Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 136

Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin met for three hours July 9 with Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky. (RTR, July 9) The meeting took place against the background of Yeltsin’s statement, made just before the second round of the election, that he viewed Yavlinsky as an "ally." Observers expressed surprise, however, not only at the meeting’s length, but at the fact that it had been held at all. Before the election, Chernomyrdin had expressed approval of the idea of a coalition government, but after it he had scoffed at the idea, saying it would be just a talking shop — and he had brusquely rejected the suggestion that Yavlinsky might be given a cabinet post. Meanwhile Yeltsin, who rejected the idea of a coalition prior to the election, began after it to speak in favor.

The explanation may be that Yeltsin sees a coalition government as a way of diluting Chernomyrdin’s power and preventing the prime minister from forming of team of people loyal only to himself. Writing yesterday in Nezavisimaya gazeta, Vitaly Tretyakov suggested that Yeltsin had refused to leave Moscow on the vacation recommended by his doctors precisely because he did not want Chernomyrdin ruling the roost in his absence. Yeltsin has to maintain his dominance by keeping the "big three" — Prime Minister Chernomyrdin, the hawkish Chief of the Presidential Staff Nikolai Yegorov, and security supremo Aleksandr Lebed — in a constant state of disequilibrium. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, July 10) To do that, he has to remain in Moscow, forego rest and relaxation, and keep Chernomyrdin on his toes by ensuring that some of those appointed to the cabinet know they owe their jobs to Yeltsin personally.

Yavlinsky reported July 9 that he and Chernomyrdin had discussed economic policy and that the possibility of his entering the government was not raised. But he indicated that Chernomyrdin might offer a portfolio to another Yabloko leader, Mikhail Zadornov, a respected economist who currently chairs the Duma’s budget committee. Meanwhile, Yeltsin’s chief aide, Viktor Ilyushin, who played a key organizing role in the president’s reelection campaign, reportedly will be rewarded with the post of first deputy prime minister in the new cabinet. Rumor also has it that, despite his denials, Anatoly Chubais will soon return to politics. He is to head the grandly named Public Council for the Strategic Development of Russia, which is to be set up on the basis of Yeltsin’s campaign team. (Interfax, July 10)

Moscow and Tokyo Look to Improve Relations.