Pyotr Pryanishnikov Versia, No. 19, May 29, 2001, p. 5

Russian political circles are discussing several most scandalous intrigues. One of them seems to have been launched by Anatoly Chubais against Director of the Presidential Administration Alexander Voloshin. Others are connected with personnel changes in the government, the end of Rem Vyakhirev’s contract as head of Gazprom, and the upcoming surfacing of the submarine Kursk

The Russian political circles are still engrossed by passions surrounding Director of the Presidential Administration Alexander Voloshin. They were intensified by last week’s publication of telephone talks overheard in Voloshin’s reception room. It is not clear who arranged this campaign but it is clear that a large-scale fight for Voloshin’s seat is underway.

Rumors are circulating the Vladimir Putin is eager to dismiss Voloshin. He has allegedly even made it clear at a meeting in the Presidential Administration. however, Putin wants Voloshin to resign himself. Scandalous dismissals are not typical of Putin, which has been proven by several recent dismissals that looked like transference from one position to another. Besides, the president is said to have moral duties to Voloshin, since it is an open secret that director of the Presidential Administration played an important role in the cause of Putin’s “employment.” Voloshin himself has not determined his plans yet, but he does not want to leave his prestigious position. Therefore, it would be fair to suppose that the president is being pressured by his circle to deal with Voloshin somehow.

Both the group of St. Petersburg special services agents and the group of St. Petersburg liberals are lobbying Voloshin’s dismissal. In this connection some politicians suspect Anatoly Chubais of arranging intrigues against Voloshin. It is rumored that liberals want Chubais to get the seat of director of the Presidential Administration. This rumor is unbelievable, since Chubais is not loved by Russians, to put it mildly. Rumors are circulating that liberals are convincing the president that such a high rating will let him appoint Chubais without great losses. At the same time, media included in Vladimir Potanin’s holding have joined this pro-Chubaisian campaign. NTV may take analogous measures, since Jordan and Kokh have long been friends with Chubais. In any case, the Russian society will be shocked if Chubais should be returned to the Kremlin.

To cut the long story short, the opinion is being formed in the society that Voloshin is on the point of dismissal. Nobody knows Putin’s position on this issue. So far, all the president’s efforts are focused on his meeting with US President George Bush in Ljubljana in summer. It is clear that Voloshin will not give in easily. According to our sources, Voloshin and his deputy Vladislav Surkov has elaborated one more large-scale and many-stage intrigue aimed at dissolution of the current Duma and formation of a parliamentary majority that would be totally controlled by him, not the president. This will be performed by means of selection of devoted people for party lists. All unwelcome figures except for the Communists are supposed to be ousted from the Duma. For instance, it is said that some members of Fatherland are planned to be ousted from the political arena. This will be done by means of the merger of Unity and Fatherland at the congress scheduled for November 2001.

As for the government, the reformation of the cabinet that has long been planned will be of a purely ornamental nature. According to Prime Minister Mikhail Kasianov’s program approved by Putin, no serious changes are in store for the government. The number of deputy prime ministers will be reduced from five to three. Agriculture Minister Alexei Gordeev will cease to be a deputy prime minister. Ilya Klebanov is also said to cease to be a deputy prime minister, but he is likely to head the Ministry for Industry, Science, and Technologies. Current head of this ministry, Alexander Dondukov, is sure to be dismissed. These ornamental changes will not decide anything, since the main personnel changes are scheduled for autumn.

One more intrigue will soon be launched in the Kremlin. The contract of Gazprom’s head Rem Vyakhirev will soon expire, and the Kremlin does not seem to be willing to prolong it. the main candidates for this position are Dmitry Medvedev, Pyotr Rodionov, and Alexander Voloshin, which is particularly curious.

Another scandal may be caused by the situation surrounding the submarine Kursk. The Norwegian company Halliburton has been rejected by the Russian government as a contractor, and now it can launch a scandal, announcing that if the operation is a failure, the submarine may fall down and hit the bottom, which, in turn, may cause a dangerous radiation leakage. Ilya Klebanov may fall victim to this scandal, since he has signed a contract with the Dutch company Mammoet for political reasons. However, if the operation is successful, Ilya Klebanov may be praised by the president.