Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 197

Itogi” gave a chunk of its airtime over to several strong critics of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov, a likely presidential contender who wants to create a “centrist” political coalition. Last Tuesday (October 20), during separate speeches to a trade union group and to the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs, Luzhkov attacked–not for the first time–the “young reformers” of previous governments, including Anatoly Chubais and Yegor Gaidar, for “monetarist” policies, privatization and creating a “pyramid” of GKOs, Russia’s now-defunct short-term treasury bills. These policies had wrecked Russia’s economy, said the mayor, who called for criminal investigations into privatization and the collapse of the GKO market (see the Monitor, October 21). “Itogi” ran an excerpt of an interview with former Vice Premier Boris Nemtsov, in which he compared Luzhkov with Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who has reportedly been courting the Moscow mayor for a political alliance. “Both believe that only a giant, all-powerful bureaucracy can save the country,” Nemtsov said. “Both believe that vulgar state regulation–the granting of licenses, quotas, permissions, the total control over business–is the country’s salvation. Both, wittingly or not, oppose those who know how to conduct entrepreneurship independently. Primakov, however, will hardly be able to accept everything Luzhkov says. The mayor’s advice is largely dictated by short-term political considerations, not political calculations. Including the endless attacks on Chubais, who long ago moved into the shadows and is busy with the problems of electricity.” Nemtsov’s comments were followed by those of Chubais, the former economics and privatization tsar who now heads United Energy Systems, Russia’s electricity monopoly. Chubais, in essence, accused Luzhkov of economic illiteracy.

That “Itogi” is now giving Chubais a platform from which to attack Luzhkov is ironic, given that in the fall of 1997 the program, along with others on NTV television, exhaustively covered the scandal involving a US$450,000 book honorarium that Chubais and several allies received from a publishing house connected to Uneximbank. NTV was founded by MOST-Bank and is partly owned by Gazprom, both of which have been hostile to Uneximbank, which won big in Chubais’s privatization program.