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#8 - JRL 7247
July 14, 2003
Attacks on YUKOS will run out of steam
By Alexander Kornilov 

Iosif Diskin, the co-chairman of the Council for National Strategy and author of the sensational report The State and the Oligarchy, which some believe was a signal for the attack on the Russian oil major YUKOS, is convinced that this attack will not attain its goal. In an interview for Gazeta.Ru Diskin expressed his conviction that in the near future Vladimir Putin will restrict the role of ''the politicians in epaulettes'' from his entourage.

Iosif Yevgenyevich, how real, in your opinion, is the threat of the restoration of an authoritarian regime and a denunciation of liberalism, which many of your political scientist colleagues have been talking about lately regarding the events surrounding YUKOS?

I think the threat is not very high. And here I may cite Mikhail Khodorkovsky himself, who said that there are no grievances against YUKOS itself. The other thing is that when I begin reading statements by law enforcement officials concerning the case, my hair stands on end.

For a person who is at least a little legally literate, what they say and write seems extremely doubtful. If we assume that everything that they are saying is true, things barely add up in terms of the judicial evaluation of what is happening.

There is an amicable agreement approved by the courts. That means that you either make claims against the officials of the Russian Federal Property Fund for having exceeded their authority by signing the amicable agreement, or appeal the court ruling whereby that agreement was approved.

So doesnt it seem obvious to you that all the actions against YUKOS are being carried out on someones orders?

I agree that it resembles an order. All this is outside the legal framework, as far as I understand. This is the first point in which I agree with those who have sounded the alarm. That such actions are being taken against people of certain prominence, taken by force from their hospital ward in handcuffs, also suggests certain ideas.

That those actions pursue the goal of not only getting the Apatit stake but also exerting pressure on public opinion and on political circles, I can only agree. But I cannot agree that there is a threat of democracy being denounced for a number of reasons.

I think that in the presidents entourage there are enough people who are able to explain to him the consequences to explain that those behind the present events surrounding YUKOS are not acting in his interests, and directly expose him.

The premier has already expressed his opinion on the matter, inasmuch as the fruits of his systematic work towards establishing interaction between Russian businesses and the West have suffered considerable damage. The people who bear responsibility for the internal political situation in the country will express their views on the problem more and more actively, and the president will listen to them.

Do you think that initially the president was not in the know?

No. Of course he knew. But he is not playing a one-move game.

In other words, for the time being he prefers not to interfere because he does not want to change the balance of forces in his entourage?

Hitherto, there has been a certain balance in the country and in the presidents entourage. Today 'the politicians wearing epaulettes', as I would call them, have thrown their weight on one side of the scales. Consequently, the equilibrium has been disturbed and the scales are swinging a lot.

Other people are now throwing their weight on to the other side of the scales. The president is free to stop the swinging at any point. The only thing that is obvious now is that there will be no return to the former equilibrium the scales will stop in a new position.

At which point, exactly? Who will prove the heaviest?

As I know the president, all this will lead to his restricting the role of 'the politicians in epaulettes'. And he will be guided not only by his judgment, which is not easy given their personal relationship our president is known for maintaining the relationship with his old friends but he will also have a new system of arguments: See, what your activity has brought about, he will say. Yes, I did not object. You persuaded me; presented arguments, I gave you the go-ahead. Now see, how you can act, how correctly you have evaluated the alignment of forces

One should not forget, why 'the politicians in epaulettes' have taken the actions they have. There were the people who said that the West would welcome the idea of countering corruption, bringing order and pulling skeletons out of the closets of Russias businessmen.

The responses to the reports in the West have varied. There were those who claimed that the oligarchs themselves had prepared it, but there were others, too, who questioned whether all those fortunes had been built in a civilized way, and for what price they had been bought. The idea of a fair deal is very important in the West.

And how long will the scales swing?

I think till the middle of next week. The president is watching the situation, listening to the arguments. This concerns the equilibrium of the political system. One of the components of the former balance, 'the politicians in epaulettes', have made an attempt to become an independent force and decided, instead of the president, to chose the strategy of national development.

And they have failed?

It is not only about this. On the one hand, the question has been raised as to whether only the law restricts major businesses or if they are also restricted by an informal agreement, which replaced the Yeltsin pact.

On the other hand, 'the politicians in epaulettes', who are also part of the pact, for some reason have decided that they are its guarantors, although, from everyone elses standpoint, the only guarantor is the president. Everyone understands that the pact exists and now the question has been raised as to who has the right to interpret it, the president alone, or also 'the politicians in epaulettes', who believe that they have the right to interpret it.

Proceeding from this, one can assume that the attack on YUKOS will end in the elaboration of some new convention, in which the role of 'the politicians in epaulettes' will to a certain extent be restricted. If that is so, how stable and long-term will that convention be?

I think it will be in force till May 2004, till the [presidents] inauguration. Not before the [presidential] elections, but at the actual inauguration. It is fundamentally important to understand.

But in truth, I would rather consider everything that is going on today in a completely different context. Presently the fight is on between political forces striving to be the most useful to the president during the elections. The fight is on for the starting positions before the president has to decide on the new government.

I think that the strike [on YUKOS] was delivered with one goal to weaken the future rivals, to deprive them of confidence and freedom of maneuver. The task also was to create a different psychological atmosphere. It was a special operation to create for one of the groups of influence a new disposition in the fight for the alignment of forces in the country by solving the key issues for the four following years. 14

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