Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 80

The Kremlin devoted part of its energy over the weekend to limiting the damage it suffered last week when the Federation Council voted to reject the resignation of Yuri Skuratov, whom President Boris Yeltsin suspended as prosecutor general earlier this month. Speaking to reporters on April 24 after a meeting of the North Caucasus interregional association in Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, first deputy Kremlin administration chief Oleg Sysuev declared that “presidential power is strong, and will remain so after the year 2000.”

A number of observers have said that the Kremlin administration did not, prior to the Skuratov vote, put sufficient effort into trying to win over the regional leaders who comprise the Federation Council. Others claim that the Kremlin staff is riven by splits–specifically, between Sysuev and Aleksandr Voloshin, the presidential administration chief who has come under fire for allegedly mishandling the Skuratov affair.

Apparently addressing such criticism, Sysuev denied the existence of “antagonistic disagreements” within the Kremlin apparatus, which he claimed is working “as a unified mechanism.” Sysuev did note that “in any living organism there are internal conflicts, but that is precisely why the organism works.” Sysuev had accompanied Yevgeny Primakov to the meeting in Vladikavkaz, but said that his presence in no way represented an attempt by the Kremlin administration to exercise control over the prime minister (Russian agencies, April 24).

Primakov, meanwhile, gave a television interview in which he said, among other things, that he had made a mistake in accepting the job as prime minister. He clearly saw the interview as an opportunity to defend himself from charges that he is disloyal to Yeltsin and an ally of the leftist opposition. He repeated that he opposes the State Duma’s attempt to impeach the president, and that there was no basis to believe that the cabinet was working “behind [Yeltsin’s] back.” Primakov also went on the offensive against the “closed briefings” by unnamed high-level Kremlin following the Skuratov vote, during which Primakov was accused of having too weakly supported the Kremlin’s position. The prime minister said that these briefings were “counterproductive for the country” and that he had said this directly to Kremlin chief-of-staff Aleksandr Voloshin. Voloshin is said to have been one of the anonymous briefers.

Primakov also denied that his cabinet either opposes Russian business or economic reform, or represents a revenge of the statists (“gosudarstvenniky”). He said that the cabinet simply wants to create an environment which would lead to the return of capital illegally exported abroad, and the investment of that capital into the Russian economy’s “real” sector. Primakov also said that he will never agree to overturning the results of privatization, even though it was largely carried out improperly, because this could lead to a “bloody revolution.” He added, however, that certain specific privatizations might be reviewed.

Primakov again stated that Skuratov should step down as prosecutor general, but said that he was most interested in strengthening the fight against economic crime and corruption–without politicizing it–with the aim of “stabilizing” the state and society. He said that Skuratov’s staying in office would be a “minus” in respect to these goals. Finally, Primakov again denied having any presidential ambitions (TV-6, April. 25).