Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 108

Boris Berezovsky has denied the rumors which have continued to circulate in the press that he played a major behind-the-scenes role in selecting members of Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin’s cabinet. In a press conference in Moscow today, the controversial tycoon and former Commonwealth of Independent States executive secretary said that if he had played a role, the cabinet “would not be what it is today.” Asked whether he would support a presidential bid by Stepashin in 2000, Berezovsky said Stepashin was not a choice, and that he continues to back the presidential aspirations of Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed … “particularly after Stepashin’s appointment” (Russian agencies, June 4). Berezovsky openly backed Lebed’s successful bid last year for the Krasnoyarsk governor post and reportedly assisted the former paratroop general’s campaign financially.

Berezovsky, surprisingly, gave conditional praise for former Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who, he said, had worked to “consolidate” Russia’s political elite “despite all the flaws inherent in him and his kind.” He said that Primakov’s main mistake was moving toward consolidation from a “leftist” position. The tycoon said Stepashin’s new cabinet is working for the same goal, but from a “rightist” position, adding that “resolute action must be taken against whoever is in the way of that movement because the safety margin for authority is limited.” In this connection, Berezovsky predicted that elections for the State Duma, set for December of this year, will be held as scheduled, though he added that he sees nothing unreasonable in dissolving the Duma, which “would deal a severe blow to the left-wing opposition.”

Berezovsky also stated that he has never hidden the fact that he has “very good relations” with former Kremlin chief of staff Valentin Yumashev, presidential daughter and adviser Tatyana Dyachenko and current Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin. Berezovsky said that he meets with them, as well as current and former presidential administration officials, to discuss political issues. He denied, however, that these meetings influence decisionmaking, and added that he had last met with President Boris Yeltsin about eight months ago. Berezovsky also said he knows Vladimir Rushailo, who was recently named interior minister, very well, and called Rushailo a “very courageous and highly professional person” (Russian agencies, June 4). Russian media have identified Rushailo as one of “Berezovsky’s men” in the cabinet.