Rusal elects new board of directors in bid to escape U.S. sanctions

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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Shareholders at sanctions-hit Russian aluminum producer Rusal elected a new board of directors on Thursday in an effort to appease the U.S. and get the restrictions lifted.

The new board, dominated by independent directors and operational managers, is part of a series of steps which Rusal and its co-owner Oleg Deripaska hope will persuade the U.S. government to remove the company from sanctions that have damaged its business since April.

Rusal has felt the impact of the U.S. sanctions because of its entanglement with Deripaska, but the U.S. government is not targeting the hardworking people who depend on Rusal, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in April, when Washington extended a deadline for Rusal sanctions.

At an annual general meeting in Hong Kong, where Rusal shares are listed, its shareholders elected to the board those it hopes will be seen by the U.S. as the hardworking people it referred to - its operational and regional managers and independent directors.

Deripaska and a team of his top managers stepped down from Rusal’s board of directors in May and are currently working on several options to reduce his control over the company.

Deripaska controls 66 percent of En+ Group, which in turn controls 48 percent of Rusal, the world’s largest aluminum producer outside China.

The new board of 12 directors includes six independent directors, three non-executive directors and three executive directors, Rusal said in a statement.

The latter are Evgeny Nikitin, Rusal acting chief executive who was the head of its aluminum division previously; Sergey Popov, Rusal’s representative in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, where some of the company’s smelters are located; and Evgeniy Vavilov, the senior master of Rusal’s foundry directorate in Krasnoyarsk.

Rusal shares finished up 1.5 percent in Hong Kong on Thursday, outperforming a 0.5 percent growth in the benchmark index.

Reporting by Polina Devitt; editing by Elaine Hardcastle