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Znarok takes over as Russia head coach

By Dmitriy Rogovitskiy

MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia have appointed Latvian Oleg Znarok as head coach in place of Zinetula Bilyaletdinov who stepped down following the team's poor performance at the Sochi Winter Olympic Games, the national federation said on Wednesday.

The 51-year-old, who will leave his position as Dynamo Moscow coach, will lead Russia at the world championships in Belarus in May.

"After a round of negotiations, we have decided to ask Oleg Znarok to take over as the head coach of the Russian ice hockey team", said Russian Hockey Federation president Vladislav Tretyak.

"We have just had a meeting with the Russian Minister for Sport, Vitaly Mutko, where it was approved that Oleg Znarok, who is experienced and has shown that he has been successful in all his previous posts, should be appointed."

Bilyaletdinov quit earlier this month after Russia crashed out of the Sochi Olympics at the quarter-final stage, following a 3-1 defeat to Finland.

Znarok played for the USSR before becoming the captain of Latvia following the break-up of the Soviet Union.

He has had a successful coaching career, with a stint at MVD of the Moscow Region followed by a move to Dynamo Moscow in 2010. Under Znarok, Dynamo twice won the KHL's Gagarin Cup in 2012 and 2013.

(editing by Justin Palmer)