Soskovets, Oleg Nikolayevich
SOSKOVETS, OLEG NIKOLAYEVICH
(b. 1949), industrialist, inventor, powerful minister in the Russian government from 1993 to 1996.
Trained as a metallurgical engineer, from 1971 until 1991 Oleg Soskovets worked at the Karaganda Metallurgical Factory in Kazakhstan, rising from the shop floor to become the general director in 1988. In 1991 a police investigation of financial abuses led to the arrest of several of his colleagues, but he himself was not prosecuted.
In 1989 he was elected to the newly formed USSR Congress of People's Deputies, and in 1991 he served briefly as minister of metallurgy in the USSR government. In January 1992 President Boris Yeltsin named him to head a state metallurgy commission, but that spring he was made deputy prime minister and minister of industry in the government of Kazakhstan. Again, he left after a few months, when the attorney general's office reopened the factory corruption case.
Named to head a state committee on metallurgy, Soskovets returned to Moscow in October 1992, only for Yeltsin five months later to appoint him deputy prime minister and overseer of Russian industry. He became close to Yeltsin's security aide Alexander Korzhakov and Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, and chaired government meetings in the latter's absence. He was a hawk on the first Chechnya war, and in February 1995 Yeltsin sent him to Chechnya with the thankless task of restoring economic and social life in the still war-torn republic. Later, unanswered allegations suggested that he had profited handsomely from the government cash sent to Chechnya for reconstruction.
Over time, Korzhakov started pressing Yeltsin to replace Chernomyrdin with Soskovets. In January 1996 Yeltsin named him to head the campaign for Yeltsin's reelection. However, Soskovets and Korzhakov favored postponement of the election, fearing that Yeltsin might lose. Eventually forced into a runoff, Yeltsin fired them both in June.
After this, Soskovets became an assistant to Mayor Yuri Luzhkov of Moscow and continued his work for the Association of Financial-Industrial Groups, of which he became chairman in 1995. Press and TV exposés linked him to allegedly criminal activity by the Mafia-connected brothers Mikhail and Lev Chernoi, colleagues of his in the metals industry. Although he made no effective response to the charges, he was not prosecuted.
See also: korzhakov, alexander vasilievich; yeltsin, boris nikolayevich
Reddaway, Peter, and Glinski, Dmitri. (2001). The Tragedy of Russia's Reforms: Market Bolshevism Against Democracy. Washington, DC: U.S. Institute of Peace Press.