Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 232

First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais made fresh enemies this week when the commission he heads froze the assets of two large Russian oil refineries. Chairing a December 8 meeting of the President’s Temporary Emergency Commission for Improving Fiscal and Budgetary Discipline, Chubais ordered the seizure and sale of the property of the Omsk Oil Refinery and the Angarsk Petrochemical Company. Both owe huge sums in unpaid federal taxes: R766 billion ($128 million) and R526 billion ($87.5 million), respectively. The property of both companies will be auctioned and the proceeds used to pay their tax arrears. (ORT, December 8)

The two refineries had the largest tax debts of all the companies under consideration by the commission and are clearly being used as examples in the hope of frightening others into paying their arrears. At the same time, Chubais was careful to maintain a balance: each of the two refineries is controlled by one of the warring factions in Russia’s ongoing "banker’s war." The oil giant Sidanko, which belongs to Vladimir Potanin’s Oneksimbank, has a controlling interest in the Angarsk refinery, while the Omsk refinery belongs to another major oil company, Sibneft, which is controlled by Potanin’s rival, Boris Berezovsky.

The commission’s decisions, which included less draconian measures against other companies, mark its toughest effort yet to crack down on corporate tax evaders. The Russian government is desperate to fill its coffers before a January 1 deadline for paying off wage arrears to state employees. As of November 1, Chubais said, 29 Russian companies owing R17,000 billion had been blacklisted by the commission. He said 13 companies have almost cleared their debts, while the debts of the auto giant AvtoVAZ and four other companies have been rescheduled. (ORT, December 8)

The commission gave the electricity giant, Unified Energy Systems of Russia (UES), a December 31 deadline to pay off tax arrears totaling R543 billion ($90.5 million); the company also faces tighter state controls over its finances. UES got off with a warning because it said it is owed R12 trillion by its customers, which include the federal and regional governments. (Itar-Tass, December 8)

Russian Communist Leader Disassociates His Party from Soviet Version.