Medvedev: State companies too slow to modernize

President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday sharply criticized Russia's biggest oil company and other state corporations for moving too slowly to introduce new technologies, and he warned that their chief executives could lose their jobs.

Medvedev said the state-controlled Rosneft oil company was among the worst performers in terms of the amount spent on research and development. He gave the Cabinet two weeks to consider ousting some of the companies' leaders.

"There is no need to try to persuade them. It's necessary to simply reshuffle the people," he said at a meeting that focused on technological modernization. He named no names.

Rosneft's chairman is Igor Sechin, who also serves as a top deputy to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, Medvedev's predecessor and mentor.

Medvedev has previously criticized state companies for their inefficiency and threatened to disband some of them. These statements were seen as part of Medvedev's efforts to appeal to Russian liberals and Western investors, who disapproved of the creation of the giant state corporations during Putin's eight-year presidency.

But Medvedev has taken no action and the heads of state corporations have stayed in place, strengthening the arguments of those who say that Putin has remained Russia's most powerful leader despite shifting into the prime minister's seat.

At least one head rolled after Monday's meeting, however.

Alexei Fyodorov was ousted as chief of the United Aircraft Corp. for his failure to encourage technological modernization, Medvedev's aide Arkady Dvorkovich said, according to Russian news wires. Mikhail Pogosyan, the longtime head of Sukhoi aircraft maker, was named to succeed him, Dvorkovich said.

Fyodorov was never seen as close to Putin, and his firing was not seen as having any political implications.

Putin is widely expected to seek re-election next year. He and Medvedev both have said they would decide between them who would run for president but wouldn't challenge each other.