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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chubais Looks Ahead To Job at Energy Giant

Back in the early days of Russian reform, Anatoly Chubais' resignation from the government would have thrown the nation's future into doubt. But on Monday, amid a radical Cabinet shuffle, the departure of the government's most effective and controversial reformer raised hardly an eyebrow.

The former first deputy prime minister said Monday that he had asked President Boris Yeltsin last month to let him leave his position, and that the Cabinet could easily be filled by other reform-minded officials.

"We agreed that I will stay on his team in whatever capacity and wherever I am employed," he said. "There are no irreplaceable specialists."

Chubais, 42, the government's key contact with Western investors and financial institutions, has often expressed a desire to go into private business. The government has nominated him to chair the board of Russian electricity giant Unified Energy Systems, where he could also take the post of chief executive officer.

Chubais' Cabinet position had been shaky ever since November, when he and four close allies were discovered to have received $90,000 advances for an unpublished book from a company connected to Uneximbank, which had recently won a hotly contested auction for a 25-percent stake in state telecommunications holding company Svyazinvest. Chubais had played a key role in organizing the auction.

Yeltsin fired Chubais' allies and stripped him of key responsibilities, including the position of finance minister, but kept him in the Cabinet to help Russia weather the aftershocks of the Asian financial crisis. "It seems to me that he was prepared [to leave the government]," said Nikolai Petrov, political analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "Since last December he was playing a kind of decorative role."

Called an effective administrator even by his enemies, Chubais first entered the government in 1992 as the head of the fledgling State Property Committee, where with the help of foreign advisers he designed Russia's voucher privatization program. The program garnered praise for turning some 40 million citizens into shareholders in less than two years, but it has a bad reputation among most Russians, whose vouchers brought them few tangible benefits.

Privatization and Chubais' image took a turn for the worse in late 1995, when he engineered the so-called "loans-for-shares" deals, in which the government gave away some of its most valuable oil and metals companies at bargain prices to insider Russian banks. Yeltsin fired him in early 1996, though he quickly returned to run the president's successful re-election campaign. The banks gave the campaign ample financial support.