Russian railroad boss intends to resign, poised to join upper house

President of the Russian Railways company Vladimir Yakunin © Ramil Sitdikov
Longtime head of Russian Railways Corporation Vladimir Yakunin has confirmed he wants to leave his post in about one month in order to join for Federation Council as a senator representing the western Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.

Vladimir Yakunin told RIA Novosti that he would resign in accordance with the rules after the next single election day, which falls on September 13. He also forwarded his written consent to become a candidate for the upper house seat.

He has received a proposal from the country’s leaders and he accepted it. He confirmed that he wants to leave the company for the Federation Council as standard procedure after the elections,” a Russian Railways spokesman told TASS.

The press secretary of the Kaliningrad Regional elections commission told the press that Yakunin’s name was on the list of three candidates for senate submitted by acting Kaliningrad Governor Nikolay Tsukanov, who is running for the next term. If he wins the elections in September, he would decide which of the three candidates he’d prefer to delegate to the upper house.

Tsukanov elaborated on the subject in an interview with TASS, saying he proposed the senator’s post to Yakunin after one of the three candidates with whom he had previously agreed asked to remove him from the list for family reasons. He also said that the regional authorities had a long and successful history of cooperation with Russian Railways and its chief.

Yakunin has headed Russian Railways Corporation since 2005. Prior to that he assumed various positions in the Transport Ministry and the presidential control department. In Soviet times, Yakunin worked in USSR’s Permanent Representative in the United Nations.

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Over the past few years, the mass media have circulated rumors that Yakunin was a career intelligence officer. He never officially confirmed this, but allowed hints that this was possible, for example in 2013 in an interview with Kommersant daily he dropped the phrase that he had worked in intelligence for 22 years.

The current head of the Russian Railways is also known as a favorite target of the Russian anti-corruption activists. In 2013, famous blogger and politician Aleksey Navalny accused Yakunin of running a complex system of offshore firms, noted his exceptionally lush lifestyle and great personal wealth, and questioned the sources of his income.

Yakunin always dismissed all such accusations and blamed them on political intrigue and reporters’ sensationalism. In March this year, a Russian Court upheld Yakunin’s lawsuit against the New York Times newspaper, recognizing the article as false information with claims that the head of Russian Railways was paying large sums in cash to President Vladimir Putin.

At the same time he had refused to disclose his income declaration until it became mandatory for senior executives of state corporations in 2014. After this he also refused to talk to mass media, saying that the information about his income was personal and its disclosure could put his family in danger. In May this year, Yakunin eventually gave in to public pressure and said in a public statement that his monthly salary was about 4 million rubles (about $65,000).

In March 2014, the United States and Australia put Yakunin on its sanctions list over his alleged role in the reunification of the Crimean Republic with the Russian Federation. The Russian Railways’ press service called this step “an inappropriate reaction of the US administration to the expression of a personal opinion on the issue that causes large-scale public resonance in Russia.”

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