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#4 - JRL 7269
July 30, 2003
Spin doctors seek to challenge privatization results
By Anatoly Goldovsky 

The idea of revising privatization results was outlined at a news conference held by the author of the much-talked-of report on the “oligarchs’ conspiracy” Iosif Diskin as he announced his plans to ask the Constitutional Court to examine privatization laws in terms of their conformity to the federal Constitution.

At a news conference held at the Interfax office on Tuesday, chairmen of the Council for National Strategy (CNS) Stanislav Belkovsky, Iosif Diskin and Valery Khomyakov announced their decision to lodge a complaint to the Constitutional Court, contesting the lawfulness of sale of state-owned property into private hands.

Diskin formulated the essence of the inquiry as follows: “Whether the terms of privatization were lawful”. On whose behalf the inquiry will be made the political scientists have yet to decide.

In Diskin’s opinion, the best option would be if their idea kindles enthusiasm in many public organizations at once so that they all could put their signature to the inquiry, but in case this never happens the CNS is ready to take the initiative in its hands.

Taking Diskin’s words for granted, the planned appeal to the Constitutional Court pursues a solely noble purpose to get a legal evaluation of the privatization carried out in the country over the past decade. “God is my witness, punishment is not what we care for,” he said. “This is a rather safe for all dramatic personae means of drawing up the results of privatization”.

As the main guarantee that the Constitutional Court decisions will not entail a series of arrests and re-distribution of property Diskin cites the 8-year – and hence expired – statute of limitation for privatization deals.

From the legal standpoint Diskin’s statement is but a demagogy. No legal evaluation of privatization itself is necessary: the Constitution explicitly enshrines the right of the president to dispose of the state-owned property.

If we skip the details, the situation looks as follows: in his time Boris Yeltsin (and presently Vladimir Putin) had the full right to give any state-owned plant to any individual, whether someone liked it or not. Calling a spade a spade, what the Council for National Strategy seeks to initiate is the redistribution of property. For, indeed, there is no need to put violators behind the bars – taking away the unlawfully privatized assets from them would be enough, provided the Constitutional Court gives its blessing.

The intention of the group of political scientists to have the Constitutional Court involved in the redistribution of property is a qualitatively new turn in the ongoing onslaught of the Prosecutor General’s Office on the YUKOS Oil Company. And that such turn is a thoroughly planned step is beyond doubt, given that the CNS has the backing of the so-called St.Petersburg group from the Vladimir Putin entourage, who initiated the attack on YUKOS in the first place.

The main evidence of the link between the CNS and St.Petersburg group is a scandalous report on the oligarchic coup d’etat allegedly masterminded by the country’s influential businessmen. The document was published a month before the arrest of one of the co-owners of the oil major Platon Lebedev.

In a recent interview to Gazeta.Ru, prominent Russian spin doctor Gleb Pavlovsky claimed that the CNS provides “expert support” to initiators of the case against YUKOS.

Nonetheless, at a news conference on Tuesday the CNS directors carefully parried questions concerning their connections with certain officials from the presidential entourage.

“Putin read the report and held with its ideas,” Diskin told the news conference proudly, but stopped short of further confessions. Asked if Putin had discussed the report with them, Diskin and his colleagues said no, though it was obvious that they were flattered by the suggestion. “But do you have access to Ivanov or Sechin?” reporters persisted. “We have access only to ourselves,” Belkovsky said ending the discussion.

In short, the essence of the “oligarchs’ conspiracy” is as follows: sensing the weakness of the Kremlin the oligarchs, and to a larger extent YUKOS chief Mikhail Khodorkovsky, “have come to the strong conviction, that they may assume power for themselves”, transforming Russia from the presidential into the presidential-parliamentary republic.

“But the further, the more the interests of the oligarchs run counter to the national interests of Russia,” said Belkovsky. “Their main interests are focused in the West”. The striking example is the purchase by Roman Abramovich of Chelsea football club. The money paid by the Sibneft owner for Chelsea could help revive the entire Russian football. However, Abramovich has chosen a different way, for he seeks to establish ties with the British Royal Family.

In Belkovsky’s opinion, the only way for the oligarchs to make peace with the state is to assume “colossal social responsibility” in exchange for the “gifts of fate they received in the 1990s”. According to the political scientist, they must share their money and natural rent with the state.

The journalists listened to the theory of the “oligarchs’ conspiracy”, laid down by the CNS experts, with certain distrust. In response to the lengthy explanation by Diskin and his colleagues of the reasons why Mikhail Kasyanov called Lebedev’s arrest an excessive and heavy-handed measure, someone asked: “Is he a fool, then?”

“Oh, no, of course not, he is the smartest person,” Belkovsky said and from this moment started calling the Prime Minister “the smart Kasyanov”.

Also the CNS members joked about one of leading Russian liberals Grigory Yavlinsky. “There is no secret about the link between Khodorkovsky and Yabloko,” Khomyakov noted. “I do not want to make evil prophesies, but look where is his first sponsor, Gusinsky, now”. [Vladimir Gusinsky, once the owner of the Media Most group, was forced to leave Russia after his media empire was taken over from him in what was widely believed to be a politically motivated attack on him.-Gazeta.Ru].

“Forestalling the question as to who will be the next,” Belkovsky intervened enthusiastically, “I will say – the one with whom Yavlinsky arranges a deal”.

Drawing up the results of the event, one may note the following. Just like in the case with the report on the “oligarchic conspiracy” the Tuesday news conference of the CNS is supposed, to all appearances, to convey a new impulse to the much-discussed problem of the lawfulness of the privatization, carried out in the country over the past decade, and in this connection, of the expediency of revising some of its results.

At any rate it is obvious that the inquiry to the Constitutional Court concerning the conformity of the privatization to the Constitution (groundless, in effect, since the privatization in Russia was carried out by the state and on the basis of corresponding laws) is expected to attach a new impulse to the prosecutors’ somewhat slackening efforts in pressuring YUKOS. 30 ???? 16:09

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