Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 238

The violence and fraud lawsuit against Russian Aluminium also alleges that United Energy Systems (UES) chief Anatoly Chubais met with Zhivilo in 1998 and demanded that he go along with Deripaska’s efforts to consolidate Russia’s aluminium industry and “bring it under his [Chubais’] control.” Zhivilo explained that he could not cooperate with people who threaten his life and are connected with people like Malevsky and Chernoy, and urged Chubais not to trust Chernoy and Deripaska. In reply, Chubais allegedly said that if Zhivilo did not heed his [Chubais’] advice, he would get Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleev to turn NkAZ over to Deripaska. According to the lawsuit, Deripaska and Chernoy were finally able to take over NkAZ when Tuleev accused Zhivilo of plotting to murder him, thereby forcing Zhivilo to flee Russia (Vedemosti, Moscow Times, December 21). The Russian authorities are seeking Zhivilo in connection with the alleged plot to kill Tuleev. In August of this year, Olympic biathlon champion Aleksandr Tikhonov was arrested and jailed in for allegedly participating in the plot against Tuleev.

While it is unlikely that the lawsuit against Russian Aluminium will be decided any time soon and far from clear that it will be decided in favor of the plaintiffs, it shines a rather unfavorable light on the administration of President Vladimir Putin, given his often-repeated promise to set up one set of rules for all economic actors and the fact that earlier this year, his antimonopoly minister, Ilya Yuzhanov, gave Russian Aluminium a clean bill of health, saying that its creation did not violate antimonopoly laws. Yuzhanov’s assessment would be put in doubt if any of the lawsuits’ claims concerning violence, intimidation and extortion were proven true. In addition, the charge that Chubais cooperated in Chernoy and Deripaska’s alleged efforts to muscle Mikhail Zhivilo out of the aluminium business comes at an inopportune time for the UES chief. Chubais has come under strong public criticism from Andrei Illarionov, Putin’s economic adviser, and Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin for his plan to restructure United Energy Systems. Illarionov this week charged that Chubais’ plan–which involves splitting the energy sector into generation, sales and transportation businesses, and selling off UES’s power generating assets–was “the second edition of the loans-for-shares auctions with the loss of billions of dollars for the country” (RTR, December 17). The first was the controversial 1995 privatization scheme which Chubais oversaw and which handed over some of Russia’s most valuable assets to a small group of Kremlin-connected insiders at knockdown prices.

In another interview this week, Illarionov contended that Chubais’ restructuring plan had scared shareholders into dumping UES shares en masse, causing a multibillion-dollar drop in the company’s market capitalization (Polit.ru, December 20). This week, Chubais–who has also been criticized for his restructuring plan and overall management of UES by former Finance Minister Boris Federov, who represents UES minority shareholders on the company’s board–was named Russia’s worst manager of 2000 by the Association for Protecting the Rights of Investors, on the basis of a poll taken among twenty-three Russian and international companies working in the Russian stock market (Segodnya, December 21). In 1997, when Chubais held the post of first deputy prime minister and finance minister, the magazine Euromoney named him the world’s best finance minister.