Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 127

The Yeltsin administration has again asserted the president’s right to dismiss popularly elected regional governors. First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais told a press conference late last week that governors whose regions default on payments to the federal pension fund risk dismissal. Chubais is the highest-ranking official yet to assert a presidential right (not granted by the constitution) to sack elected governors. (NTV, June 27)

Chubais singled out Mikhail Kislyuk, governor of Kemerovo oblast, as the chief culprit. Last week, Chubais announced that Moscow had sent enough money to the regions to enable all pensions arrears to be paid, as Yeltsin had promised, by July 1. But Kemerovo officials found themselves on the defensive over the weekend as they tried to explain why they would not be paying pensioners in their oblast by that date. The arrears were so huge, they said, that it will take them at least a week to process all the payments. (ORT, June 29)

The situation in Kemerovo oblast is indeed bleak. Pensions have not been paid for over three months and wage arrears are so acute that desperate coalminers have taken their own lives. Local sources warn that some people in the region are on the verge of starvation. It is nonetheless unclear what Yeltsin would gain by sacking Kislyuk, who is the last remaining regional governor appointed by the president and the only one who has not yet stood for a popular election. A gubernatorial election has, however, been scheduled for October 19, and the unpopular Kislyuk is not expected to be reelected. Yeltsin would be well within his rights to sack Kislyuk, in other words, but it is hard to see why he would want to at this late stage.

The man tipped to win the election is the Communist Aman Tuleev, former speaker of the regional legislature who currently holds the post of Minister for CIS Affairs in the Russian government. Tuleev’s strong support for CIS-integration is out of step with the more cautious views of the present government and the Yeltsin administration might be expected to be glad to see him depart Moscow. Tuleev could, however, prove far more of a headache to the Yeltsin administration as governor of Kemerovo than he has as a government minister. Chubais’ threat may, therefore, have been aimed at Tuleev and, in general, at a wider audience. His words suggest that what the Kremlin is after is less the ouster of specific leaders than recognition of a general presidential right to replace governors throughout Russia.

Kremlin Quandary Over Primorsky Krai.