Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 186

The newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta, controlled by financier and “oligarch” Boris Berezovsky, examined the economic stabilization program which Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov earlier suggested the government consider (Nezavisimaya gazeta, October 9). Luzhkov called for, among other things, re-nationalizing enterprises illegally transferred to private ownership during the course of the privatization program masterminded by Anatoly Chubais. Nezavisimaya gazeta, which often appears to reflect Berezovsky’s thinking, charged that if Luzhkov becomes president, he will quickly and decisively carry out his program, which will mean first economic and then political “repression” against those who oppose it. The newspaper advised former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, ex-Central Bank Chief Sergei Dubinin, former acting Premier Yegor Gaidar and Chubais to emigrate “the day before” Luzhkov’s inauguration.

The article suggests that some of Russia’s tycoons, including Berezovsky, who were empowered by privatization, are becoming increasingly nervous about their position in Russia. Ironically, in the summer of 1997, Nezavisimaya gazeta launched a series of withering attacks against Chubais, whom it accused of favoring Uneximbank chief Vladimir Potanin, one of Berezovsky’s rivals, in privatization auctions that year.

Russia waits for Western credits–in vain, for the time being. Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov, fresh back from discussions in Washington with officials of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, said on October 8 that the release of promised credits from these organizations will depend primarily on the government’s first practical steps toward overcoming the financial crisis. Zadornov said the international financial institutions were viewing Russia with great caution, but that steps by the government which were based on “market instruments” would find understanding in the West (Russian agencies, October 8). Zadornov said he was categorically against a prohibition on the circulation of dollars in Russia, and that no one in the current government supported such a ban. Earlier this month, an economic plan attributed to First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, which included limitations on hard currency operations, caused a stir (Novye izvestia, October 9).

Meanwhile First Deputy Prime Minister Vadim Gustov told the newspaper Kommersant daily that if the next IMF installment, worth US$4.3 billion, is not released, the government will have to “practically cease” many programs and projects and direct the savings to paying salaries and pensions (Kommersant daily, October 8). Mikhail Khodorkovsky, head of the giant Yukos oil company, said the government could save money by cutting its own apparatus. Khodorkovsky claimed that the cost of maintaining the government apparatus–including local government organs–comes to US$10 billion. Khodorkovsky and other oil barons are fighting government plans to raise taxes on oil exports (NTV, October 8).