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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berezovsky: Yeltsin's Nomination Poor Experiment




Days after reportedly being verbally flogged by President Boris Yeltsin, tycoon and self-professed king-maker Boris Berezovsky was unfazed, calling Yeltsin's choice of prime minister a poor "experiment" that may end in trouble.


Berezovsky, whose talent for Kremlin intrigue is legendary, was this week threatened with exile from Russia by Yeltsin, two newspapers reported, because the president became fed up with the tycoon's meddling in Kremlin affairs.


In an interview that aired Thursday evening on NTV television's "Hero of the Day" program, Berezovsky said he knew of no such presidential outburst. Still, he changed his tone dramatically from remarks last month, when he called Yeltsin an "unelectable" politician.


In the interview, Berezovsky stressed that those comments had not been directed at Yeltsin. "Those politicians who seem to be the most likely contenders in the 2000 election -- I am not talking about the president himself -- they do not seem to be capable of ensuring the continuity of power," he said.


Nonetheless, Berezovsky said Sergei Kiriyenko, the acting prime minister and Yeltsin's nominee to head the government, was a bad pick. He proposed his own candidate: a former colleague and acting minister for relations with former Soviet states, Ivan Rybkin.


"I do not think that Rybkin would make a worse prime minister than Kiriyenko," Berezovsky said.


"According to our constitution, Kiriyenko may find himself obliged by circumstances to perform presidential duties. I find this worrying," Berezovsky said. "I find it dangerous if such political experiments happen in what I see is a very unstable political situation."


While Berezovsky is just one of several high-rolling bankers with access to Kremlin decision-makers, his reappearance after an extended vacation, which coincided almost exactly with the March 23 dismissal of the government, has raised his profile.


He is perhaps the only one of Russia's so-called oligarchs to candidly admit that he is working to influence the outcome of forthcoming elections at local and national levels.


Berezovsky said in the interview that he is backing presidential hopeful Alexander Lebed, who is running in the elections scheduled next weekend for the post of governor in the mineral-rich Siberian region of Krasnoyarsk.


The election is pivotal to Lebed's chances in the 2000 presidential election. If he loses the Krasnoyarsk race, the renegade general will have few political and financial resources to mount a meaningful campaign. Berezovsky himself said Thursday that the general's loss in the poll would spell the end of his political career.


Some observers say Berezovsky is supporting Lebed's candidacy simply because he wants to keep his own options open ahead of the presidential elections.


Since both Lebed and Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov have a similar, nationalist-oriented electorate, the businessman -- who does not enjoy a warm relationship with the mayor -- wants to keep Lebed in the game should he subsequently need him to tap the nationalist vote.


"I believe we should let these people fight it out among themselves first," Berezovsky said.


The supremely self-confident Berezovsky scoffed at any suggestion that Yeltsin might be upset with his efforts -- via especially close contacts with the president's younger daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, and his chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev -- to lobby him.


"What happened at that meeting with the cosmonauts I really do not know -- I am a kamikaze rather than a cosmonaut. Kamikazes do not listen to rumors," Berezovsky said.