Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 103

Last night, Prime Minister Kirienko fired the top management of Rosneft, including the company’s president, Yuri Bespalov. (Financial Times, May 29) The board has been riven by internal squabbling but insiders say the real reason may have been Bespalov’s links with CIS politician and media tycoon Boris Berezovsky. Last year, Berezovsky was reported to have used his influence to delay the Rosneft sale in an effort to win time to muster funds for a serious bid. Bespalov also, however, has close links with former prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, who yesterday reaffirmed his intention of running for president in 2000. First deputy premier Boris Nemtsov tried to sack Bespalov last November, but Bespalov clung to his job by appealing to Chernomyrdin. Chernomyrdin also has close links with Gazprom. It may also therefore be that Kirienko sacked Bespalov because he anticipates a strong Gazprom bid for Rosneft, and wants to head off too cozy a relationship between Bespalov, Vyakhirev and Chernomyrdin. Either way, it is a sign of strength on Kirienko’s part that he has at last managed to get rid of a man who has long been seen as a Trojan horse.