Publication: Monitor Volume: 6 Issue: 75

There are signs that Boris Berezovsky, the infamous “oligarch” and Kremlin insider, is losing his foothold in the corridors of power. The latest indication of this came earlier this week in the North Caucasus republic of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, where Berezovsky won a seat in the State Duma during last December’s national parliamentary elections. On April 12, a group calling itself the republic’s “Council of Elders” sent an appeal to State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev, expressing “no confidence” in Berezovsky and accusing him of not having fulfilled his campaign promise to solve the republic’s economic problems. Yesterday the head of Karachaevo-Cherkessia, Vladimir Semenov, said it was “entirely possible” that Berezovsky would be removed from his Duma seat representing the republic. Semenov, who formerly commanded the Russian army’s ground forces, claimed that his administration had received telegrams from “all regions of the republic, from public organizations and entire collectives of industrial enterprises” complaining about Berezovsky. Semenov, however, denied that he was behind a campaign to remove Berezovsky from office (Russian agencies, April 13).

Semenov was elected head of Karachaevo-Cherkessia in a highly controversial election, the results of which were challenged by his main opponent, Stanislav Derev, the mayor of Cherkes, the republic’s capital. The republic is split along ethnic lines: Approximately 40 percent of the residents of Karachaevo-Cherkessia are Russian, 30 percent are Karachaev, 10 percent are Circassian and 6.6 percent are Abazin (ethnically close to the Circassians). Semenov is a Karachaev, while Derev is Circassian (see the Monitor, July 30, June 2, 14, 17, 1999).

The tension between the two groups surrounding last year’s election was accompanied by some violence and some even feared that a civil war might erupt. In its appeal to Seleznev this week, the republic’s Council of Elders alleged that the ethnic tension in the republic had been “activated” according to a “scenario” which Berezovsky helped develop. Stanislav Derev, meanwhile, questioned whether a Council of Elders even existed in Karachaevo-Cherkessia (Russian agencies, April 13). It is not clear how Berezovsky could be removed from his Duma seat at the moment. the People’s Deputy faction in the Duma, however, is reportedly drafting legislation which, if passed into law, would allow a Duma deputy to be removed if 25-percent-plus-one among the voters of a given district call for that deputy’s removal. The legislation will be taken up by the Duma in September (Moskovsky komsomolets, April 14).

Today, Berezovsky struck back at Semenov. He said that one of the reasons he had run for the Duma seat representing Karachaevo-Cherkessia is that the leaders of the republic, including Semenov, had asked him to do so. Berezovsky noted that last August, Semenov and other politicians in the republic had asked then-President Boris Yeltsin to make him, Berezovsky, a special presidential emissary to resolve conflicts in the North Caucasus. Berezovsky claimed that he, along with Vladimir Putin, who was then prime minister, managed to achieve “concrete agreements” in resolving the conflict in Karachaevo-Cherkessia, and that Semenov had failed to act on his promise to make Stanislav Derev the republic’s prime minister. Berezovsky charged that the push to drive him from his Duma seat was an attempt by Semenov to distract public attention from “the real reasons for the breakdown of the process of political settlement” in the republic (Russian agencies, April 14).