Russia’s most respected TV news show, "Itogi," is screening an investigation into the 1992 privatization of Russia’s aluminum industry. (NTV, "Itogi," December 28, January 5) Cropping up throughout the story is the figure of Oleg Soskovets, a former Yeltsin associate and Kremlin hawk who was sacked in disgrace last June. In the course of his Kremlin career, Soskovets was seen as the godfather of Russian metal-producers. The first program alleged that Soskovets had used his post as first deputy prime minister to help cronies privatize valuable Russian raw materials producers, and that he had turned a blind eye when the companies were sold at prices far below their real value. The second program, screened last night, went on to accuse Soskovets of links with organized crime. It also implicated former security service chief Mikhail Barsukov and former Yeltsin bodyguard Aleksandr Korzhakov. The program was at pains to stress that Yeltsin himself was unaware of any skullduggery until June 1996, when he abruptly sacked Soskovets, Korzhakov, and Barsukov at the height of the presidential election campaign.
According to Radio Liberty’s Moscow bureau chief, Savik Shuster, today’s Russians view "Itogi" in the same way that they used to read Pravda–to find out who is up and who is down in the Kremlin. (Financial Times, January 4) Then, as now, Kremlin leaders were not just individual personalities but also represented major interest groups. Soskovets has been under regular attack in the media since his ouster. But this latest expose may indicate more than just a settling of scores and is perhaps a prelude to the leveling of criminal charges. It is likely to be seen, moreover, as a sign that the group of seven financiers who bankrolled Yeltsin’s reelection campaign and came to political power when he won his second term are jockeying to take over the industrial empire their ousted rivals once controlled. This latest assault on Soskovets seems therefore to be a skirmish in the larger war waged by Russia’s financial barons for control over Russia’s valuable — and murkily privatized — raw materials.
Siberian Region in Bid to Preserve Virgin Forest.