Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 95

Last week, rumors were floated that the prime minister’s post could be offered to either former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, former Finance Minister Boris Federov or former Central Bank Chairman Sergei Dubinin. Another leading “reformer,” privatization architect Anatoly Chubais, who currently heads United Energy Systems, Russia’s electricity grid said on May 15 that he has no plans to join the government and has not been offered a job. Chubais, who hinted last week that he played a role in Yevgeny Primakov’s firing, declared that he was happy with the results of the impeachment vote. Some have speculated that Yeltsin could tap Chubais again to be his special emissary to the Western lending institutions (Russian agencies, May 15).

On the other hand, Chubais is one of the original members of the “St. Petersburg” group of economists and politicians which has served as a kind of brain trust for Yeltsin’s Kremlin. This group also includes Stepashin, who despite coming from Port Arthur, served as a deputy representing St. Petersburg in the old Soviet-era parliament. Likewise, Vladimir Putin, head of the Federal Security Service and secretary of Yeltsin’s Security Council, was, like Chubais, an adviser to former St. Petersburg mayor Anatoly Sobchak. On May 14, Yeltsin appointed Dmitri Kozak to fill the spot of Kremlin administration legal expert, which was left vacant by the recent resignation of Ruslan Orekhov. Kozak headed the legal committee of the St. Petersburg administration until 1998 and is seen as part of the “Chubais-Putin” axis in the Kremlin administration.

Thus Chubais’ de facto influence would seem to be growing. According to various reports, he played a role in convincing Yeltsin to name Stepashin rather than Nikolai Aksenenko as acting prime minister (Kommersant, May 15). Aksenenko, who was instead made a first deputy prime minister following Primakov’s ouster and was formerly Russia’s railroads minister, is said to be close to the tycoon Boris Berezovsky, as well as to Yeltsin’s wife, Naina. All this would suggest that the Chubais-Berezovsky rivalry, which reached its peak in 1997, has revved up again.