Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 237

Among the notables who won Duma seats representing single-mandate districts were the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, who will represent a district in the Caucasian republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and Roman Abramovich, the head of the Sibneft oil company and another Kremlin insider, who won a seat representing Chukotka. Indeed, while three pro-Kremlin parties–Unity, SPS and the Zhirinovsky Bloc–gained representation in the new Duma by winning more than 5 percent of the total vote, there is speculation that Berezovsky and Abramovich will help organize a fourth pro-Kremlin bloc, made up of independents who won single-mandate seats. Among others, Viktor Chernomyrdin, Vladimir Ryzhkov and other members of Russia Is Our Home who were elected to the Duma in single-mandate districts are likely to join this group. Berezovsky, who won 40 percent of the vote in his own successful race, is credited with having masterminded Unity, which was created in September to challenge OVR in the regions. In addition, First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko, a Berezovsky ally, reportedly played a key role in “aiding” those regions where the Kremlin was aiming for a Unity victory (Argumenty i fakty, No. 51, December 1999).

Among the regional leaders who supported Unity were Kursk Governor Aleksandr Rutskoi, the former Russian vice president who was jailed in 1993 for his part in an armed rebellion against President Boris Yeltsin, Kalmykia President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, who has been linked to the June 1998 murder of an opposition journalist in Kalmykia, and Primorsky krai Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko. The Federal Security Service has linked members of Nazdratenko’s administration–including First Vice Governor Konstantin Tolstoshein, who also won a seat in this Duma race–to organized crime (Moscow Times, December 21).

Berezovsky said in a press conference today that these elections have created the possibility that power could now be “consolidated,” which would allow the authorities to address such tasks as “Russia’s revival and its positioning in a new outside world.” Warning of “centrifugal forces” which threaten to “split apart” the country, he said that Russia’s military campaign in Chechnya had exhausted itself and called for a political settlement. He said that Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had made it known to him that he [Putin] was ready to negotiate with Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov through mediators.

Berezovsky also admitted that he had been “directly involved in developing the ideology” of Unity, but denied that he had been involved in its formation or in its “technological aspects” (Russian agencies, December 22). Developing Unity’s ideology could not have been a very difficult job, given that it appears to have none, beyond a primitive nationalism expressed mainly as support for the Chechen war. Indeed, Unity leader Shoigu yesterday bragged about the bloc’s absence of ideology, saying: “Thank goodness we have come through that wonderful period when people’s ideological and political convictions meant everything. Today we believe the main accent should be on professionalism, morals and, above all, patriotism” (Reuters, December 21).