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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chubais Touts Power Buildup

ST. PETERSBURG -- Kremlin chief of staff Anatoly Chubais, on a one-day visit to St. Petersburg, has said he is actively working to consolidate political power into a few hands, including his own, for the good of Russia.

"You all will have noticed in President [Boris] Yeltsin's radio address [Friday] that he talked about the consolidation of power and about the unacceptability of insubordination within the government," Chubais said at a press conference Friday.

He then went on to describe an emergency commission for tax collection created three weeks ago, of which he is the deputy head and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin is the chairman. He also described the "consulting council" that was created last week with an unclear mandate and includes Chernomyrdin, Chubais and the heads of Russia's two houses of parliament.

"This will not be our last step to consolidate power," Chubais said of the two new structures. "Because the consolidation of power -- instead of constant mutual intrigues, instead of public discussions, instead of endless arguments -- is exactly what the country needs."

Chubais said he hoped also to share power with "more people from parliament eventually, the leaders of the various factions -- even the Communists.

"Such a consolidation of power around the real problems of Russia ... is more important than the personal agendas of various parties within the government. Those leaders expressing their desire to work with us will be working with us most closely."

Some analysts believe Chubais is preparing the ground to avoid elections and impose rule by a coalition in case Yeltsin should be forced to step down because of ill health.

"If they can't win the elections, they need the strength to put them off," said Sergei Markov, a senior associate with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "For that, one has to consolidate all forces: The economy has to be running better; the establishment elites have to be a team; the [89 regional] governors need to be under control; even some of the Communists have to be on board."

Regardless of whether this is accurate, the Kremlin chief of staff made it clear Friday that he intends to continue to increase his role in running Russia.

Speaking of the Temporary Emergency Commission, or VChK, created three weeks ago to tighten up tax collection, Chubais said it would make liberal use of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, in its work.

The initials "VChK" are the same as the secret police organization Lenin established to forcibly requisition grain from the peasantry and to crush dissent with terror.

But Chubais said those same freighted initials had been intentionally chosen when naming the new tax commission. "If the president went forward with the creation of an emergency commission [chresvychainaya komissiya, or ChK] despite the attitude of caution all hold toward that word -- that means we are ready to take the most serious of measures," Chubais said, in remarks reported by the St. Petersburg daily newspaper Smena. "Power must be used -- the power that is found in the prosecutor's office, at the FSB and in other structures."

Chubais also dropped the qualifier "temporary" when referring to the VChK, and said it was charged with "forcing obedience to Russian legislation" -- a broader mandate than just collecting taxes.

The name of that KGB forerunner, the Cheka, comes from pronouncing the initials ChK.