Rem Vyakhirev was re-elected the chairman of Gazprom at the annual shareholders meeting on June 26, while State Property Minister Farid Gazizullin was appointed chairman of the board. Rumors that the government, which holds 40 percent of Gazprom shares, would try to remove him proved unfounded. Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov addressed the meeting, explaining that Gazprom accounts for one quarter of federal revenues and that “[t]he fates of Gazprom and Russia are inseparable. The government will never take measures that would lead to the disintegration of the company or the country.” (Russky telegraf, Segodnya, June 27)
The IMF and World Bank have been pressing the government to collect more taxes from Gazprom and to loosen its monopoly structure–for example, by separating the transit and production operations. With the departure of Viktor Chernomyrdin–Vyakhirev’s main protector–from the post of prime minister this March, it was considered that Gazprom was vulnerable to such reformist attacks.
The predicted assault, however, failed to materialize. The Damoclean sword that Vyakhirev holds over the government is the threat to cut gas supplies to the multitude of non-paying domestic customers. Probably the government realized that it had too much on its plate trying to pass the emergency tax legislation to bother getting into a fight with Russia’s second largest company. The electricity company Unified Energy Systems has a higher turnover–but does not have Gazprom’s US$8 billion annual export earnings. Gazprom reported profits of US$6.5 billion on turnover of $23 billion in 1997. (Moscow Times, June 27)
TATARSTAN TOLD TO BRING ITS CITIZENSHIP PLANS INTO LINE WITH FEDERAL LAW.