Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 68

While it is difficult to be certain of the dynamics behind Berezovsky’s arrest, it is fair to say that Primakov had become his primary enemy and therefore that the prime minister has the most to gain from the arrest warrant. Indeed, a number of observers associated with the liberal wings of Russian politics noted Primakov’s victory with trepidation.

For example, Aleksandr Budberg–a reporter who has been close to “young reformers” such as Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais–wrote that Primakov has handled the battle with Berezovsky, the scandal surrounding suspended Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov and the Kosovo conflict like a “virtuoso.” By essentially destroying Berezovsky, Primakov has frightened the remaining oligarchs into submission. At the same time, according to Budberg, the order to arrest Berezovsky (and Smolensky) was handled in such a way as to tip off the targets so that they would be abroad when the warrants were issued. Russia’s political establishment, wrote Budberg, has no interest in seeing Berezovsky in [physical] custody, because the tycoon “knows too much” and has “paid off too many… including, some say, the communists” (Moskovsky komsomolets, April 8).

Another account, meanwhile, held that the Berezovsky arrest order and Yuri Skuratov’s speech to the State Duma yesterday (during which Skuratov charged that President Boris Yeltsin had unconstitutionally suspended him from his post) were part of an overall leftist-Primakov offensive. The thrust of that offensive was said to be for Primakov to gain control of ORT–the country’s main television channel, which is technically 51 percent state owned but said to be under Berezovsky’s control–prior to this year’s Duma and next year’s presidential elections (Segodnya, April 7).

Even Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, who as recently as the evening of April 6 was praising the Prosecutor General’s Office for going after Berezovsky, changed his tune yesterday. “I never hid my negative attitude toward Berezovsky’s role in Russia’s political life, but I consider it completely unacceptable that the Prosecutor General’s Office is carrying out a political order, disguised as a criminal case, against any Russian citizen, including the former CIS executive secretary,” Luzhkov told reporters (Trud, April 8).