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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Tangle With 'Small Fry' Brings Down Big Fish

Sergei Lisovsky and Arkady Yevstafyev were unlikely candidates to bring down the administration's seemingly untouchable "party of war." But it was their detention Wednesday evening that served as the ostensible cause for the purge of three of Russia's most powerful political figures -- Alexander Korzhakov, Oleg Soskovets, and Mikhail Barsukov.


Although campaign adviser Anatoly Chubais on Thursday called Lisovsky and Yevstafyev "key members" of the re-election team, neither had significant political weight.


Lisovsky is one of the main organizers of the "Vote or Lose" campaign intended to mobilize young voters in support of the president. He was instrumental in securing the participation of Russia's leading popular musicians in a series of concerts across the country, culminating in the Independence Day gala on Moscow's Vasiliyevsky Slope attended by hundreds of thousands of potential voters, most of them young.


Since July 1995, Lisovsky has served as general director of ORT-Reklama, the advertising wing of Russian Public Television. From 1991 to 1995 he headed Premier SV, an advertising firm which in his last year at the helm was the largest provider of advertising to ORT and Channel 5 in St. Petersburg.


Before entering the advertising game, Lisovsky worked as a concert promoter, building the contacts that have made him such a valuable asset to the Yeltsin campaign. He was widely believed to have connections to the criminal world, a charge he denies.


Lisovsky's commitment to Yeltsin's campaign can be best understood by a comment he made to the financial weekly Kapital in the run-up to the 1995 parliamentary election. "These are not just elections to determine who will get offices on Okhotny Ryad [where the Duma is located]. This is a decision about our future. I would not want to be deprived of the work I love because of these elections, or to wind up killed on a wave of popular discontent."


Yevstafyev is best known as the right-hand man of former first deputy prime minister for the economy Chubais. When Chubais joined Yeltsin's foundering re-election campaign in late March, just two months after he was fired from the cabinet, Yevstafyev followed.


Chubais said on Independent Television's "Hero of the Day" program Thursday evening that the detention of Lisovsky and Yevstafyev was a clear attempt to compromise him and distance him from the president.


"This affected me directly, but not only me," Chubais said. "It affected everything I work with" on Yeltsin's campaign. "They were trying to silence us, to frighten us."


Yevstafyev is also closely linked to ORT, serving as the network's news director from April 1995 to February 1996, and as first deputy to its general director, Sergei Blagovolin. He had earlier served under Chubais when the latter led Russia's privatization program as head of the State Property Committee, and maintains an office there.


When Lisovsky and Yevstafyev were detained by Kremlin security forces they were allegedly carrying a box containing $500,000 in cash "to pay for concert activities," a Federal Security Service source told Interfax. The news agency reported that "when documents were produced to show that the origins of the currency were lawful, they were freed."


But Chubais, speaking at a press conference Thursday, suggested that the money could have planted on the pair to compromise them.


"I am deeply convinced that the so-called box with money is a traditional element of a traditional, Soviet-style KGB provocation."