Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 191

The pages of the Russian press have seen many articles of late reflecting on the political implications of the "bankers’ war." Valery Khomyakov argues that over the past four months the financial elite has united around a single theme — the discrediting of Anatoly Chubais. (Delovye lyudi, no. 82) Ivan Sergeev concurs, and fingers Boris Berezovsky as the evil genius behind this campaign. (Kommersant-daily, October 7) Right on cue, Nezavisimaya gazeta — a paper close to Berezovsky — ran an article on October 11 by the maverick governor of Primorye, Yevgeny Nazdratenko, in which he blasted Chubais’s campaign to remove him from office.

Sergeev argues that Berezovsky has successfully unified Russia’s fractured financial elite behind the idea that the technocratic reformism of Chubais and his ally Boris Nemtsov, the so-called "second liberal revolution" launched in March of this year, represents a collective threat to "business as usual" as it had developed over the past five years. Moreover, the journalists suggest that Chubais’s opponents are skillfully using corruption allegations to discredit him in the eyes of his supporters in the US administration and international financial institutions.

Accusations of corruption have been a central theme in the attack on Chubais. These began with revelations about the interest-free loans that Chubais obtained and turned into $350,000 of profit during his three-month sojourn in the private sector in spring of 1996. They continue currently with the accusations against Chubais ally and former privatization chief Alfred Kokh, who while in office took a $100,000 advance for an as yet unwritten book.

Those involved in this devious conspiracy, if it really exists, could not have picked a more opportune time. Last month World Bank president James Wolfensohn made battling corruption a top priority for the bank. Even the OECD is introducing guidelines for its member states which, along the lines of U.S. legislation on foreign corrupt practices, ban dubious "consultancy fees" and other forms of hidden kick-backs. On October 7 the OECD announced that Russia is to be admitted to the club of 29 industrial nations. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 9) It is difficult for the Russian government to respond to this international pressure while the pages of the Russian press are full of plausible corruption allegations involving top officials.

Charges of corruption are not confined to the executive branch. Businessman and Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoi told a Duma conference on October 13 that corruption is rife within the legislature itself, with businesses spending millions of dollars to "buy" legislative proposals. He cited the example of a draft law to nationalize the aluminum industry, which caused a slump in the price of aluminum plant shares, making it easier for the bribing corporation to buy them up. (Russian agencies, October 13)

Grozny Decides Against Sending Its Representatives to the Duma.