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Profile: Anatoly Chubais
Anatoly Chubais
Anatoly Chubais: A tough liberal demonised by many Russians
The head of Russia's state power monopoly, Anatoly Chubais, is not just a high-profile politician - he is seen as a symbol of the controversial privatisations which have transformed Russia since 1991.

He is a role model for some, but a hate figure for many Russians.

"I have a good idea about who might have ordered the contract killing," he said on Thursday, after surviving an assassination attempt.

There is widespread respect for his extraordinary stamina, which has enabled him to stay at the top of the Russian power structure despite widespread criticism of his reforms.

Mr Chubais, 49, organised the "loans-for-shares" privatisations a decade ago which made two dozen Kremlin-connected businessmen - known as "oligarchs" - enormously wealthy while most of the nation was gripped by poverty.

His influence over Russia's privatisation policy stemmed from his role in Boris Yeltsin's reforms, launched after the 1991 coup by communist hardliners collapsed.

Mr Chubais, a young economist from Leningrad, was part of the team brought in to transform the Russian economy. They became the backbone of the new reformist government led by Prime Minister Yegor Gaydar.

In January 1992 they embarked on economic "shock therapy" to remedy the crisis that crippled Russia under Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

It was indeed a shock for Russians as the country plunged into hyperinflation and the rouble's value plummeted. Millions lost all their savings.

But the empty shop shelves gradually filled - first with basic goods and then with luxuries not seen in Soviet times.

Voucher scheme

Initially Mr Chubais wanted to sell state companies to whoever paid the highest sum.

Homeless Russians
The economic upheaval left many Russians disillusioned
But the Russian parliament feared that the country's wealth would end up in the hands of foreigners and gangsters, so he opted for a voucher scheme to give each citizen a share of state property.

Few ordinary Russians benefited from the vouchers. Most handed them over to shadowy investment funds, many of which vanished when the investors started demanding interest payments.

A handful of men, mostly Kremlin insiders, managed to make a fortune.

Amid mounting accusations of corruption, Mr Gaidar and Mr Chubais formed the liberal Russia's Democratic Choice party, which lost the 1993 election to the nationalist Liberal-Democratic Party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky.

In 1996, he masterminded the re-election campaign of the ailing President Yeltsin, triumphing over a strong communist challenge. He was made head of the presidential administration.

Energy boss

After several top government posts, he became the boss of UES, which controls the country's vast power grid.

The appointment essentially made him one of Russia's most powerful tycoons with arguably more influence on Kremlin politics than when he was in the government.

The company thrived under Mr Chubais, who turned it into an efficient Western-style business, winning the battle against powerful regional governors.

But there was a cost for ordinary citizens, some of whom were deprived of heating in mid-winter as Mr Chubais twisted governors' arms to make them pay.

Vladimir Putin's rise to power put him on increasingly shaky ground.

Mr Chubais and his pro-Western allies in the new Union of Right Forces party (SPS) supported the former KGB officer, allowing him to secure the votes of the liberal-minded middle class.

But it has become clear that Mr Chubais' Kremlin influence has been overshadowed by that of ex-KGB officials in Mr Putin's entourage.

In the 2003 election the SPS failed to get into parliament. Many analysts said Mr Chubais had featured too prominently in the party's election campaign.

The Ukrainian liberal "orange revolution" came as a breath of fresh air for his political allies, who openly supported it.

While maintaining formal loyalty to President Putin, Mr Chubais is hard-pressed to conceal his support for the new Ukrainian leader Viktor Yushchenko and his more radical Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is often described as a Ukrainian Chubais.

Russia's 'most hated' tycoons
08 Apr 03 |  Business
Country profile: Russia
27 Feb 05 |  Country profiles

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