The unsinkable member of the “Ozero” cooperative

2014/06/18 • News

The head of the Russian Railways Vladimir Yakunin will remain on his post for three more years. 

The head of the JSC “Russian Railways” Vladimir Yakunin will remain on his post for three more years. The term of Yakunin’s contract has run out earlier, however, according to mass media, Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev intends to extend it. Vladimir Yakunin’s figure has been recently under a lot of discussion by the press thanks to the anti-corruption investigations by opposition activists. The most well-know are “The Winter Olympics in the Sub-Tropics” by Boris Nemtsov and Leonid Martyniuk and the investigation of Alexey Navalniy’s Anti-Corruption Fund, which directly deal with Yakunin’s revenues and property. 

The government intends to extend Vladimir Yakunin’s contract which has run out recently, regardless of the fact that he will turn 66 on June 30th, and state officials, which the head of the Russian Railways is, de facto, have the right to occupy such seats until they reach 65. The seat of the “President of the Russian Railways” has been occupied by him for three terms already. Yakunin’s representative, Alexandr Pirkov, told RBC that the president has a timeless contract. Yakunin himself is not against continuing to carry out his duty, which he stated at the “Petersburg Forum.” The problem with Vladimir Yakunin’s age can be solved easily: Russian President Vladimir Putin can order to extend the tenures of government officials until 70.

The rumours regarding Vladimir Yakunin’s retirement emerged back in 2013. Then there was talk that the post of the head of the Russian Railways would be taken by First Vice Prime Minister Alexandr Misharin. The false statement regarding the retirement was spread rapidly throughout the press, half a year later Yakunin himself stated that the culprit that started the rumour had been found. In any case, it is not too difficult to find a replacement for Yakunin: his seat, as “Vedomosti” writes, could be taken by the chairman of the board of the Russian Railways Kirill Androsov, advisor to the President and former Minister of Transport Igor Levitin and general director of “Uralvagonzavod” Oleg Siyenko.

The Russian Railway’s losses constituted over 10 billion roubles just in the first quarter of the current year. Overall the general important measures of efficiency have decreased as well: the speed has fallen by a quarter in the last 6 years, almost the same for the average productivity of each carriage, and cargo efficiency has fallen 7%. However the Minister for Transport Maksim Sokolov sent a letter to the head of government Dmitry Medvedev with the petition to extend Yakunin’s contract, as the informants of “Vedomosti” have stated, as he does not see any reason to replace the chairman of the Russian Railways. His letter states that the situation in railway transportation is only improving.

In general the number of systematic problems of one of the biggest transportation companies of the world is so big that everything the opposition is drawing our attention to may not be taken into account, concludes the scientific fellow of the National Investigation Institute for Transport and Road Industries Mikhail Blinkin. And the figure of the head of the RR has nothing to do with it, the expert says:

“The Russian Railways has a plethora of systemic problems that have nothing to do with the corrupt leader of this huge establishment. The systemic problems lie in the horrifying imbalance between what is necessary and the investments not even for development, but for elementary renovation, structural support. These problems are systemic, macro economical. The Russian Railways’ investment programs have to be increased significantly in all aspects, at least because on on key railways, say, the Trans-Siberian, we have not replaced a lot of elements, constructions, structures, which were built, for example, a hundred plus years ago. There are many narrow places there which simply interfere with normal cargo work. We have gigantic problems in passenger transportation, because there is a real threat that, say, intercity passenger transportation outside of Moscow, St. Petersburg and some two-three other regions will simply close. Because there are no sources for financing current activities. The tariffs cannot be raised for social reasons, and subsidies have been transferred to the regional level, and nobody is ready to pay them. I can continue listing these systemic problems which demand industrial decisions on the highest level. Whether they depend on the fact that the former head is there, or a new one is appointed – I think not. I don’t have grounds to suppose that these problems will be solved if a young president replaces Yakunin. Unfortunately, they are not personal.

“You are saying that there are no sources for financing, but the sources that are available are being spent ineffectively by Yakunin himself.” 

It has to be understood where the hands are dirty, and where they are manicured. We may say that the Russian Railways supports the “Lokomotiv” football club, but the numbers that are used to measure the RR’s investment problems and the violations the commentators like to discuss are very different. I am not ready to be the accuser nor the advocate regarding the things that are being said in the public space about the Russian Railways, but these problems under discussion are of the fourth order of importance in comparison to the real problems of the railway industry.”

As to the RR’s problems discussed in the press, connected with corruption and Viktor Yakunin himself: the numerous public investigations, for example about the “fur coat stocks” of the head of the RR or the violations and appropriation of over 30 billion dollars in preparation for the Sochi Olympics, by the RR as well, do not influence the position of the monopoly president in any way. For example, because of the long-time friendship with the Russian President, Georgiy Alburov, head of the investigation regarding the businesses belonging to Yakunin and other state officials in Alexey Navalniy’s Anti-Corruption fund, remind:

“The extension of the contract with Yakunin is as appalling as it is predictable. Yakunin is Putin’s old friend, member of the “Ozero” cooperative and person who has direct access to the President. He can solve all of his issues with him directly. Of course, he would not be forced to retire. Yakunin turned the RR into a corruption empire which is de facto working on his family, which lives outside of the country, regardless of the President’s patriotic statements. The FBC and our team continues to actively investigate his activities as president of the RR, we simply cannot find any RR activity that would not be corrupt by Yakunin and the money from which would not go to his family. In the future Yakunin will definitely be subject to criminal prosecution, it will be investigated by the Investigation Committee. Yakunin managed to turn the RR into a losing company, taking into account that the coupe tickets coast even more than plane tickets now. Yakunin steals so much that it is difficult to call it corruption at this point, this is some degree of kleptomania, I would say. We conducted many investigations in connection to Yakunin. We have established, for example, that all electronic railway tickets which are not being sold on the RR website go through a company that belongs to Yakunin’s family. So, when you buy an RR ticket somewhere other than the website, you pay 400 plus roubles from each ticket to his family personally. Only by doing this do they earn billions of roubles annually,” says Alburov.

Vladimir Yakunin, just like the heads of “Gazprom” and “Rosneft,” has not yet made his account of revenues and property, even though the according order “to counteract corruption” was signed by Vladimir Putin last year. By May 1st, the heads of seven state companies provided information about their revenues. Igor Sechin, head of “Rosneft,” refused to do it on principle, claiming that the information about top managers has been sent to competent institutions, and the order of the President only has to do with “state-owned companies created by federal law.” To wit, according to Alexey Navalniy’s Fund, Igor Sechin earns about 5 million roubles daily.

Source: Svoboda

Translated by Mariya Shcherbinina

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