Index

DATE=7/28/2000 TYPE=CORRESPONDENT REPORT TITLE=RUSSIA / MOGULS (L-ONLY) NUMBER=2-264885 BYLINE=EVE CONANT DATELINE=MOSCOW CONTENT= VOICED AT: (EDS: MEETING BEGINS APPROX. 13 UTC / 9 AM EDT; NEWS CONFERENCE BEGINS 15:15 UTC / 11:15 AM EDT. MOSCOW BUREAU WILL MONITOR AND UPDATE AS WARRANTED.) INTRO: Russian President Vladimir Putin is scheduled to meet with more than 20 of the country's top businessmen for talks aimed at easing tensions between the new Kremlin leader and Russia's politically-connected moguls. Moscow correspondent Eve Conant reports Mr. Putin and Russia's Prime Minister are expected to attend what is being billed as a two-hour meeting with the businessmen who are protesting a recent series of tax police raids and criminal investigations. TEXT: Russia's influential businessmen, dubbed the "oligarchs," are known as powerful moguls who made their fortunes following the collapse of the Soviet Union. A meeting of about 20 of them with President Vladimir Putin was called in order for them to plead their case before the new Russian leader who vowed while on the campaign trail to wipe out the oligarchs "as a class." Since his inauguration in May, President Putin has distanced himself from many of the powerful businessmen who were given a free hand to build their empires during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin. During the 1990's those businessmen were given privileges and near-immunity in exchange for political and financial support. But with President Putin in charge, the atmosphere has changed dramatically. In recent weeks, prosecutors arrested and jailed Vladimir Gusinsky, who owns Russia's only independent television network, one that has been critical of Mr. Putin and Moscow's military campaign in Chechnya. Charges against Mr. Gusinsky were dropped, but legal investigations for tax evasion are underway against the oil company Lukoil, auto maker Avtovaz and several others. Other cases involve accusations that privatization deals in the 1990's were carried out illegally. Political analyst Dimitry Evstafiev says the oligarchs want to remain intact as a powerful class, but that with public opinion behind him, President Putin will win out in any debate. /// ESTAFIEV ACT /// They (the oligarchs) can survive only as a system. Because if the system is destroyed, they are just big businessmen like many others with limited access to the Kremlin, and what is more important - to the state budget. /// END ACT /// Analyst Evstafiev explains, however, that the government wants a reverse agreement, where the oligarchs support the state. /// EVSTAFIEV SECOND ACT /// The government and the government factions want to reach an agreement on the conditions on which the oligarch's money will go to industry. That does not produce common ground for compromise. /// END ACT /// Russian newspapers speculated Friday that the oligarchs were hoping to encourage President Putin to ask Russia's security services to slow down the investigations into their businesses. But most Russian media were skeptical that any serious deals would be struck. One newspaper daily wrote that while there might not be any "reversals of privatization deals," President Putin will continue to support investigations if there is enough evidence to begin a criminal case. (Signed) NEB/EC/GE/PW 28-Jul-2000 09:05 AM EDT (28-Jul-2000 1305 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .