Having successfully engineered the election two months ago of a parliament devoid of any opposition representation, on August 3 South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity proceeded to dismiss Prime Minister Aslanbek Bulatsev. That move in turn necessitates the resignation of the entire cabinet named last fall in the wake of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
On August 5, Kokoity named as his new prime minister Vadim Brovtsev, the director of a Chelyabinsk-based construction company. Kokoity described
Brovtsev to lawmakers as "a serious professional and builder, tolerant, and a good organizer. He is a man of principles, and he is not a coward."
The republic's parliament approved
Brovtsev's candidacy the same day by a vote of 24 in favor and three against.
Brovtsev, who turned 40 last week, has no previous connections with South Ossetia, but according to the daily "Kommersant
," he is close to Russian Regional Development Minister Viktor Basargin. It is the Regional Development Ministry that is responsible for financing postconflict reconstruction in South Ossetia.
On July 22, one week after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's surprise visit to Tskhinvali, Basargin announced
that Moscow will allocate a further 20 billion rubles ($641.4 million) for postconflict reconstruction in South Ossetia over the next three years.
Reasons For Dismissal
Kokoity's motives for sacking Bulatsev, who previously headed the Federal Tax Service office in North Ossetia, are not entirely clear.
Following his appointment in late October 2008, Bulatsev spent only a short time in Tskhinvali before returning to Vladikavkaz. Kokoity on August 3 claimed Bulatsev had submitted his resignation months earlier on the grounds of ill-health. But former South Ossetian Security Council Secretary Anatoly Barankevich was quoted by "Kommersant" on December 4, 2008 as saying Kokoity deliberately sidelined Bulatsev.
Oleg Teziyev, who served as South Ossetian prime minister in the early 1990s and now lives in Moscow, similarly characterized Bulatsev as a competent manager who could have done a good job if he had been given the chance.
Barankevich himself played a key role in the defense of Tskhinvali during the August fighting, upstaging Kokoity, who, according to Barankevich, retaliated by firing him. Barankevich was then offered a post in Moscow by then-Regional Development Minister Dmitry Kozak that entailed direct responsibility for overseeing reconstruction in South Ossetia and monitoring the use of federal funds allocated for that purpose.
But Kozak was soon transferred to another position, and when Barankevich travelled to Tskhinvali, not a single senior official would take orders from him; he was dismissed shortly afterward.
South Ossetian journalist Alan Tskhurbayev suggested
that Bulatsev was fired at the insistence of unnamed financial interest groups in Moscow that hoped to secure a monopoly on contracts for reconstruction in South Ossetia.
A third possible explanation for the dismissal of Bulatsev and the cabinet is that Kokoity needed a scapegoat for the failure to make any noticeable headway in reconstruction. According to some Russian journalists, the population of Tskhinvali collectively attribute that failure to corruption, specifically the misappropriation on a massive scale of funds for reconstruction already allocated from the federal budget (1.5 billion rubles in 2008 and a further 8.5 billion so far this year).
According to "Kommersant" on July 14, the corruption allegations, the unacceptably slow pace of reconstruction, and the absence of any opposition representation in the parliament elected on May 31 (the People's Party was denied registration, and the Fatherland party polled less than the minimum 7 percent of the vote required to qualify for representation) were among the issues that Medvedev raised during his talks with Kokoity in Tskhinvali on July 13.
Whether a deal was struck whereby the massive injection of federal funding subsequently announced by Basargin was made contingent on the appointment of a prime minister whose primary loyalty will be to Moscow, not to Kokoity, remains a matter for conjecture.
Moscow-based South Ossetian businessman Albert Dzhussoyev, whose financial interests in South Ossetia came under scrutiny
after he alleged that the May 31 parliamentary election was rigged, criticized
the choice of Brovtsev as "an experiment on the diseased organism of South Ossetia." He said the selection of Brovtsev was Kokoity's personal decision, and the Kremlin had no say in it.
Brovtsev has pledged
to unveil his new cabinet within three weeks.