Magazine article Russian Life

Kremlin Scandals Topple Democrats

Magazine article Russian Life

Kremlin Scandals Topple Democrats

Article excerpt

First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais and the other members of what the press has sarcastically dubbed the "Writers' Union," have had their reputations as "young reformers" seriously shaken. In mopping up the scandal, Chubais and four of his associates have conceded they were wrong to accept a $450,000 advance for an as-yet unpublished text on Russian privatization.

Unanimous in their assessment of the book deal's negative impact on the course of reforms, observers are split in assessing Yeltsin's subsequent move to jettison Chubais' allies (privatization head Maxim Boiko, bankruptcy commission head Mostovoy and senior presidential aid Kazakov), but to keep Chubais on as first deputy prime minister after stripping him of his post as finance minister. Some criticize Yeltsin for such a quick and wishy-washy response, whereas others point out that Yeltsin has time and again shown a flair for playing his advisors off against each other to preserve a power balance in the Kremlin.

In any event, henceforth, deputy prime ministers are no longer allowed to combine ministerial posts, meaning that another young reformer, Boris Nemtsov, will keep his post as first deputy prime minister, but has lost his position as fuel anti energy minister (interestingly enough, Boris Nemtsov was himself in a quandary earlier this year after Novaya Gazeta published a taped phone conversation between him and Russian advertising tycoon Sergei Lisovsky, in which Nemtsov pressed Lisovsky to quickly wire him the $100,000 honorarium for his book Provincial, so that Nemtsov could quickly include this in his annual income declaration, so as not to draw Yeltsin's ire).

Yeltsin has nonetheless gone out of his way to stand by Chubais, saying that, despite "ethical problems" with the deal, the young prime minister is smart and the world knows him. Chubais will remain in the presidential cabinet, but will be replaced as finance minister by the less influential politician, 34-year-old Mikhail Zadornov, said to be on good terms with technocrat Prime Minister Chernomyrdin. …

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