Late Monday, President Boris Yeltsin fired his prime minister of three months, Sergei Stepashin, and nominated Federal Security Service chief Vladimir Putin to replace him. Putin’s nomination must be approved by the Duma.
Stepashin failed to accomplish the two principal tasks he had been given when he took office. He did not end the investigations into corruption that threaten Yeltsin’s political and literal family, and he did not block the even more threatening political rise of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov (see below). Stepashin, who today rejected Yeltsin’s offer of a post as head of the National Security Council, now joins past premiers Viktor Chernomyrdin, Sergei Kirienko and (especially) Yevgeny Primakov as a political figure with national name recognition and a reason to have it in for Boris Yeltsin and his associates.
Nominee Vladimir Putin, like Stepashin, rose to prominence in the Soviet secret police (KGB) and became director of its post-Soviet successor organization, the Federal Security Service. He has had frequent run-ins with Boris Berezovsky, the tycoon who dominates Yeltsin’s inner circle, and that friction is unlikely to diminish.