Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is going on vacation on February 2. In a departure from practice, he is not leaving either of his first deputies, Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov, in charge during his absence. Instead, in a public display of lack of trust in the "young reformers," he has given instructions that urgent documents should be brought to him on vacation for signature. (Komsomolskaya pravda, January 28)
The dangers of leaving Moscow were apparent this week. Boris Nemtsov had no sooner left for his home town, Nizhny Novgorod, than his close associate Boris Brevnov came under attack. At an extraordinary late-night meeting on January 27, seven of the fifteen members of the board of Russia’s state-controlled electricity monopoly, United Energy Systems (UES), voted to replace Brevnov as chief executive with Anatoly Dyakov. Dyakov, who called the meeting in his capacity as chairman of the board of directors of UES, held the post of president until Brevnov was appointed, on Nemtsov’s recommendation, last spring. Dyakov accused Brevnov, a 29-year-old former commercial banker, of "abuse of office." Brevnov counterattacked with accusations that his ouster was intended to prevent him from reorganizing UES to prevent "massive abuse" within the power industry. But Brevnov worked with Nemtsov in Nizhny Novgorod for so long that the attack on Brevnov looked much more like an attack against Nemtsov. (Itar-Tass, NTV, January 28; Financial Times, January 29)
In a television interview, Nemtsov called Brevnov’s dismissal illegal because it was made without government approval. The state owns a 52-percent stake in UES. A government spokesman confirmed that only the government could replace Brevnov. Nemtsov said that he and Fuel and Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko, currently visiting coal mines in the Kuzbass, would "sort the situation out" after they returned to Moscow. Since Prime Minister Chernomyrdin’s mini government re-shuffle, however, Nemtsov no longer has oversight of the fuel and energy ministry. Chernomyrdin himself has assumed it. The prime minister may hold no brief for Dyakov, but he could well be glad of an opportunity to replace Nemtsov’s protege with his own appointee. Kirienko suggested as much when he said yesterday that, if the financial irregularities of which the Dyakov accused Brevnov are correct, Brevnov’s resignation will be "only a matter of time." (NTV, January 28)
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