Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 45

Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s decision late yesterday evening to remove Boris Berezovsky from the post of Commonwealth of Independent States executive secretary caught some of the CIS leaders off guard. Presidents Eduard Shevardnadze of Georgia and Gaidar Aliev of Azerbaijan said that such decisions should be taken in consultation with all the CIS heads of state. According to an official Kremlin statement, Berezovsky was relieved from his post for “exceeding the authority defined for an executive secretary” of the CIS. Berezovsky himself, who was in Baku for a meeting with Aliev, said that it was Yeltsin who had exceeded his authority, given that a CIS executive secretary can be removed only by a decision of the Council of the Commonwealth Heads of State. Yeltsin was reportedly on the telephone with the CIS leaders, and few observers doubt that they will ultimately approve Yeltsin’s decision to fire Berezovsky (Russian agencies, NTV, March 5).

According to one “version” reported today, Yeltsin took his decision to fire Berezovsky yesterday after meeting with his chief of staff, Nikolai Bordyuzha, who is also secretary of the advisory Security Council. Leaders of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) had met with Bordyuzha earlier yesterday to complain about what they said was a campaign to discredit and remove members of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s cabinet. KPRF leaders were particularly upset about an alleged leak, reported by the Argumenty i fakty novosti news service, that Yeltsin had given Primakov ten days to fire the communist members of the cabinet. According to one rumor making the rounds today, the report of Yeltsin’s alleged ultimatum may have been planted by Berezovsky (Russian agencies, March 5).

Over the last week, several newspapers controlled by Berezovsky have run articles accusing cabinet members, particularly Primakov’s two main deputies, Yuri Maslyukov and Gennady Kulik, of corruption. Maslyukov, who is a KPRF member and the Primakov government’s negotiator with the International Monetary Fund, has also come under fire in the media–and not just Berezovsky-controlled media–for not succeeding in winning new assistance from the IMF.