October 23, 2013 / 9:28 PM / 4 years ago

After years of bans, Russia's consumer protection chief is out

MOSCOW, Oct 23 (Reuters) - The longtime head of Russia's consumer protection agency, who oversaw bans on foreign products that Kremlin critics saw as politically motivated, has been dismissed after his contract extension expired, Russian news agencies reported on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed an order dismissing Gennady Onishchenko and naming a deputy, Anna Popova, as his temporary replacement, state-run RIA cited Medvedev's spokeswoman, Natalya Timakova, as saying.

Onishchenko, 63, who had been Russia' chief sanitary doctor since 1996 and the head of consumer protection agency Rospotrebnadzor since 2004, has been appointed an adviser to Medvedev, Timakova was quoted as saying.

He had come to symbolise what some saw as Russia's use of trade restrictions as a geopolitical lever, including bans on wine from Georgia in 2006, vegetables from the European Union in 2011 and dairy products from Lithuania earlier this month.

Onishchenko, who has cited health concerns and documentation problems for such bans, has repeatedly denied any ulterior motives. It was not immediately clear whether his departure would produce a change in policy.

Onishchenko did not go easily. After Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets announced on Tuesday that he would be leaving his post, he was quoted as saying she had no right to make that decision.

An aide to Golodets said Onishchenko, whose birthday was on Monday, had been under one-year contracts since age 60. Timakova said Medvedev had told him a year ago that he would offer him the adviser job when the new contract expired, RIA reported. (Additional reporting by Maria Tsvetkova; Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Paul Simao)

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