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Reports about resignation of Russian Railways president proved to be provocation

June 20, 2013, 10:58 UTC+3

Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dubbed this incident “an act of cyber crime”

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Late on Wednesday, several Russian and foreign news agencies have at once received information that the president of Russian Railways, Vladimir Yakunin, had been dismissed and First Vice President of Russian Railways Alexander Misharin was appointed instead of him. Half-an-hour later the news was disproved. Information came from the email address made to look like the official mail address of the government press service. By the time the first reports disproving it came, the news had been widely covered in media. Russian President’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov dubbed this incident “an act of cyber crime”. Prime Minister’s spokeswoman Natalia Timakova also stated that the reports were a fake. It was established later that the news came from an IP-address that did not coincide with that of the government press service.

The Vedomosti daily cites the report of the Russian Railways press service. “Information circulated in media about reshuffles in the company is not true.” The government press service also said that no information about the resignation of Yakunin had been sent to news agencies.

The official website of the Kremlin reports that “in view of manifestations of cyber crime that are getting increasingly frequent,” the press service offers all media outlets “to exercise maximum caution in using information coming though the Internet as electronic messages of the Russian president’s press service”. Besides, the press service asks to confirm by telephone information appearing in e-mails.

The newspaper referring to the Forbes cites Yakunin himself as calling the news about his resignation a planned action to compromise him, which competent agencies must look into. When asked to comment on the report he said he did not react to graffiti.

The Russian Railways president said the news about his alleged resignation came when he was attending a meeting of President Vladimir Putin with business people. “It did not spoil our appetite: we eating wood-grouse,” Yakunin noted. He said the president took the news as a joke. “He said: lucky you!” Yakunin added. According to the Russian Railways president, he does not expect the repeat of the provocation. “Lightening never strikes twice in the same place,” he noted.

Dmitry Medvedev’s spokeswoman Natalia Timakova noted that specialists from the Federal Security Service and Federal Guard Service are investigating the incident. “The report about Russian Railways President Vladimir Yakunin’s resignation, designed to look like an official statement of the government press service, was false,” she said.

Vladimir Yakunin thanked all who had supported him in connection with the news about his resignation, which turned out to be a fake, and dubbed them blatant provocation, the Moskovsky Komsomolets writes.

“I have never before received so many telephone calls and sms messages with the words of first sympathy and support and then indignation over blatant provocation in connection with my alleged resignation,” Yakunin wrote in his Live Journal blog.

Yakunin’s three-year contract is in effect till June 2014, the Kommersant daily writes. It is then that the overwhelming majority of market participants would expect his resignation. “And who will be then responsible for Olympic facilities? It was assumed that that Vladimir Ivanovich can retire with a sense of a job well done once the Olympic Games end,” a co-owner of one of the major railway operators says.

At the same time, the commentaries that appeared within 20 minutes between the report about the resignation and the report disproving it, show that Yakunin’s departure looks quite possible, the newspaper says. Market participants were immediately ready to officially comment on the reasons for his resignation, although later they asked not to write anything on their behalf. In their first commentaries they linked the resignation to the fact that the top management of Russian Railways disagrees on many issues with government officials as to the development of the sector, while the position of Vladimir Yakunin himself is too conservative.

“He is against the further privatization of TransContainer, categorically against privatization of Russian Railways, against liberalization of drive engine fleet. Compromises between the government, Russian Railways and market participants been sought for a long time, like for example with amendments to the law on the railway transport. A resignation is like an attempt to cut the knot and not untwist it,” operators said.

Rumors about a possible resignation of Yakunin have been circulating for long, and it is exactly the candidacy of Alexander Misharin that is seen as one of the most probable, the Kommersant stresses.

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