Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 62

Yeltsin is undoubtedly hoping to use today’s parliamentary address on the state of the nation to help bolster his position. This has been noticeably weakened recently by recent allegations of corruption inside the Kremlin apparatus and Yeltsin’s inner circle, and by the defiance of Yeltsin by the once pro-Kremlin Federation Council (the upper parliamentary chamber made up of regional heads) in supporting Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov. Yesterday Yeltsin appointed Federal Security Service Director Vladimir Putin to head the advisory Security Council. Putin replaces Nikolai Bordyuzha, who was fired as Security Council secretary and head of the presidential administration following the Skuratov scandal. Bordyuzha, a general, was reportedly removed from the armed forces on March 27. Aleksandr Voloshin, who replaced Bordyuzha as Yeltsin’s chief of staff, introduced Putin to the Security Council’s staff yesterday. The president’s press service quoted Voloshin as saying that “extremist forces” were trying to “shake the foundations of the Russian state system” and that a key task was ensuring “honest and fair” elections for parliament and president (Izvestia, March 30; Russian agencies, March 29). Putin is reportedly one of the few high-ranking officials left in Russia’s “power ministries” who is completely loyal to Yeltsin.

Despite these changes, and despite an apparent agreement in principle between the International Monetary Fund and Russia for US$4.8 billion to refinance old debts having been reached yesterday, the Kremlin is reportedly demoralized and in disarray. One magazine this week, citing “confidential information,” reports that a number of top presidential administration officials are preparing to quit, including the first deputy administration head, Oleg Sysuev, and the head of the Kremlin’s legal department, Ruslan Orekhov. The weekly noted the irony of the fact that last fall the Kremlin administration picked Primakov as a counter-weight to its then arch-enemy Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Now, according to this version, the weakened Kremlin apparatus is doing everything it can to neutralize the Primakov cabinet, including extending olive branches to Luzhkov, who met last week with Yeltsin (Itogi, March 30). In an interview aired March 28, however, Luzhkov refused to retreat from his earlier positions, repeating that if a head of state is too ill to govern effectively, he should make a personal decision to step down (NTV, March 28).

Given this atmosphere, it comes as little surprise that rumors about a possible coup d’etat have been making the rounds. In an interview published yesterday, Igor Malashenko, chairman of the board of Media-Most and chief owner of NTV television, said that the Kremlin was sliding “uncontrollably” toward April 15, the date the State Duma is expected to vote on impeaching Yeltsin. Malashenko said that, given the Skuratov scandal and the NATO actions in Kosovo, this date may be decisive; even if Russia’s Constitutional Court or Supreme Court rejects a parliamentary vote in favor of impeachment, Yeltsin may be removed extra-legally. The report also laid out a number of possible circumstances which could lead to a state of emergency being imposed (Versiya, March 30-April 5).