill protested over unpaid wages. They said they had gone on a hunger strike and threatened to block a road if their wages were not paid.

Continental Management has agreed to pay 87.6 million rubles ($2.8 million) in wage arrears.