Russia Names Belozerov to Head State Railway in Place of Yakunin

First Deputy Transport Minister Oleg Belozerov was named to succeed Vladimir Yakunin, President Vladimir Putin’s long-serving ally, as chief executive officer of OAO Russian Railways.

Belozerov, 45, will lead the state-owned company, Russia’s largest employer, and must pay special attention to its investments and passenger services, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev said during a televised meeting between the two men on Thursday.

“People aren’t happy when some services are canceled,” the premier said. “On the other hand, the railway should get money for them and not simply make losses.”

Yakunin, who was blacklisted by the U.S. last year over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, plans to seek a post in the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, representing the Kaliningrad region. He took charge of the state railway operator, the second-largest in the world, in June 2005, and his tenure was ended after a meeting with Putin, he said by phone late Monday.

Russian Railways removed some regional commuter services from schedules earlier this year, prompting an angry outburst from Putin.

Transport ‘Specialist’

Medvedev signed an order on Thursday releasing Yakunin from his position, according to a document published on the government’s website. Belozerov, a deputy transport minister since 2009, will assume his new post on Friday, Medvedev said.

Belozerov’s “one of the best specialists in the country in the area of transport logistics and transport economics,” Economy Minister Alexei Ulyukayev told reporters on Thursday near Russia’s Black Sea port of Novorossiysk.

Yakunin, 67, was Putin’s neighbor in an elite compound of dachas, or country homes, founded in the mid-1990s outside St. Petersburg. He worked for about five years in the Russian Transport Ministry before taking charge of the rail company.

Putin’s ready to start replacing long-serving allies in his inner circle and bring in trusted younger people ahead of the 2018 presidential election, an official said Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because he isn’t authorized to discuss appointments.

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