In his April 10 address, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov vigorously defended his record, claiming that his cabinet–which replaced the one headed by Sergei Kirienko following last August’s financial collapse–had brought stability to the country at a time when it seemed to be on the brink of “open, possibly bloody confrontation” between the legislative and executive branches, hyperinflation, bankruptcy and a total collapse of the banking system. The prime minister also noted that the dire forecasts of economic collapse and hunger this past winter had not materialized. He, as he has done in the past, insisted that his government does not want to abandon “reform,” but simply “correct” it.
Primakov also appeared to be going out of his way to avoid giving the Kremlin any pretext to go after him. He said that the attempt by the opposition in the State Duma to impeach Yeltsin, which goes to a vote on April 15 is “unsound” and “counterproductive,” a “political game” which is “irresponsible and dangerous,” and that Yeltsin should serve out his full constitutional term. Primakov also condemned the “war of kompromat,” and said that he had on a number of occasions told Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov, who has been at the center of recent scandals, that he should step down, and still believed that Skuratov should go. Primakov then called rumors that he was behind the criminal cases against “several well-known businessmen”–an obvious reference to Boris Berezovsky and Aleksandr Smolensky, whose arrests were ordered last week–“utterly absurd.”
On the other hand, Primakov, at the point in his speech where he referred to Yeltsin’s comments, insisted that the cabinet can work “productively” only if it receives “stable, unconditional support from the side of the [presidential] administration, the legislative and other structures.” He also insisted that ministers could be removed only if they were not fulfilling their professional obligations or guilty of criminal acts (ORT, April 10).
Thus, while Primakov would appear to have been taking Yeltsin to task for the April 9 comment, he also appears to have left the door open to not stepping down if Maslyukov or Kulik are removed for having committed criminal offenses. Both figure in criminal investigations being carried out by the Prosecutor General’s Office. Indeed, a television channel this weekend quoted unnamed Kremlin officials as saying that if the opposition in the State Duma insists on pushing ahead with impeachment, the criminal cases against Maslyukov and Kulik will be pushed forward and they, like Berezovsky and Smolensky, will have to flee abroad (TV-6, April 11).
BEREZOVSKY CALLS PRIMAKOV AN “ABSOLUTELY TOTALITARIAN” THINKER.