Projecting the image of an implacable warrior against corruption in high places, Yeltsin yesterday sacked the head of the Russian diamond industry just as he was sitting down to sensitive negotiations with the worldÕs leading diamond conglomerate. Yeltsin accused Yevgeny Bychkov, chairman of the Russian State Committee for Precious Metals and Gemstones, of indiscipline and failure to carry out orders. Bychkov is currently under investigation on charges that he and colleagues engaged in illegal currency deals amounting to $176 million, although he strenuously denies all wrongdoing and has not been placed under arrest. His ouster came on the first day of a fresh round of negotiations between the Russian government and De Beers, the South African diamond conglomerate. Under an agreement that formally expired at the end of last year and has been extended until March 1, De Beers markets 95 percent of RussiaÕs diamonds. Russian officials are determined to negotiate new terms that would allow Russia both to cut and to market a much larger proportion of its diamond output. Russia produces 25 percent of the worldÕs diamonds.
Ulyanovsk–The Bubble Bursts.