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President Vladimir Putin has had a working meeting with Roman Abramovich
President Vladimir Putin has had a working meeting with Roman Abramovich, the governor of the Arctic province of Chukotka. To begin with, Abramovich told the president that during his governor term, the gross regional product had increased five-fold, and average wages grew up to 19,000 rubles (roughly $680). "There are some achievements," said Putin. "But as far as I know, the financial status of companies got worse in 2004, in particular, they faced sales difficulties." The president showed Abramovich the statistics. The governor said that growing energy prices, in particular, for diesel fuel, had increased the cost of the products and electricity tariffs. "But we are trying to keep these processes in check," said Abramovich. Putin asked Abramovich about public sector wages and wage arrears. Abramovich said public sector workers were paid 16,000 rubles (approximately $570) without any delays. Abramovich, 39, and his business associates control over 80% of Sibneft, Russia's fifth oil giant, 50% of RusAl (Russky Aluminii), and 26% of the Aeroflot airlines. He also owns the controlling stock in the Chelsea soccer club of London. The media has several versions of why Roman Abramovich wanted to become Chukotka governor. One of them is political - he has become a true, legal politician. Others suggest that he did it for economic reasons. Chukotka is a very promising place in terms of oil and gas extraction. For example, the Anadyr Bay is potentially rich in gas. Two oil and gas basins have been established in the East Siberian and Chukotka Seas. Chukotka also boasts of gold and marine bio-resources. Abramovich is a former business partner of another notorious Russian oligarch, Boris Berezovsky, who is on the wanted list but has been granted a political asylum in Britain. Abramovich's eccentric purchases - the soccer club, exclusive yachts, and aircraft have aroused a strong public response in Russia and vehement criticism from politicians. According to Russia's Audit Chamber, the Chukotka autonomous area, whose state debt is twice as large as the regional budget's revenues, is actually bankrupt. Under the budget code, the state debt of a regional budget must not exceed local budget revenues.
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