Source Pravda.Ru

Architect of Russia's privatization survives assassination attempt

The head of Russia's state-controlled electricity monopoly survived an assassination attempt unhurt Thursday when unidentified attackers detonated a powerful bomb and then fired at his car as he headed to work, officials said.

Anatoly Chubais, the head of Unified Energy Systems and the architect of the country's massive post-Soviet privatization, came under attack as he was being driven to work from his country home west of Moscow, said his spokesman, Andrei Trapeznikov, adding that he was not hurt.

Shortly afterwards, Chubais issued a brief statement saying he knew who was behind the attack but would not name them.

"I understand quite clearly who may have organized today's assassination attempt," Chubais said. "The main thing I can say today is that everything I have done _ regarding both the reform of the country's energy sector and the unification of democratic forces _ I will continue to do with redoubled energy."

Moscow police spokesman Alexander Alexeyev said the explosive device exploded near Chubais' car and two attackers clad in combat fatigues then sprayed his armored car with automatic gunfire. No one was hurt, and the attackers fled into a nearby forest after a brief skirmish with Chubais' guards, Alexeyev said.

Police launched a massive manhunt for the gunmen.

Russia has seen numerous murders and attempts to kill prominent business and political leaders, and only few of them have been solved.

Chubais presided over the massive sale of state property that followed the 1991 Soviet collapse, a program widely criticized for giving away prized state-owned business and property to tycoons with ties to high officials, while most Russians remained mired in poverty.

He later served as chief of staff for Russia's first post-Soviet president, Boris Yeltsin.

Chubais took over Unified Energy Systems (UES) in 1998, and his radical restructuring of the monopoly power grid has faced massive resistance from minority shareholders, as well as business rivals and state officials. In an interview last year, he said he repeatedly had been threatened with assassination.

Chubais said he believed the reasons for the threats were his activities as Russia's privatization czar, but some observers said the UES restructuring plan appeared to be the real reason behind past threats and Thursday's attack.

Irina Khakamada, a prominent liberal politician, said on Ekho Moskvy radio that the attack was most likely linked to the reform at the electricity monopoly. "It must have been linked to difficult processes of redistribution of UES assets," she said.

Under the energy reform plan, more than 40 regional energy companies are to be split into separate generating, transmission and marketing companies, with current shareholders receiving a stake in proportion to their current share.

While presiding over UES, Chubais has also continued to play a prominent role in Russia's politics as one of the leaders of the Union of Right Forces, a leading liberal party.

Boris Nemtsov, one of the party's leaders, said the attempt on Chubais' life appeared to have political motives. Nemtsov said Chubais' political enemies had repeatedly threatened to kill him.

"It's clear to me that the attempt on his life had political roots," Nemtsov said, according to the Interfax.

Christopher Granville, chief strategist at the United Financial Group, wouldn't speculate on possible motives but implied that the attack was unlikely to have resulted from popular grievances over the 1990s privatization.

"My first guess would have been that it was a lone nutter who believes that Chubais is the incarnation of evil, but he wouldn't have used a roadside mine," he said.

Associated Press