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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Berezovsky and CIS Sticking Together So Far




The Kremlin may believe it has sacked Boris Berezovsky from his administrative job running the Commonwealth of Independent States. But from Tashkent to New York, neither Berezovsky nor anyone else seemed in a hurry to agree.


Berezovsky was in New York on Monday speaking to the World Policy Institute, a think tank attached to the New School for Social Research, about his vision for the CIS, a loose-knit federation of 12 former Soviet republics. But The Associated Press reported that Berezovsky avoided even mentioning that President Boris Yeltsin had just ordered him out of his post as CIS executive secretary.


When asked about Yeltsin's motives, Berezovsky declined to comment. He did manage a smile when Nina Khrushcheva, a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute, said he had been "unjustly dismissed."


Khrushcheva was referring in particular to Yeltsin's decision to fire Berezovsky without taking into account the wishes of other CIS nations. The leaders of those nations, who still must approve the decision to sack Berezovsky, are expected to take it up at a summit this month. On Tuesday, they were growing more vocal in their criticism of the Kremlin for not including them.


In Tashkent, where Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze met to hold talks, both presidents held a joint news conference where they pronounced themselves in agreement that the Kremlin was highhanded and, more mutedly, defended Berezovsky.


Karimov said he believed the decision to fire Berezovsky was not really Yeltsin's but that of unspecified "forces opposed to Berezovsky," Interfax reported.


Karimov added that the problem of Berezovsky had been "artificially exaggerated."


Shevardnadze in turn said he fully agreed with Karimov.


"It's an artificial problem on which no hasty decisions should have been made," he said. "Instead, it should have been discussed by the CIS leaders, who might have appointed a Georgian or some other representative to this post."


"The decision on Berezovsky's appointment [as CIS secretary] was made jointly, but the decision on his dismissal has been made in this [unilateral] way," Shevardnadze complained.


Berezovsky struck a similar tone Monday, telling about 200 U.S. policy-makers and Russian experts at a panel discussion on Russia's relations with its former republics that, "It's very important that everything is done according to the rules."Karimov also complained that under the CIS Charter, "Yeltsin should


have called Berezovsky in to inform him of the decision" - a complaint so trivial that, if nothing else, it suggested Karimov has been listening in sympathy to Berezovsky's side of the story.


But in New York on Tuesday, Berezovsky was philosophical about not getting the news in person. He was in Azerbaijan on a tour of CIS states last week when Yeltsin fired him, and said such surprise sackings were part of life in Russian politics.


"When you leave the country for a week, you often return to a different country,'' he said.


Berezovsky is no stranger to Kremlin intrigue.


He was ousted from a post on the Kremlin Security Council in 1997 amid political infighting. Then-deputy prime ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov took credit for his ouster, but they soon followed, and within less than a year Berezovsky was back in government - as head of the largely ineffective CIS.


In announcing Berezovsky's firing, the Kremlin said he had exceeded his responsibilities as the CIS administrator. But even after more than a year in the job, it remains as unclear what Berezovsky was doing there as it was what the CIS does at all.


But if the CIS seems less than lively or useful, the job is not without its perks. It came with access to Cabinet ministers and presidents across the former Soviet Union, with immunity from criminal prosecution and with a United Nations-style diplomatic passport.


In the weeks leading up to his firing from the CIS, Berezovsky and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov were locked in a war. Properties Berezovsky had interests in, from ORT television to the Sibneft oil company to Aeroflot to AvtoVAZ, have been raided by prosecutors.


A major question was who Yeltsin would back. On the one hand, Berezovsky has been good to Yeltsin over the years. On the other, both prosecutors and Russian media had just reported that a security firm on the Sibneft premises had been electronically eavesdropping on Yeltsin and his family and recording what they heard - presumably for blackmail purposes.


Now that Yeltsin has fired Berezovsky, however, the Moscow political elite have wondered whether he will perform one of his famous "balancing acts" and cut Primakov down to size. The president has seemed jealous of Primakov's growing power and has rumbled ominously that he does not think the Cabinet is doing a good job negotiating for International Monetary Fund money.


That could mean curtains for Primakov's No. 2 man in the Cabinet, Communist Party member Yury Maslyukov.


But Primakov has insisted the negotiations are fine and he needs no help, and Tuesday Itar-Tass reported that an IMF mission is suddenly coming to town Thursday.


Alexei Mozhin, Russia's acting director to the IMF, was quoted as saying from Washington that the mission was sent on its way after Primakov spoke last week spoke by telephone to IMF Managing Director Michel Camdessus.