Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 105

The new Russian cabinet, in its final form, does not appear to represent a total victory for the Berezovsky-Dyachenko-Abramovich group. Yesterday Yeltsin appointed Viktor Khristenko, first deputy finance minister, to occupy the position of first deputy prime minister in charge of economics vacated on May 28 by Mikhail Zadornov. Mikhail Kasyanov, another first deputy finance minister who has been negotiating with the Paris and London clubs of creditors, was confirmed as finance minister, pursuant to a presidential decree of last week. Zadornov was made the government’s representative to international lending institutions. Khristenko, who began serving in the finance ministry in 1992, is viewed as being close to Anatoly Chubais. Another Chubais ally, Ilya Klebnov, a former optics factory director and city official from St. Petersburg, was named to fill the new post of deputy prime minister for defense-related industries. One newspaper said to be controlled by Boris Berezovsky characterized the pro-Chubais appointments as merely “small concessions by the presidential administration” (Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 1). Anatoly Chubais said that the government line-up was “strong” and would “work well.” He specifically praised Khristenko, who he said “has a unique experience as deputy finance minister on all levels” (Reuters, May 31).

NTV reported on May 30 that Chubais, who currently heads United Energy Systems (UES), Russia’s electricity grid, had cut a deal with Sibneft’s Roman Abramovich, by which UES would trade one of its most profitable sub-units in exchange for 10 percent of Sibneft. The channel further claimed that Chubais had rejoined the Kremlin inner circle after Abramovich forced Berezovsky out–he having become, according to this version, too controversial. It should be noted that NTV’s campaign concerning the alleged takeover by Abramovich and Company resembles the campaign launched in 1997 by Berezovsky-affiliated media against Chubais and his allies, who were accused of trying to monopolize power. During NTV’s “Itogi” May 30 program, host Yevgeny Kiselev went so far as to quote rumors that Yeltsin was no longer capable of functioning independently, and noted that Russia’s Constitutional Court is soon to take up a request to clarify the constitutional provision concerning the removal of the president for health reasons (NTV, May 30).

Media-MOST chief Vladimir Gusinsky, meanwhile, is rumored to be angry that a key ally, Vladimir Bulgak, lost his job as deputy prime minister in charge of communications during the recent cabinet reshuffle.