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The new oligarchs

The robber-baron days of the Yeltsin-era oligarchs might be over but high-level power play is still a feature of Russia's economy, fuelled by a still underdeveloped legal system.

Who runs Russia? It is the question that plagued Russia under Boris Yeltsin, who was manipulated by powerful businessmen and gave away Russia's priceless assets for pennies. With the accession of tough-man president Vladimir Putin it looked as if the Kremlin had taken back the reins of power. But in July the question could be heard again. Prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov ended a tussle between two of Russia's most powerful businessmen for control of Slavneft, one of the last big state-owned oil companies, with a controversial decision.

Over the past three years Russia's business groups have been racing to buy up attractive enterprises and move into new sectors. Oleg Deripaska, chairman of Russia Aluminium and probably the most powerful businessman in Russia, started the ball rolling with the purchase of the PAZ bus factory at the end of 1998.

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