President Boris Yeltsin killed two dogs with one bone yesterday when he sacked the highly unpopular governor of Kemerovo oblast, Mikhail Kislyuk, and replaced him with the most disaffected member of the Russian government, CIS affairs minister Aman Tuleev. (ORT, July 1) Kemerovo is the only region in Russia that has still not held a gubernatorial election (though one is scheduled for October). Yeltsin’s decision is a double blow for Kislyuk because he and Tuleev are old enemies. Kislyuk replaced Tuleev as governor of Kemerovo in August 1991, when Yeltsin sacked Tuleev for supporting the attempted coup. Tuleev subsequently moved sideways to become speaker of the regional legislature. Feuding between the two men continued unabated until August, 1996, when Yeltsin appointed Tuleev to his government as an olive-branch to the Communist opposition.
Since Yeltsin reshuffled his cabinet in March of this year, however, Tuleev’s strong support for CIS integration has been out of step with the more cautious approach of the new team and Tuleev has found himself increasingly sidelined. In May, he was not even included on the delegation that accompanied Yeltsin to sign a landmark friendship treaty with Ukraine. At the same time, Moscow’s relations with leading members of the CIS, and Kazakstan in particular, have grown increasingly strained and the Kremlin likely feels it is time for a new broom.
Tuleev remains popular in Kemerovo, and, while the Yeltsin team will be glad to be rid of him, his supporters in the Kuzbass will welcome him home with open arms. Tuleev said yesterday that he will make it his priority to pay the wage and pensions arrears that have reduced many members of the population in the Siberian region to desperation, and some even to starvation and suicide. His chances of winning October’s gubernatorial election are high. Tuleev promised yesterday to encourage small-scale enterprise as a way of helping the region to escape its present depressed state. In the past, Tuleev abhorred market reforms and advocated paternalistic, state-dependent policies. It remains to be seen whether, as Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin put it yesterday, Tuleev has learned any new tricks during his year in the cabinet.
Protesting Workers Block Trans-Siberian Railway.