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Russian crisis Wednesday, 29 April, 1998, 12:30 GMT 13:30 UK
Flamboyant businessman linked to Yeltsin's sackings
Several Russian newspapers, in their coverage of the Monday's surprise dismissal of the government, have linked it with the name Boris Berezovsky - one of the richest and most influential men in Russia, who is a known enemy of the 'young reformers' in the government. But is there any evidence that Mr Berezovsky really did play a part in forcing out the Chernomyrdin government? Here's BBC regional analyst Malcolm Haslett:

Conspiracy theories abound in Russian politics. And the highly unexpected dismissal of the Chernomyrdin government has given rise to even more than usual.

Several of them feature the controversial Boris Berezovsky, a bitter rival of the two young first deputy premiers, Anatoli Chubais and Boris Nemtsov. He blames them for having him ousted from the prestigious Security Council last year, and for giving favourable treatment in major privatisations to a rival business empire.

On Sunday, the day before the government was dismissed, Mr Berezovsky gave a lengthy interview to Russia's NTV television channel.

In it he spoke disparagingly of all the most obvious contenders for the next presidential elections in the year 2000 and said that, in his view, the authorities had 'immense opportunities to bring forward new people.'

The following day the little-known Sergey Kiriyenko, Minister for Fuel and Energy, was made acting prime minister.

Speculation over Berezovsky's influence

Old enemy Chubais ousted
In an interview with the BBC Russian Service on Tuesday, however, Mr Berezovsky denied any active involvement in the ousting of the Chernomyrdin government. He did not, however, deny he might have influenced President Yeltsin's decision.

Mr Berezovsky said further that this was all about getting rid of Chubais, not Chernomyrdin. Chernomyrdin's main fault, according to Berezovsky, was that he could not curb the activities of his two deputies - Chubais and Nemtsov.

The idea that Berezovsky did influence Yeltsin's decision to sack the government is not ridiculous. Berezovsky has, in the past, had access to the president, and to the president's influential daughter Tatyana Dyachenko.

He's always been realistic about his own chances of becoming president, knowing that his Jewish origins probably make him unelectable. But he clearly does hope to influence who is elected in 2000.

Yeltsin's motives still unclear

That does not mean, however, that Yeltsin is now totally under Berezovsky's influence. Far from it. There's good reason to be sceptical about a lot of Berezovsky's claims. Yeltsin - and his daughter - clearly still have a lot of time for the 'young reformers'.

The new acting premier, Sergey Kiriyenko, is a close associate of Boris Nemtsov. And the president, explaining the government's dismissal, underlined he wanted to introduce new dynamism into the government. That didn't much sound like support for people like Berezovsky.

Indeed, one theory is that Mr Berezovsky is the one who has lost most in all this, that he had been pushing Chernomyrdin too hard to curb the young reformers and that Yeltsin became alarmed that Chernomyrdin might become too powerful.

In other words, Yeltsin agreed to get rid of Chubais, because he was so unpopular with so many people. But he also got rid of Chernomyrdin, and the hard-line Interior Minister Kulikov, to keep a balance within his government. That, at any rate, is the theory.

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