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Last Updated: Saturday, 1 November, 2003, 18:44 GMT
Russian papers see change of guard
Alexander Voloshin
Voloshin's departure triggered feverish speculation

Many Russian commentators see the Yukos crisis as a watershed in the rivalry between the Kremlin and powerful Yeltsin-era tycoons known as "oligarchs".

The replacement of President Vladimir Putin's chief of staff, Alexander Voloshin, is widely seen as signalling a change of guard in Russia's political elite.

"The transition from one historical era to another seems to have picked up speed. The Yeltsin era is close to an end," says the popular Moscow daily Moskovskiy Komsomolets.

Mr Voloshin, appointed in 1999, was linked with former President Boris Yeltsin's circle, which was responsible for carrying out the vast privatisation of Soviet state assets in the mid-1990s.

He is believed to be sympathetic to the "oligarchs," who made their fortunes under Mr Yeltsin, and to have opposed the arrest of Mikhail Khodorkovsky, boss of the oil giant Yukos.

In the coming days and weeks, a new round of sackings and appointments will follow
Izvestiya

The government-owned newspaper Rossiyskaya Gazeta takes a similar line, saying: "Voloshin's resignation can be seen as the beginning of a change among the elite."

And another article in the same paper is headlined "The autumn of the oligarchs".

Winners and losers

Others predict further personnel changes in the run-up to parliamentary elections in December and presidential elections next spring.

"In the coming days and weeks, a new round of sackings and appointments will follow," the leading daily Izvestiya says.

"We can already talk about a new presidential term starting ahead of schedule."

The popular tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda believes that Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, who has said he is "deeply concerned" about the assault on Yukos, may be among the losers.

There can be "only one explanation" for his breaking with the Kremlin line, it says.

The Yeltsin clan, as they leave power, are associated with many murky episodes in our country's history. But that does not mean that the new political era will be any better
Moskovskiy Komsomolets

"Kasyanov is being prepared for his removal or already knows about it."

The significance of the appointment of 38-year-old Dmitry Medvedev to replace Mr Voloshin is also debated.

Izvestiya sees Mr Medvedev as a "compromise choice" - neither a member of the old guard nor a hardliner.

Komsomolskaya Pravda sees his appointment as a boost for reformers and a signal from Mr Putin "to Russia and the world" that "all the talk about our country being turned into a totalitarian police state is wide of the mark".

There has been concern both in Russia and abroad about Moscow's commitment to free markets and an independent judiciary, and share prices have tumbled after Mr Khodorkovsky's arrest.

But Moskovskiy Komsomolets thinks the pessimists are being too alarmist.

"Reading the foreign and domestic press recently, you might think this was Apocalypse Now. Some predict the nationalisation of all Russia's industry, others a dictatorship of former KGB men. But this is more like a change of political eras," it says.

However, it remains to be convinced that the new order will be an improvement.

"The Yeltsin clan, as they leave power, are associated with many murky episodes in our country's history. But that does not mean that the new political era will be any better. The Kremlin's new masters must not throw the baby out with the bathwater."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.




SEE ALSO:
Russia angry at Yukos criticism
01 Nov 03 |  Business
Russia's dramatic power shift
31 Oct 03 |  Europe


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