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Gazprom goes under the knife

Bill Browder

It was a pleasant and unexpected surprise. On May 30 in a boardroom showdown between president Vladimir Putin and Rem Vyakhirev, the chief executive officer of Gazprom - Russia's gas monopoly and what the Russian press likes to call a state-within-the-state - Putin ousted what one investor calls "one of the more encrusted of Russia's vested interests".

"It was not just a fundamental victory, but a symbolic one," says Dmitry Abdayev, an oil and gas analyst with United Financial Group, a Moscow brokerage. "It shows that the government is not going to tolerate the corporate governance abuses in Russia's big companies any more."

Investors welcomed what they are calling a "landmark decision", A change at the top of Gazprom is more than welcome. Although Putin has been pushing through numerous reform measures this year, they have mainly dealt with such nuts-and-bolts issues as deregulation and the customs code.

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