Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 104

The tally in the battle surrounding the cabinet so far seems to show the “homemade Politburo” way ahead. Other major Kremlin insiders, such as Chubais and Gusinsky, have been unable to place any of their allies in the cabinet. What is more, Gusinsky lost an ally in the recent cabinet shakeup when Vladimir Bulgak, a deputy prime minister in charge of communications, was dropped. Bulgak today was named the state’s representative on the board of Svyazinvest, Russia’s telecommunications holding company. Chubais, for his part, is in danger of losing an ally, Economics Minister Andrei Shapovalyants, a holdover from the cabinet of Yevgeny Primakov. Rumors have it that Shapovalyants’ dismissal is imminent. Even Rem Vyakhirev, head of the powerful Gazprom natural gas monopoly, lost out when he reportedly tried to block the appointment of Viktor Kaluzhny as fuel and energy minister (Vremya MN, May 28). Kaluzhny is said to be close to Sibneft’s Roman Abramovich.

Meanwhile, Mikhail Zubarov, who has been Yeltsin’s adviser on social issues, was yesterday named the head of Russia’s Pension Fund (Russian agencies, May 28). The fund is seen by many Russian observers as an important way to control regional leaders–through the distribution of funds–and thus a key element in ensuring that Kremlin-approved candidates in this year’s parliamentary vote receive the needed regional support to ensure victory.

Thus, if the “collective Yeltsin” has indeed come out on top–by, in effect, rescinding the president’s traditional strategy of dividing and thereby ruling the warring political-financial clans–the opponents of Yeltsin’s inner circle may be hoping to upset the apple cart. One way to do this would be to convince Stepashin to step down if Yeltsin refuses to change his mind about separating the posts of macroeconomics tsar and finance minister. An account today said that Stepashin is ready to step down if Yeltsin’s decree separating the posts is not rescinded (Vremya-MN, May 28). Stepashin’s resignation would mean that Russia would have had two government shake-ups in one month, and would undoubtedly be viewed as a serious crisis both at home and abroad.