Putin Ally Yakunin Rejects Senate Seat for `Social Activity'

  • Ex-Russian Railways CEO doesn't want Kaliningrad nomination
  • Says decision to refuse Federation Council place was his own

Former Russian Railways chief Vladimir Yakunin, one of President Vladimir Putin’s closest allies, said he’s decided not to seek nomination as a senator in the Federation Council.

Yakunin, 67, said shortly after his departure last month from the state railway operator, Russia’s largest employer, that he wanted to represent the Kaliningrad region in the upper house of parliament. It was his own “difficult and conscious decision” to reverse that position and it was made with Putin’s knowledge, Yakunin said Tuesday by e-mail.

“I hope that in future I will be able to benefit society,” Yakunin said in a statement broadcast on Russian state television. “I can concentrate on expert-scientific activity, social activity, primarily in international communications, international relations and the inter-civilizational dialogue between societies.”

Yakunin’s decade-long tenure as chief executive officer of Russian Railways, which employs nearly a million people, ended abruptly in August at a meeting with Putin, the most high-profile departure from the president’s inner circle since his return to the Kremlin in 2012. His entry into the Federation Council seemed assured after Kalingrad’s governor, Nikolai Tsukanov, said before his election to the position on Sunday that he intended to nominate Yakunin to represent the region. Yakunin said Tuesday that he’d asked Tsukanov not to put his name forward as a senator.

Status, Blacklist

His announcement came hours after Kommersant reported that Yakunin wouldn’t be made a deputy speaker of the upper house or chairman of one of its committees, citing an unidentified source in the Federation Council. He’d receive an office in a building away from the one used by the chamber’s most senior members and be provided with a standard Ford car instead of the Mercedes, BMWs or Audis used by top officials, the newspaper said, citing a second unidentified source at the Federation Council.

Yakunin’s rejection of a seat in the upper house shows “that he considers his personal role in the system to be much higher than that of an ordinary senator,” Alexey Chesnakov, director of the Moscow-based Center for Current Policy, said by e-mail on Tuesday. “It’s not consistent with the rules of the corporate game and was probably dictated by an emotional response.”

Yakunin, who was blacklisted by the U.S. last year over Russia’s annexation of Crimea, was Putin’s neighbor in an elite collective of dachas, or country homes, founded in the mid-1990s outside St. Petersburg. The former Soviet diplomat said that “life goes on” after his exit from the state railway operator, the second-largest in the world. Yakunin’s departure was “his choice,” Putin told reporters at the time.

Oleg Belozerov, 45, formerly the first deputy transport minister, succeeded Yakunin at Russian Railways as Putin begins a process of replacing long-serving allies with trusted younger people before the 2018 presidential election, an official said last month, speaking on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to discuss appointments.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE