(Photo: RIA Novosti)
Vladimir Yakunin seemed eternal: Nothing he could do appeared to undermine his standing in the system President Vladimir Putin has built to run Russia. Yet now he is leaving the top job at the national railroad monopoly, after 10 years of mismanaging it.
Putin may be realising that tough economic times require better managers than his buddies, and that to remain in power he needs to distance himself from the oligarchy he has created.
Yakunin, who served for 22 years as a Soviet intelligence officer, wasn’t friends with Putin when both were in the KGB. Yakunin’s career as a spy went rather better than his future boss’s: He ended up in New York at the Soviet mission to the United Nations, whereas Putin achieved only a modest position in East Germany. They became friends in the 1990s, when Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg. In 1996, both men joined Ozero, a cooperative that built a small compound of lakeside country houses near St. Petersburg and is widely considered the chrysalis from which Putin’s close circle emerged.
The original article can be found at www.afr.com