President Boris Yeltsin has sacked the first deputy head of his presidential administration, Aleksandr Kazakov. (Itar-Tass, November 14) No reason has been given for the dismissal, but Kazakov (who is also chairman of the board of directors of Gazprom) is one of a number of leading Russians officials at the center of the latest scandal rocking Moscow. Along with First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, federal bankruptcy chief Petr Mostovoi, privatization chief Maksim Boiko, and fellow "young reformers" Dmitry Vasilyev, Alfred Kokh, and Arkady Evstafyev, Kazakov has reportedly received a royalty advance of $90,000 for an as yet unpublished book on the history of privatization in Russia.
The problem with the advances is not so much their unusually large size but the fact that they have been paid to the authors by a publishing house that is 51 percent-owned by Oneksimbank. That bank is a major player in the privatization of a number of state-owned enterprises, the outcome of which Chubais and Boiko, in particular, are in a strong position to influence. Russia’s procurator general says he wishes to interview Chubais over the issue. Chubais denies any wrongdoing and blames his political opponents, who, he says, have concocted the issue in order to derail the 1998 federal budget now under debate. Chubais has dismissed the significance of the royalties, saying he and his co-authors plan to donate 95 percent of the money to the Foundation for the Support of Private Property, a charity established by Chubais himself.
Even observers keen to give Chubais the benefit of the doubt will find this explanation weak, however. Little wonder, therefore, that the BBC described Chubais this morning as "distinctly nervous" in the wake of Kazakov’s dismissal. "Everything is up to the president. Only he will make an evaluation of the matter," Chubais told journalists this morning before leaving Moscow by plane for Kyiv, where he is to discuss trade relations with Ukrainian government officials. (Itar-Tass, Financial Times, BBC World Service, November 14)
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