THE former acting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation in the early stages of the Yeltsin era took place on December 15th and it had an Irish twist. Yegor Gaidar was only 53 years old when he succumbed to the blood clot that killed him last Tuesday. He was the inaugural Minister of Economy and Finance from 11 November 1991 until 19 February 1992, shortly after Boris Yeltsin assumed power. He became acting Prime Minister of the Russian Federation from June to December 1992.
Gaidar’s task was to transform the former communist state to a free market economy which he set about doing by deploying economic ‘shock therapy’. This was based on the abrupt elimination of price and currency controls, the withdrawal of subsidies and the liberalization of trade within the Russian Federation as well as the large scale privatisation of state owned assets.
Several American economists backed this approach including Jeffrey Sachs then a Harvard professor but not of Columbia University New York.
The consequence of this approach was chaos and the looting of assets by individuals who were to become known as oligarchs. Industrial output collapsed and unemployment soared. Famine and scarcity was rampant.
Visit to Ireland
Gaidar came to Ireland in November 2006 to promote his book titled Lasting Time : Russia in the World at the National University of Ireland in Maynooth, Co Kildare.
He suddenly became ill, vomited and fainted in Maynooth and was rushed to James Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown with suspected food poisoning where he was detained overnight. This incident took place just five days after the death in suspicious circumstances in London of Alexander Litvinenko.
Litivenko became ill on 1 November 2006 shortly after meeting two former KGB officials, one of whom, Andrei Lugovoi, had been Gaider’s bodyguard. This visit took place shortly after Litivenko, a former Russian intelligence officer had accused the authorities of attempting to assassinate Boris Berezovsky, an anti-Putin oligarch who acquired the Russian oil giant Sibneft for a modest consideration and who controlled the major Russian television channel.
There had been speculation that Gaidar had been poisoned in Ireland but no conclusive proof supported this.
Mr Litvinenko is thought to have died after being exposed to the highly hazardous radioactive isotope polonium 210. On his deathbed, he accused the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, of being behind his death.
The Russian Embassy in Dublin said at the time that Mr Gaidar was diagnosed as suffering from gastroenteritis, and that his medical report states that his life was not under threat following this incident.