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The Moscow News, January 30, 2004

From Opposition to Post in Government

By Boris Vishnevsky

Igor ArtemyevIt seems that Vladimir Putin’s comment about the need to tap the intellectual capacity of parties that did not make it into the Duma, which he made in the wake of the recent parliamentary election, was not made in vain. Today the appointment of Igor Artemyev, a prominent YABLOKO party member, as deputy economic development and trade minister in charge of natural monopolies, is almost a foregone conclusion. By a quirk of fate the reform of RAO UES (the United Energy Systems) will be overseen by one of the company’s harshest critics. It is also noteworthy that an opposition party leader is being invited to join the Cabinet. As a politician, Artemyev came to prominence in the first democratic Leningrad City Council where he was one of the most high-profile deputies, heading the key Budget and Finance Committee. He pressed for a transparent city budget, upholding his position in a heated debate with Mayor Anatoly Sobchak. Naturally, he was well acquainted with the First Deputy Mayor Vladimir Putin.

Artemyev was apponited First Deputy Governor of St. Petersburg responsible for city finances under a coalition agreement between YABLOKO and Vladimir Yakovlev who at the time seemed a competent manager, St. Petersburg’s answer to Moscow’s Yuri Luzhkov. Two and a half years later the relationship turned sour, and YABLOKO moved into opposition. But until that Artemyev was very successful in his work. He prevented the collapse of the municipal financial system in the wake of the 1998 default: the city fulfilled all its obligations to creditors…

When he moved into opposition, Artemyev became a deputy of the State Duma. In 2000 he tried running for governor against Yakovlev, but without success. On the other hand, Artemyev’s parliamentary career developed successfully, - his long-standing relationships with other "Moscow’s St. Petersburgers," such as Dmitry Kozak, Alexei Kudrin, German Gref and Ilya Yuzhanov, often helped him in legislative activity. This may be the reason why YABLOKO always regarded Artemyev as a proponent of dialogue with the government, avoiding criticism of the president; this did not prevent Artemyev from leading YABLOKO’s struggle against the governmental variant of energy reform.

Artemyev repeatedly stated that the Chubais version of reform lobbied for by the government would result in "the creation of a super-monopoly in Russia, uncontrolled price growth, monopolisation of the sector and, finally, a dramatic loss in competitiveness by Russia’s entire economy." The group headed by Artemyev demanded that the package of energy laws include provisions preventing monopolisation of power generation capacities in the “energy-closed” regions, ensuring transparency of ownership changes during the reform process and prohibiting privatization of network companies.

If Artemyev is able to uphold these positions as overseer of energy reform, he will face a serious struggle with Chubais. It is yet hard to tell how all this can be linked with the intentions of YABLOKO and Union of Right-Wing Forces to join their efforts at regional and local elections.

It is also difficult to forecast how long Artemyev will be able to “survive” in the federal government structures. YABLOKO’s leadership approves of his transition to the executive authority, hoping that he will implement there useful ideas and programme provisions of the party. However, in accepting the post of German Gref’s deputy, Artemyev cannot fail to realise that this will require utter loyalty to Vladimir Putin.

Artemyev assumed the position of First Deputy Governor of St. Petersburg in accordance with a political agreement as a co-author of Yakovlev’s victory, and thus was able to argue with his boss in public and maintain his views saying that "one can only rely on providing real resistance." Now, however, he will be unable to make any public criticism of the President’s political and economic course.

The stronger YABLOKO’s opposition to this course, the more difficult Igor Artemyev’s situation is going to be. And he could well end up stuck between a rock and a hard place…


The Moscow News, January 30, 2004

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