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Roman Abramovich steps down as Chukotka governor

Roman Abramovich, one of Russia’s richest men, resigned as the government of the Chukotka region of Russia. Abramovish has taken the position for almost eight years.

The billionaire submitted a formal resignation request two years ago, but then-President Putin denied it. Russia’s new President, Dmitry Medvedev, signed off his departure.

Abramovich, the owner of the Chelsea football club spends most of his time in London. He has rarely been seen in the Chukotka region recently. The region with its 50,000-strong population lies on the Berling Strait, opposite Alaska.

However, most of Chukotka residents praise the billionaire for rescuing the economy of the region. Abramovish restored food supplies, built roads, factories, hospitals and schools. He also runs two charities.

Although he has stepped down as governor, Abramovich will continue investing in the resource-rich region, his spokesman John Mann said.

"It's a change of role, but not a disengagement," Mann said.

Abramovich was first elected governor of Chukotka in December 2000 and later said he would not run again, describing the job as "too expensive." But Putin reappointed him in 2005 after direct elections of regional leaders were abolished.

Abramovich, whose current business interests are focused on metals, was ranked 15th in a list of the world's richest people by Forbes magazine in 2008 with an estimated fortune of US$23.5 billion (euro14.8 billion). Forbes names him as Russia's second-richest man.

He was an associate of powerful tycoon and Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky, and took over most of his assets after Berezovsky fell out with Putin and fled Russia.

Abramovich's oil company, Sibneft, was purchased by the Russia gas monopoly Gazprom, which is state-controlled and has close Kremlin ties, in a multibillion-dollar deal in 2005.

Russian business magnates have been careful to cultivate good ties with the Kremlin since the 2003 jailing of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, then the richest man in Russia, who was convicted of tax evasion and fraud in a politically motivated case.

Medvedev appointed Roman Kopin, the 34-year-old deputy governor, as acting governor.