Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 63

Reports this week quoted anonymous officials in Yeltsin’s administration as strongly hinting of late that the president has extra-constitutional contingency plans. Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov is said to have collected evidence of extremist statements made by leaders of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), of illegal KPRF cells at enterprises, and so forth. This evidence will supposedly be used to justify banning the party. Such a ban would be accompanied by firing the cabinet of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov (or forcing it out of office), and bringing back Viktor Chernomyrdin to serve as head of the government for a third time (Moskovskie novosti, March 30-April 5). According to one report, Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s daughter and “image-maker,” met with Chernomyrdin at the end of last week (Argumenty i fakty, No. 13, March 1999).

The existence of such contingency plans is one possible explanation for Yeltsin’s most recent personnel reshuffles, including the appointment of Aleksandr Voloshin as head of the presidential administration and of Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin as head of Yeltsin’s advisory Security Council. Indeed, Voloshin, in introducing Putin to the Security Council staff earlier this week, warned that “extremist forces” were threatening the Russian state (Russian agencies, March 29). Such plans would also explain Yeltsin’s meeting last week with Yuri Luzhkov, which was reportedly an attempt by the head of state to patch up relations with the Moscow mayor. Luzhkov was quoted today as openly criticizing the Primakov cabinet for lacking a “precise economic policy” and for “not doing anything real to support industry.” Until now, Luzhkov had been much more critical of Yeltsin and the Kremlin than of Primakov and his cabinet. The account suggested that Luzhkov is positioning himself to succeed Primakov as prime minister (Izvestia, March 31).

At the same time, it is possible that the various leaks from the Kremlin about possible plans to fire the Primakov cabinet and ban the KPRF may simply be a way to put pressure on the Duma to drop its impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin. In fact, NATO’s actions in Yugoslavia would appear to have helped Yeltsin politically at home by taking the focus off the corruption scandals as well as having a “rally-around-the-flag” effect. Gennady Seleznev, the Duma’s speaker and a top KPRF official, said yesterday (after Yeltsin’s state of the nation address) that the Duma might consider dropping its impeachment drive in light of events in Yugoslavia. Viktor Ilyukhin, however, head of the Duma’s security committee and a KPRF radical, insisted that this would not happen (Russian agencies, March 30).