Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 109

Meanwhile, Aleksei Venediktov, chief editor at the radio station Ekho Moskvy, said that the main issue involved in the power struggle among Kremlin insiders is not who will control financial flows, but who will be the presidential candidate next year–Stepashin or First Deputy Prime Minister Nikolai Aksenenko. Venediktov said that while Aksenenko is currently very close to Yeltsin, other members of the presidential administration are backing Stepashin, and that Yeltsin will ultimately decide which of the two is the more “hopeful” candidate and “loyal successor.”

Both Shakirov and Ekho Moskvy’s Aleksei Venediktov, however, said during last night’s media slam broadcast by Itogi that it is quite possible that the scheduled presidential elections for 2000 will not be held at all. Shakirov said that his “informants” have told him that the Kremlin has a contingency plan under which Russia would become a confederation, and thus a new country, with Yeltsin as its head. Shakirov explained that this would entail not only a union with neighboring Belarus, but new authority to Russia’s national republics (such as Tatarstan, Ingushetia, Chechnya and so on). On June 4, “Kommersant” reported that it had come in possession of a Kremlin confederation plan (see the Monitor, June 4).

For his part, Venediktov said that he knew “with certainty” that the Kremlin is studying three possible ways to postpone the next presidential elections, which are set for June 2000. The first would involve changing Russia’s constitution to create a new confederation, or drafting a confederation agreement which, he said, would obviate the need to change the constitution. The result would be a new country, with Yeltsin as its head. The second plan would be to unify with Belarus. He said only 20 percent of Russians would vote against such a union, and the result would again be a new country with Yeltsin as its head. The third idea is the declaration of a state of emergency in Russia on the basis of ongoing instability in the North Caucasus, which would be approved by the Federation Council. This would be a constitutional way of postponing the elections, Venediktov said (NTV, June 6).