Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin has issued his income declaration, in accordance with President Yeltsin’s decree. The total value of Chernomyrdin’s property is revealed to be a mere 268 million rubles ($46,000), including a house with 1.5 hectares of land (worth 150 million rubles) and a Chevrolet Blazer (112 million). His 150 square meter Moscow apartment is rented. His 1996 income was 46.4 million rubles ($8,000). The declaration does not list any securities that he owns, nor does it provide any details about bank accounts — all rather suspicious for a man who was once the president of Gazprom, Russia’s second largest company. Indeed, the meagerness of these amounts will strain the credulity even of those who did not believe Le Monde’s account (reprinted in Izvestia on April 1 and subsequently disavowed by both newspapers) that Chernomyrdin had accumulated a personal fortune of some $5 billion while he was chairman of Gazprom. One newspaper commented that the practice of declaring incomes "is not so much a method of social control over officials, as more like a game – who is best at hiding things." (Kommersant-daily, July 11) And Russians might be forgiven for thinking that if this is the best Chernomyrdin can do with his own finances it is small wonder that the national economy is a mess.
Russia: Not so Much of a Gold Mine.