Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 162

Gazprom CEO Aleksei Miller did some house cleaning this week. At a meeting of the natural gas monopoly’s top executives on September 3, Miller replaced the company’s number two, Vyacheslav Sheremet, a close ally of former CEO Rem Vyakhirev, with another deputy CEO, Pyotr Rodionov. Miller also replaced Aleksandr Pushkin, deputy CEO in charge of exports to the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Baltics, with Yury Komarov, who was in charge of Gazprom’s exports to Europe; Nikolai Guslisty, deputy CEO in charge of procurement, with Sergei Lukash; Yury Goryainov, deputy CEO in charge of investment and construction, with Mikhail Axelrod. Also on September 3, Gazprom removed another Vyakhirev crony, Viktor Tarasov, as head of the Gazprom-owned Gazprombank, replacing him with Deputy Finance Minister Yury Lvov.

The thread that ties most of the new appointees together is geographical: With the exception of Komarov, all of them hail from St. Petersburg. They are also linked to Miller and his patron, President Vladimir Putin, also natives of the city. Before 1997, Pyotr Rodionov headed Lentransgaz, a Gazprom-controlled construction company in St. Petersburg. Mikhail Axelrod was formerly a top executive of the Lenenergo, St. Petersburg’s electricity utility. Yury Lvov once headed Bank St. Petersburg and later became deputy vice president of Banking House St. Petersburg, the latter of which, according to various Russian media, worked closely with Putin when the president-to-be was still a deputy mayor of Russia’s second city.

The changes also seem to have been aimed at removing those Gazprom executives who were most directly connected to allegations of asset stripping and other controversial practices. Aleksandr Pushkin, for example, the former deputy CEO in charge of CIS and Baltics exports, was closely connected to Itera, the Florida-based trading company that has become Russia’s second largest gas company thanks to its acquisition of former Gazprom assets. Pushkin was on the board of directors of Sibneftegaz, an Itera affiliate. Minority shareholders in Gazprom have linked Itera to Gazprom’s management. Yury Goryainov, the former Gazprom deputy CEO in charge of investment and construction, reportedly lobbied the interests of Stroitransgaz and Zapsibgazprom, two other companies that, some observers allege, have benefited from sweetheart deals with Gazprom’s management. Stroitransgaz’s largest shareholders include Vyakhirev’s daughter Tat’yana and former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin’s sons, Andrei and Vitaly. Chernomyrdin once headed Gazprom (New York Times, September 5; Moscow Times, September 4; Kommersant, September 4;, September 3; see the Monitor, August 31).