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Pressure Mounts for Sports Minister's Ouster

Athletes competing in a men's fight during the Judo Grand Slam in Moscow on Saturday. Sports, Tourism and Youth Politics Minister Vitaly Mutko may be thrown to the mat because of his allegedly irresponsible spending prior to and during the Vancouver Winter Olympics. Alexander Zemlianichenko

Pressure mounted Monday for the ouster of sports minister Vitaly Mutko over the misspending of Olympic funds, and a new survey ranked him as the country's second most disliked minister.

Senator Amir Gallyamov called for Mutko's dismissal from the Sports, Tourism and Youth Politics Ministry over an Audit Chamber report that named him as one of the officials responsible for misspending money allocated for the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics.

A Kremlin source told Vedomosti that Mutko's dismissal was inevitable.

Government spokesman Dmitry Peskov refused to comment on whether Mutko might be let go.

Leonid Tyagachyov, who resigned as head of the Russian Olympic Committee after the games — Russia's worst ever — defended Mutko, saying the minister was not the only official who distributed Olympic funds.

“Those were collegial decisions,” Tyagachyov said, adding that he, Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Zhukov and senior Kremlin official Vladimir Kozhin also allocated Olympics funds.

"I can assure you that there were no huge violations," Tyagachev said, Interfax reported.

The Audit Chamber, in a scathing report released Thursday, found that Mutko had 97 breakfasts during his 20-day stay in Vancouver and spent 1,499 Canadian dollars ($1,408) per night on his hotel room, even though government regulations limit officials to $130 per night. The report did not call for the punishment of any official.

Mutko has called the report "speculation" and "total rubbish."

But Senator Gallyamov said the Federation Council should ask President Dmitry Medvedev to dismiss Mutko over the report, Vedomosti reported Monday.

Vyacheslav Fetisov, head of the Federation Council's sports committee, said Gallyamov had only stated his personal opinion but added that he too blamed Mutko for the Vancouver fiasco, Interfax reported.

Meanwhile, a VTsIOM poll released Monday indicated that 31 percent of Russians disapproved of Mutko's work, making him the country's second least liked minister.

Mutko tied for second place with Health and Social Development Minister Tatyana Golikova, while the title of least liked minister went to Education and Science Minister Andrei Fursenko, who had a disapproval rating of 37 percent.

The survey, conducted by the state-run pollster in late June, questioned 1,600 people in 42 regions and had a margin of error of 3.4 percentage points.

Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev had a disapproval rating of 30 percent, followed by Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin with 27 percent, and Industry and Trade Minister Viktor Khristenko and Economic Development Minister Elvira Nabiullina, who both scored 26 percent.

Emergency Situations Minister Sergei Shoigu remained the most popular minister, with a 78 percent approval rating. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who placed second, had an approval rating of 56 percent, while Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov scored 42 percent.

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