Publication: Monitor Volume: 7 Issue: 107

Former Union of Right-Wing Forces (SPS) members Sergei Yushenkov and Vladimir Golovlyov announced last week that a new democratic opposition group they are setting up will receive funding from Boris Berezovsky. Yushenkov and Golovlyov, who are both State Duma deputies, formally announced that they were leaving the SPS during its founding party congress on March 26. Yushenkov, a veteran human rights activist, charged that the SPS had become too “servile” towards the Kremlin. He then announced that his own small Liberal Russia movement would join with eight other former SPS constituent groups to form a new coalition–the Union of Democratic Forces. Yushenkov and Golovlyov traveled to France last week to meet with Berezovsky, after which they announced that the self-exiled oligarch had promised to fund their new organization. They declined to specify any amount. Yushenkov did say, however, that Berezovsky would fund only specific projects, such as a congress of small and medium businessmen planned for later this year, rather than the party as whole.

Earlier last month, Berezovsky announced that he was giving millions of dollars to human rights organizations in order to help form “institutions of civil society” and would fund a new political party to oppose President Vladimir Putin, whom Berezovsky supported before publicly breaking with him last year. Yushenkov and Golovlyov, however, have denied that their planned party and Berezovsky’s are one and the same (Moscow Times, Russia’s Week, May 30).

Last December, Berezovsky set up the International Foundation for Civil Liberties, through which US$25 million in funding will be distributed in small grants to 163 organizations around Russia, including environmental, press freedom and prisoners’ rights groups (Moscow Times, May 14). Among his first donations late last year was US$3 million to the Sakharov Museum, part of the foundation run by veteran human rights campaigner Yelena Bonner (see the Monitor, February 8). Bonner later called Berezovsky an “ally” in the fight for press freedom after his television channel, TV-6, agreed to hire the journalists who had fled from Vladimir Gusinsky’s NTV television following its takeover by its main creditor, the state-controlled Gazprom natural gas monopoly (see the Fortnight in Review, April 27).