Corruption is thriving inside the new Russian cabinet
even before it has finalised measures to deal with the
country's crisis, according to Grigory Yavlinsky, Russia's
most prominent pro-Western politician.
Only weeks after the cabinet was formed, senior posts
in the new government are being bought for money and some
of Russia's most powerful ministers are linked to "circles
which are extremely corrupt", Mr Yavlinsky said in an
interview. His allegations will carry considerable weight
because Mr Yavlinsky is a vocal supporter of Yevgeny Primakov,
prime minister since Sept 11, who, he stresses, is not
involved in the abuses.
Mr Yavlinsky was the first politician to call publicly
for his appointment and, with President Yeltsin's health
in rapid decline, he is highly supportive of Mr Primakov's
new role as vice-president in all but name. Mr Yavlinsky,
leader of the liberal, Yabloko party, said: "We support
Mr Primakov because he is a solution to Russia's political
crisis. But we are not going to keep silent about what
is going on inside the cabinet. Corruption can determine
who gets what position. My people inside the government
tell me you can buy offices for money."
Although he refused to name culprits, he identified the
problem as being particularly acute among members of the
new government whose sympathies belong to Russia's Left.
Allegations of corruption in public life are nothing new
in Russia, but by surfacing so soon after the government
was formed, they will cause a political scandal.
Mr Yavlinsky's accusations will embarrass Mr Primakov,
a former head of Russia's foreign intelligence service,
who even boasted on taking office that he would use his
intelligence contacts to vet would-be ministers. They
will also provoke increased unease in the West about Mr
Primakov's government, which is pressing the International
Monetary Fund (IMF) for a £2.5 billion loan but has yet
to approve its own plans to deal with Russia's economic
Mr Yavlinsky, 46, is respected in the West, and - uniquely
among Russia's reformers - he also enjoys considerable
support in his own country as well. His allegations of
corruption in high places thrust him back into the limelight
of Russian politics after he underwent treatment for heart
problems in Germany. Himself a candidate to be the next
president, he has returned to a country where election
campaigning is already in full swing.