Chubais tries to stem crisis in Russia

Top members of the Yeltsin administration are moving totoughen up their powers to counter a multiple crisis which is threatening Russia's fragile stability - the ill-health of the President, millions of unpaid workers, and the non-payment of billions of pounds in taxes.

The moves are being masterminded by Anatoly Chubais, the President's chief-of-staff, who has emerged during Boris Yeltsin's illness as the most powerful official in the country, prompting accusations from his opponents that he is running a regency.

Undeterred by such attacks, Mr Chubais is calling for the power of the state to be beefed up, and has set about concentrating more authority in the hands of a select few top officials, including himself.

Although his strategy is partly to prevent a repetition of the embarrassing squabbling at the top of the Kremlin that led to the recent sacking of the national security adviser, Alexander Lebed, it has more to do with the country's financial crisis. Millions of workers and servicemen have been unpaid for months, including the military, prompting warnings of unrest in the ranks.

Mr Chubais has played a leading part in the establishment of an emergency tax commission. And he was the force behind the creation of a new "council of four", comprising himself, the Prime Minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, and the two heads of parliament. Its job appears to be that of overseeing and uniting the different arms of government.

In recent remarks, Mr Chubais made no secret that the two new bodies are part of a process to concentrate power at the top. "The consolidation of power - instead of constant mutual intrigues, instead of public discussions, instead of endless arguments - is exactly what the country needs." Yesterday he took up the theme again, complaining of the weakness of the power of the Russian state, and announcing plans to set up a body which would suspend laws that contradict the 1993 Russian constitution.

Such activities will be seen by his critics as further evidence that he is a power-hungry Kremlin official exploiting Mr Yeltsin's heart ailments to create an undemocratic regency.

However, his supporters are likely to see his actions less as an attack on democracy, and more as an attempt to solve several urgent crises.

In the first nine months of the year, the government collected only two- thirds of the tax it needs to meet its spending commitments. In addition, Russia's wage-arrears bill now stands at pounds 5bn. Tax cheats are one reason that millions of workers have gone unpaid since the summer. But the problem is complex. Money has disappeared into the foreign bank accounts of corrupt businessmen and bureaucrats. Mr Chubais's moves are also born of a belief that central government needs more power to force the administrators of Russia's republics, regions, and territories to toe the line.

"If the situation regarding tax collection continues as it is, I think we will cease to exist as a state," said Russia's labour minister, Gennady Melikyan. "And so, the government will have to be swept out of power and new people should be recruited who could tackle this task."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links