ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Russia : Putin's Confrontation with Oligarchs

Much of the debate on privatisation of health care has been based on the assumption that the private sector provides a better quality of services than the public sector. Efforts are on to restructure public institutions on market principles to promote efficiency. However, a recent report on Delhi's private hospitals is a shocking reveletion of their questionable management practices with regard to workers as well as patient care.

The arrest of the Russian oligarch Vladimir Gussinsky in the third week of June 2000, i e, within a few weeks of Vladimir Putin formally assuming the office of the president of the Russian Federation, has raised considerable political storm in Russia and in the west. The arrest gained high publicity because Gussinsky is one of the twelve (some consider that there are 18) oligarchs in Russia who are the key players in the economic and political life of Russia. Gussinsky has founded a private bank known as the MostBank and also a company known as MediaMost which included the second largest television network ‘NTV’ and a daily newspaper Segodnya (Today). These achievements of Gussinsky in the post-Soviet Russia have already put him in a strong position in the parliamentary, presidential and regional election campaigns that were held since the Soviet break-up. After three days of arrest he was released and the cause of arrest was that he evaded taxes and embezzled the property of Russkoe Video Channel 11, a St Petersburg television station (which was founded in 1997). Gussinsky’s alleged violations also included Russkoe Video’s creation of 18 private affiliates without the agreement of the State Property Committee (SPC). Press reports in Russia and in the west have different contentions and interpretations of this issue.

While Gussinsky denied all allegations, Yevgenia Borissova in her report in the Moscow Times of June 23 contended that charges of fraud of $ 10 million against Gussinsky were based on the ‘Abstract Formula’ which were not sufficient enough under prevailing criminal law. The Associated Press in its report of June 24 claimed that the Kremlin bosses wanted to wrest the NTV station from his control. Gussinsky himself contended that “they [Kremlin bosses] want a change of owners of NTV so that they can force journalists to tell stories about the ‘greatness of the president’ ”. Andrew Meir of the Time magazine (June 26, 2000) has argued that Gussinsky’s arrest could be the handiwork of Alexander Voloshin, the chief of the presidential staff. He is considered to be one of the prime factors in Putin’s dramatic rise. It is said that he resented the influence of Gussinsky who sided with another influential oligarch and politician, the Moscow mayor Yuri Luzkov who was a contender in the presidential election. Hence Voloshin is also known as Putin’s ‘Gray Cardinal’ and a master of creating compromises and accommodations.

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