Kocharian Set To Sit On Russian Company Board

ARMENIA-POLITICS-OPPOSITION-KOCHARIANYEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Former President Robert Kocharian is poised to be appointed to the board of directors of a leading Russian corporation that controls Armenia’s largest mobile phone operator.

The Moscow-based holding company AFK Sistema said in a statement late Thursday that Kocharian is among 13 individuals nominated to its new governing board to be elected by shareholders on June 27. Vladimir Yevtushenkov, the current board chairman who holds a controlling stake in the company, was quoted as voicing support for Kocharian’s candidacy, suggesting that its endorsement by the shareholders is a forgone conclusion.

A spokeswoman for Sistema, Yulia Belous, told RFE/RL on Friday that the company management took into account Kocharian’s extensive experience in international relations and his “good knowledge of CIS markets.” She said the former Armenian leader is also respected by the Russian business community.

Belous made clear that Kocharian, who ruled Armenia from 1998-2008, will not have to relocate to Moscow as the Sistema board normally meets only twice a year. Nor will the new position place any limitations on his political activities at home, she said.

Kocharian’s office in Yerevan could not be reached for comment on Friday.

With a market capitalization of $29 billion, Sistema is Russia’s leading publicly listed financial corporation with extensive interests in telecommunications, energy, banking, mass media and other spheres. Its key asset is Mobile TeleSystems (MTS), Russia’s largest mobile phone company.

MTS paid in September 2007 $430 million to buy a 80 percent stake in the Lebanese-owned company K-Telecom that founded and runs Armenia’s largest wireless network, VivaCell. K-Telecom had won its operating license in an essentially confidential tender held by the Kocharian-led government in late 2006.

Opposition politicians and media have for years alleged that Kocharian and members of his family have a major stake in VivaCell. But they have not offered any documentary proof of the claim.

According Belous, the Sistema spokeswoman, Kocharian does not own any shares in the Russian giant.

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