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Vladimir Yakunin: We should stop playing innocent

September 29, 2014, 1:00 UTC+3
In an interview for ITAR-TASS Russian Railways Company President Vladimir Yakunin said that time is ripe for declaring real financial amnesty and taking steps that will let capitals return to Russia
Material has 6 pages
© ITAR-TASS/Valery Sharifulin

Late last summer Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev prolonged the powers of Russian Railways Company (RZD) President Vladimir Yakunin. The government’s resolution to this effect had been expected back last June, so the unexpected pause prompted some to look at this routine formality (Yakunin had led the company since 2005 and his approval was to become a fourth in a row) as a kind of intrigue...


- Your contract has been prolonged. But many are still curious why it happened two months later than it had been originally anticipated.

- To begin with, I’ve kept doing my job non-stop all this time. I have an open-ended employment contract. It is renewed automatically unless a different decision has been made. Under the company’s Charter, the candidature for the position of Russian Railways president is approved by the government once in three years, but no exact date is set. It might have happened in June or in August. No intrigue.

You should know our president better: you can convince him, but never persuade or force him into something You know, sometime ago my son gave me a gift – a small statuette made by a famous French sculptor: a naked man at a railroad switch. The track bifurcates in front of him. One line turns left and the other, right. There is a chance to choose in any situation. My reappointment confirms that the RZD is on the right track. True, some adjustments must be made, of course. There is no road without sidings and switches, but the company’s prestige inside the country and in the international scene is beyond doubt. The direction of our further movement is obvious, while the line of behavior may vary. When pressed for time, you have to act fast, although light cavalry charges are seldom effective. Maintaining proper balance is a totally different matter. This style of work is far more productive in making the most important decisions in any backbone branch of the Russian economy.

- So how did you keep doing your job before the contract formalities were completed?

- Let me say once again, it was business as usual. Amazingly, some nervousness developed outside. I saw that for myself in the number of public commentaries and personal congratulations that followed the news of my reappointment. Nobody had ever taken the trouble of reading the RZD rules of procedure attentively enough. In the meantime, it’s all pretty clear. The government staff formulates a corresponding decision. It is agreed with the presidential staff. Then there follows the final resolution. That’s all.

- In the summer of last year there was a big row over a reported attempt to depose you as RZD president. In the evening of June 19 Russian news agencies received what looked like an urgent e-mail from the government’s press-service stating that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has relieved Vladimir Yakunin of his duties to appoint Aleksandr Misharin instead.

- Listen, it was a nasty provocation, staged in a bid to destabilize the company and discredit the authorities! Today I can say this with certainty.

The direction of our further movement is obvious, while the line of behavior may vary - Have you tracked down the one who ordered it?

- Yes, but I do not think that I can share such information, because it is beyond the RZD president’s competencies. That IT defamation attack cannot be classified only as an attempt to discredit my business reputation or an invasion of privacy. It was rather a deliberate attempt to discredit the prestige of the state institution whose letterhead was on the top of the forgery. As far as I know, the government is well aware of who was behind that, why that hoax was staged and how. All the rest is not my area of responsibility. That’s a political decision – to make the details public or not. What is to be disclosed and when, depends on the situation.

- But do you agree that on that evening in June 2013 the tensions vanished when you appeared in the company of President Vladimir Putin at a table on the sidelines of the St. Petersburg economic forum? Then there immediately followed the official confirmation that the head of the RZD company remains in place.

- Nothing of the sort. That I was with a group of businessmen near Vladimir Putin that evening was sheer coincidence. Absolutely. There is no intrigue about that. Some speculate that I had taken certain steps and that helped overturn an already made decision… You should know our president better: you can convince him, but never persuade or force him into something.

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