Dmitry Litvinovich: Black Thursday of Railway Minister Nikolay Aksenenko

The New Year holidays brought a surprise this year. President Vladimir Putin dismissed Railway Minister Nikolay Aksenenko January 3, the presidential press-service informs. There is not enough official information as for the reasons of such an important decision.

Nikolay Aksenenko’s resignation and President Putin’s decision on the problem became public after a meeting of the president with Russia’s Public Prosecutor Vladimir Ustinov. Provisional results of the recent checks held in the Railway Ministry were discussed at the meeting. Vladimir Ustinov told that severe economical violations had been revealed during the checks. The violations are connected with tax debts first of all.

Shortly before the checks the minister handed in his resignation paper. The department for governmental information reports, Nikolay Aksenenko thinks that his resignation will make for the industry’s steady work. He also explained the resignation with the feeling of moral responsibility for the problems in the Ministry. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov had studied the results of the checks and understood that it had no sense to save the minister any longer. Nikolay Aksenenko and Prime Minister Kasyanov are considered to be close to the family of Boris Yeltsin. That is why there were talks about soon resignation of both, because President Vladimir Putin will try to get rid of the officials who remained after Yeltsin’s presidency. It is probably one of the reasons of Aksenenko’s resignation. But probably his connection with oligarch in disgrace Boris Berezovsky made for it. Nikolay Aksenenko and Boris Berezovsky do not share the opinion.

Aksenenko’s resignation can be also connected with a reform in Russia’s Railway Ministry. The Ministry, being the largest and very significant natural monopoly of Russia, have been resisting to restructuring for a long period. But when a decision on restructuring of the Ministry was made by the top authorities, Nikolay Aksenenko himself was at head of the reforms. After long debates with participation of the Railway Ministry, the Russian Ministry for Economic Development and Trade and the Anti-monopoly Ministry, it was decided to follow the variant submitted by the Railway Ministry. The variant provides for the branch’s division into two parts: a managerial infrastructure (state-run monopoly) and railway business (private capital). This caused talks that the reform was profitable for Nikolay Aksenenko only, who planned to take the post of the head of the largest monopoly – RAO Railway.

Faults in the Ministry’s work, revealed during the checks held by the Accounts Chamber of Russia are the third probable reason for Aksenenko’s resignation. It was published, the Chamber was auditing illegal spending of public funds at the rate of 700 billion rubles fixed in 1997. The money was designed for realization of a so-called “North delivery” governmental program. The sum is much more than the 70 million rubles discovered by the General Office of the Public Prosecutor. It is not ruled out that more versions of the Minister’s resignation will follow. No definite answer can be given as for Aksenenko’s future so far. His resignation does not remit the charges brought against him. But the Russian history already has several precedents of this kind. The future will tell.

Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru

Translated by Maria Gousseva

In the photo: Nikolay Aksenenko

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