The Kremlin’s press service announced Friday (March 15) that President Vladimir Putin had accepted Viktor Gerashchenko’s resignation as head of Russia’s Central Bank five months before his term was to run out. Putin recommended to Gennady Seleznev, speaker of the State Duma–which, under the country’s constitution, has the power to hire and fire Central Bank heads–to dismiss Gerashchenko and appoint Deputy Finance Minister Sergei Ignatyev as his replacement. The Duma could take up the issue of Gerashchenko’s formal removal and Ignatyev’s appointment as early as Tuesday (March 19). Representatives of the Duma’s main factions have already expressed approval of the Kremlin’s choice (Russian agencies, March 15-17).
There was some confusion concerning the reason for Gerashchenko’s resignation. Just hours before it was announced, Gerashchenko was in the State Duma inveighing against a draft law made up of amendments to the law governing the Central Bank. He charged that the proposed law was unconstitutional and that if it were passed the Central Bank would “completely lose [its] independence and capability” (Rosbalt, March 15). Last year, Gerashchenko stormed out of a meeting of the Duma’s budget and banking committees after both recommended passage of the draft law, which at that time called for the Central Bank to be managed by a National Banking Committee consisting of representatives of the president, government and Duma (Moscow Times, November 30, 2001). In an interview published just prior to Gerashchenko’s resignation, Mikhail Zadornov, chairman of the Duma’s budget committee, said that battling between the Duma and the presidential administration for ultimate control over the Central Bank had watered down the proposed amendments to the law on the Central Bank in a way that worked to the Central Bank’s advantage (Vremya Novostei, March 15).
If true, this apparently did not assuage Gerashchenko. A number of observers linked his resignation to his opposition to the proposed Central Bank law amendments. Gennady Raikov, head of the pro-Kremlin People’s Deputy faction in the Duma, even suggested that Gerashchenko had not really intended to step down, but had threatened to do so in a gambit to block the law’s passage (RBK, March 15). Meanwhile, Aleksandr Voloshin, head of the Kremlin administration, muddied the waters somewhat yesterday, saying that, prior to March 15, Gerashchenko had informed Putin of his desire to resign, citing health reasons (Lenta.ru, March 17). For its part, the newspaper Vremya Novostei today cited an “unofficial” version of events, according to which Gerashchenko met with Putin on March 12 and gave the president an ultimatum, saying: “It’s either me or the amendments.” Putin, the paper reported, chose the amendments (Vremya Novostei, March 18).
…AND MOVES HIS OWN MAN IN.