Go to contents

Russian President to Impose More Control On Business Tycoons

Russian President to Impose More Control On Business Tycoons

Posted July. 06, 2003 21:46,   


Russian President Vladimir Putin is to attack business circles with parliamentary and presidential elections approaching in December and early next year, respectively.

The Russian Prosecutor`s Office conducted an investigation into Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, chairman of Russia’s largest oil company, Yukos, on July 4. However, the 39-year-old chairman was released in just two hours, suggesting that the authorities only issued a stern warning to business circles.

The chief executive, a major tycoon with personal assets of 8 billion dollars, has often expressed his feelings against President Putin. He turned away from the president’s new party made ahead of a parliamentary election and has supported the Union of Right Forces (SPS), a pro-market right-wing organization, and the opposition Yavloko Party. In addition, he was known to have a close relationship with Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Putin’s potentinal competitor.

On the same day, the prosecution also arrested Leonid Nevzlin, a major shareholder of Yukos. He was released after investigation. However, Platon Lebedev, chairman of Menatep, the company that owns 61 percent of Yukos, was taken into custody. These two people, close to Khodorkovsky, are on the list of 500 of the world’s richest people, as selected by the American business magazine Forbes.

Grigory A. Yavlinsky, the head of Yabloko, called the incident a ‘political cleanup.’ Such moves by President Putin are seen as an attempt to control large companies that are recently becoming increasingly powerful.

Yukos Oil Company has constantly been involved in political conflicts with Putin’s government over oil pipelines in eastern Siberia. The government insisted that a Far East line be built while the company has continually insisted on a Chinese line. Moreover, Yukos plans to acquire another large oil company Sibneft to emerge as the world’s fourth major oil company within the year. Therefore, the Putin government has to control the company before it is too late, experts analyzed.

Since Putin`s presidency, Media-Most magnate Vladimir Gusinsky is in prison and LogoVAZ chairman Boris Berezovsky is in exile.

Ki-Hyun Kim kimkihy@donga.com