Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 109

The ten business leaders who met with President Boris Yeltsin June 2 met again among themselves the next day, and later issued a joint statement of support for Yeltsin. Their missive, distinguished by its lofty moral tone and the absence of specific content, supports Yeltsin’s plan to strengthen tax discipline. Dialectically, however, it argues that “this will lift the pressure on firms and individuals…while tightening measures against tax debtors.” In favor of speedier bankruptcy, it assures workers that this does not necessarily mean that they will lose their jobs. (Kommersant Daily, June 6)

In other words, it appears that the oligarchs want to both have their cake and eat it: They want tough measures that hurt no one. They seem to assume that the crackdown on tax-dodgers will not affect their corporations. There is an ever-more visible rift between the Moscow-based magnates with close ties to the Yeltsin administration and the hard-pressed industrialists running factories out in the provinces (see following story). With the fall of Viktor Chernomyrdin and the fracturing of the already weak Russia Is Our Home, fewer and fewer political ties bind these two disparate groups together. Some commentators put a more optimistic spin on the proceedings, maintaining that the Russian business elite has finally realized the advisability/necessity of uniting and cooperating with the government if the country’s never-ending series of crises is to be resolved. Presidential advisor Aleksandr Livshits was credited with bringing the group together. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 6)

The same day their appeal was issued, a meeting was held by the government’s Temporary Commission for Strengthening Tax Discipline, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Viktor Khristenko (in the absence of Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko). Top on the list of candidates for bankruptcy was the Angara refinery–owned by Vladimir Potanin’s Sidanko.

The oligarchs issuing the letter of support for Yeltsin were Mikhail Fridman (Alfa Group) Rem Vyakhirev (Gazprom), Vagit Alekperov (LUKoil) Mikhail Khodorkovsky (Rosprom-Yukos), Vladimir Gusinsky (Media-Most) Anatoly Chubais (United Energy Systems), Vladimir Potanin (Oneksimbank-Interros), Aleksandr Smolensky (Stolichny Bank), Vitaly Malkin (Rossiisky Kredit), and Vladimir Bogdanov (Surgutneftegaz). As a government official, Boris Berezovsky is absent from the list (he is executive secretary of the CIS).