Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 104

Russia’s new cabinet has yet to be fully named, with the question of exactly who will occupy the key post of finance minister as yet unresolved. Confusion reigned in the top echelons of power after President Boris Yeltsin signed a decree naming Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov as finance minister. On May 26, Mikhail Zadornov, until now Russia’s finance minister, was named first deputy prime minister in charge of macroeconomics. Zadornov, however, said that he believed that the posts of macroeconomics tsar and finance minister should be held by one person, and suggested that he may step down if the posts are indeed separated. If the two posts are separated, it will be easier for Nikolai Aksenenko, the other first deputy prime minister and reportedly a protege of the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, to rule over economic policy, given that neither Zadornov nor Kasyanov are associated with any of the major Moscow political clans and thus have no power bases of their own.

How this conundrum is resolved will be a key indicator of how much room Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin has for independent action. It will also be an indicator of the power of what some in the Russian media are calling the “collective Yeltsin” or the “homemade Politburo”–reportedly made up of Berezovsky, Yeltsin’s daughter and “image maker” Tatyana Dyachenko, former Kremlin administration head and ghostwriter of Yeltsin’s memoirs Valentin Yumashev, current presidential administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin, Sibneft oil head Roman Abramovich and, apparently, Aksenenko.

Among those in opposition stand privatization architect Anatoly Chubais and Most business empire founder Vladimir Gusinsky. The battle of rival clans for influence over the new cabinet has received much press attention locally (see the Monitor, May 27). Politicians are also calling attention to it. Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov said today that the process of forming the cabinet shows that Yeltsin has become a “hostage” of “string-pullers” among the oligarchs. “The competing Berezovsky-Abramovich and Chubais groups and the president’s family advisers Tanya [Tatyana Dyachenko] and Valya [Valentin Yumashev] seem to be at odds over who will take over the best, embezzlement-wise, cabinet seats,” Zyuganov said (Russian agencies, May 28).