Primakov struck suddenly, bringing a range of state resources into play: "Berezovsky likes to create the impression that he runs Russia, but Primakov is demonstrating that he is the real power in a strong central state," says Meier. The cautious Primakov may think twice about finishing off Berezovsky, but having drawn the combative tycoon into the street, he may have no choice but to slap leather.
MOSCOW: This town ain't big enough for the two of us. That was Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov's message to tycoon kingmaker Boris Berezovsky this week, as government agencies launched a multi-pronged attack on the oligarch's holdings. A year ago the oil and media baron was widely viewed as the Rasputin-like power behind Boris Yeltsin, but government raids on Berezovsky's companies -- investigating everything from influence-peddling to illegal bugging -- were hailed by Primakov Thursday as part of an effort to stamp out corruption. "Since he took office, Primakov has been after Berezovsky, and Russia's financial crisis has sapped a lot of the tycoon's power," says TIME Moscow correspondent Andrew Meier. "But this could be a fierce battle. Don't be surprised if Berezovsky makes a characteristically ingenious comeback."