Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 47

The Kremlin’s unilateral decision to replace Boris Berezovsky with Ivan Karatchenya as CIS Executive Secretary has been met–as the Moscow daily “Izvestia” summed it up–“with a mixture of resentment and indignation” by most presidents of CIS countries. While they do not regret the departure of the unpopular Berezovsky, they are clearly perturbed by the arbitrary procedure and the lack of consultation. Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka–no friend of Berezovsky– described the procedure of Berezovsky’s dismissal as “difficult to understand.” His implicit displeasure is the more noteworthy for being expressed by a loyal ally of the Russian state in general and of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov in particular (NTV, March 5; Itar-Tass, March 6).

Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma carefully avoided expressing his opinion. Instead, he predicted that most of the other presidents will endorse Yeltsin’s decision. Kuchma’s caution reflects his imperative need to obtain Yeltsin’s blessing for reelection as president of Ukraine this year. Kuchma’s aides, however, were quoted off the record in the Moscow press as objecting to Yeltsin’s failure to coordinate his move with the other heads of state (Itar-Tass, Russian Television, Izvestia, March 5, 6).

Moldovan President Petru Lucinschi, the ultimate pragmatist, accepted the fait accompli but subtly placed the onus for it on Yeltsin. “The Russian president proposed Berezovsky for his post, the Russian president can revoke him,” Lucinschi stated. The comment was also meant to save face for Kuchma, because it had, officially, been Kuchma who proposed Berezovsky for the post of CIS Executive Secretary at the April 1998 CIS summit. Insiders, however, well understood that Kuchma was performing a minor service for Yeltsin, whose household favorite Berezovsky was at the time. In his telephone conversation with Yeltsin, the Moldovan president observed that “there are far more pressing problems in the CIS than personnel changes.” He singled out the removal of impediments to trade as the most pressing problem (Flux, Basapress, Infotag, March 6).