…AND TRIES TO DEAL WITH THE ISSUE OF CORRUPTION.
As if all of this weren’t enough, the issue of corruption continues to dog the new cabinet, with Grigory Yavlinsky’s Yabloko faction submitting to Primakov a series of questions regarding cabinet decisions which may have benefited a host of commercial organizations and interests. Among those named in Yabloko’s detailed interrogatory were Maslyukov and Vadim Gustov, a fellow first deputy premier, along with Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik. Maslyukov again last week denied the accusations and attacked the accusers, telling the newspaper “Trud” that it was part of a campaign being mounted by his enemies in Moscow working in cahoots with unnamed Western interests. Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka rushed to the Russian government’s defense, accusing Yavlinsky, along with Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais, of having created the preconditions for corruption in Russia. Maslyukov also received an endorsement from Yuri Luzhkov: The Moscow mayor and presidential aspirant met with the first deputy premier last Wednesday (November 4) and said afterward that “the philosophy, the position of Yuri Maslyukov substantially, if not in full measure, coincides with our principles.” The government, however, was evidently worried enough about Yavlinsky’s accusations to step up its own anticorruption campaign–one which, not surprisingly, appeared to be aimed at past governments. Last Thursday (November 5), Grigory Koshel, deputy board chairman of Uneximbank, the powerful bank founded by Vladimir Potanin and connected to Anatoly Chubais, architect of Russia’s privatization, was arrested and accused of stealing US$27 million in shares from the Cherepovets “Azot” chemical plant. Interior Ministry agents also arrested two officials at the Ministry of State Property, Chubais’s old domain, in connection with a corruption case in Dagestan dating back to 1992. And word was leaked that the Prosecutor General’s Office had seized computer databases from the Moscow Inter-Bank Currency Exchange (MICEX) as part of an ongoing investigation of money laundering by top government officials. Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov announced last month that his office was investigating the circumstances surrounding the collapse of the short-term treasury bill market last August; MICEX has kept detailed records of trades in GKOs, Russia’s moribund short-term state obligations.
Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, on a visit to Strasbourg, France to attend a Council of Europe meeting devoted to finding ways to combat crime and corruption, said that US$1-$2 billion are being funneled out of Russia each month, and that US$1.2 billion were in Swiss Banks alone. For his part, Vladimir Potanin, who currently heads the Interros financial-industrial group, of which Uneximbank is a part, reassured Westerners that the Russian money in Swiss banks was not of IMF origin, because transferring such credits abroad was “technically impossible.” Radio Rossii quoted Potanin, who once served as first deputy premier in charge of economic policy as saying that the IMF money “was either distributed in various peculiar ways inside Russia itself or was simply stolen.”