Yeltsin fires Jewish adviser in feud over economic issues

MOSCOW — A Russian Jewish business tycoon has been ousted from the inner circle of President Boris Yeltsin.

The dismissal of Boris Berezovsky, one of the most powerful men in Russia's financial elite, ended a bitter public feud between him and the young reformers in the Kremlin.

Yeltsin signed the decree last week ousting Berezovsky from his post as deputy secretary of the National Security Council. The action came after Yeltsin's meeting with First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov.

Berezovsky was one of several tycoons who threw their media and financial resources behind Yeltsin's reelection campaign last year.

But in recent months he had a bitter falling-out with economic reform chiefs Chubais and Nemtsov over how the state would sell off its assets.

Chubais and Nemtsov earlier this year accused Berezovsky of using his post in the National Security Council to promote his business interests, a charge Berezovsky flatly denied.

Berezovsky's dismissal was seen as a victory for the reformers, who have been struggling to repair Russia's cash-strapped economy and to demonstrate to Western critics that their program of reforms would work.

The extent of that criticism was evident in a survey of Western business executives that was published last week in London in which they voted Russia the most corrupt country in the world.

Berezovsky, who built up his fortune by creating one of the country's first car dealerships, expanded his business empire to include television and newspaper holdings as well as a large oil company, Sibneft.

During his year in the Kremlin, Berezovsky was a target of ultranationalists' anti-Semitic propaganda.

Within weeks after his appointment to the National Security Council in October 1996, reports surfaced in the Moscow press that he had held Israeli citizenship since 1993.

According to a Russian law, no Russian with dual citizenship can be employed in government service.

Berezovsky, who at first denied that he had dual citizenship, later admitted that he had indeed at one time possessed an Israeli passport.

Israeli officials subsequently confirmed that Berezovsky had requested that his Israeli passport be annulled after he was appointed to the National Security Council.

Berezovsky also has been dogged by rumors that he has close ties to organized crime, was involved in a contract murder and had repeatedly engaged in shady business dealings, but none of the allegations were ever proven.

After his dismissal last week, Berezovsky said he may create a new political party and participate in parliamentary elections slated for 1999.

He also mentioned the possibility of running for president in the year 2000.