Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 45

Berezovsky’s removal was greeted enthusiastically by most factions in the State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament. Gennady Seleznev, the Duma’s speaker and a KPRF leader who is a close ally of Primakov, said the tycoon’s firing was a cause for popping champagne corks. KPRF leader Gennady Zyuganov said it was a victory for “justice,” and said that Yeltsin’s decision was the result of joint actions by both houses of parliament and the Primakov government. Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, also applauded the decision, saying that Berezovsky had interfered in the affairs of the Yeltsin family and had launched a “fierce struggle” against the Primakov government. Ironically, Zhirinovsky had only yesterday closely echoed Berezovsky, calling for the KPRF to be banned. Vladimir Ryzhkov, head of the Russian is Our Home faction in the Duma, said Berezovsky’s removal was a long time coming, a view seconded by Yuri Luzhkov. The Moscow mayor echoed the criticism of many, charging that Berezovsky fulfilled none of the tasks required of a CIS executive secretary, but simply used the post in his own interests (Russian agencies, March 5).

Boris Yeltsin is famous for his skillful use of divide-and-rule tactics, and it is quite possible that the firing of Berezovsky was a sop to the Duma’s leftist majority prior to a ministerial shake-up–the ousting, say, of Maslyukov and Kulik. In the autumn of 1997, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais and his team managed to secure the firing of Berezovsky from the post of deputy Security Council secretary. Not long afterward, after Berezovsky-controlled media publicized “kompromat” (compromising materials) which implicated Chubais and his “young reformers” in bribery, Chubais lost his post as finance minister–which he held simultaneously–and was gradually forced to the peripheries of power. Thus Yeltsin’s move against Berezovsky yesterday may have been just the first shoe dropping.