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Ukrainian PM backs railway CEO in conflict with minister

Groysman said Omelyan's experience was nowhere near Balczun's success record.

Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman during a government meeting on Wednesday openly supported the head of state-owned rail company Ukrzaliznytsya, Wojciech Balczun, in his conflict with Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Omelyan.

Balczun was invited to the Cabinet meeting to report on his six months' work as the railway head. He said Ukrzaliznytsya earned 303mn hryvnia in 2016, a considerable improvement over the loss of 16.8bn hryvnia in the previous year, and unveiled plans to significantly increase investments in rolling stock and infrastructure.

Infrastructure Minister Omelyan, in turn, lashed out at Balczun claiming that the improved earnings were due a tariff increase while freight transportations have in fact declined under new management.

The minister also alleged that Balczun have established corruption links with Serhiy Mikhalchuk, the only UZ COB who retained the post after the sweeping changes in the company last year), and the head of the Verkhovna Rada transport committee Yaroslav Dubnevych. Balczun denied the allegations

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Groysman decidedly took the side of Balczun pointing out at the successful record of the Polish manager in the transport industry (LOT, PKP Cargo).

"Unfortunately, you have no expertise in the railway sector," Groysman told Omelyan and went on to say that "a minister cannot afford personal feelings about a subordinate".

The premier stressed that the conflict between Omelyan and Balczun should not be a hindrance in the development of Ukrzaliznytsya and that was why the company had been resubordinated directly to the Cabinet.

The head of government stressed that the problem of rolling stock has been accumulating for decades and just could not be resolved in a year.

Groysman expressed full support to the plans announced by Balczun: "I support the purchase of new cars, new engines, new jobs, a full load of enterprises, high-quality services for passengers."

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