Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 202

As Yeltsin prepares for major surgery, Russian Television is recasting Viktor Chernomyrdin’s image, presumably with an eye to the possibility that the prime minister may take over the president’s functions. With all the subtlety of a sledgehammer, Independent Television (NTV) last night screened a saccharine profile of the prime minister. "I’m just a country lad at heart," Chernomyrdin told viewers.

Showing Chernomyrdin at home with his family, the profile described his Siberian Cossack roots, his fondness for Siberian pelmeny (dumplings), and his passion for hunting (after which he enjoys "a drop of vodka"). Chernomyrdin’s fondness for driving fast cars was attributed to his father’s work as a chauffeur, and although his penchant for Armani suits is world famous, viewers were told that his wife buys his clothes. The prime minister was described as arriving home from work at midnight but never missing his nightly ritual of drinking tea in the kitchen with his wife, who tells him what the grandchildren have done all day. When Mikhail Gorbachev was a member of the Politburo, he and his wife used to walk the Moscow streets at night to escape the listening devices as Gorbachev told Raisa about the day’s developments. But Chernomyrdin reportedly "never discusses politics at home." Asked to identify his strong suit, the prime minister replied "Kindness." "Have you any faults?" asked the interviewer. "Looking at pretty girls" the prime minister admitted. (NTV, October 26)

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