Members of the leftist opposition, predictably, expressed outrage at Primakov’s ouster. Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev called it President Boris Yeltsin’s “very large, probably most serious mistake of late,” a sentiment echoed by Nikolai Ryzhkov, head of the Duma’s leftist Popular Rule faction. Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov said that the Duma opposition will ask the Federation Council, the parliament’s upper chamber, to hold an emergency session because Yeltsin “has deliberately [catalyzed] a new governmental crisis.”
For his part, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said that he was sorry to see Primakov go and that the decision to fire him was a bad one from any perspective–professional, personal or national interest. Luzhkov did say, however, that his political movement Fatherland (Otechestvo) would accept the decision as legal because such a step is within Yeltsin’s constitutional prerogatives as head of state. Luzhkov said that he now sees his task as maintaining order in the capital and that Primakov’s dismissal had “not given the power structures a reason” to resort to emergency measures (Russian agencies, May 12).
Communist Party leader Gennady Zyuganov would appear to have been correct today when charging Yeltsin with deliberately sparking a political crisis. Indeed, while the opposition’s impeachment initiative, which the Duma is set to vote on tomorrow, looked likely to lose (granted, by just a hair on one of the five articles of impeachment, involving Chechnya), the measure could now, in the wake of Primakov’s firing, win approval. Seleznev said today the impeachment articles, each of which require more than 300 votes for passage, may now win as many as 400 (Russian agencies, May 12).
This suggests that Yeltsin may have wanted to deliberately foment a showdown with the Duma and his leftist opponents. According to some theories, the Kremlin has been split into “hawks” and “doves” vis-a-vis Primakov–with Tatyana Dyachenko, Yeltsin’s daughter and image-maker, and former Kremlin administration chief Valentin Yumashev in the hawk camp, pushing for Primakov’s ouster.
Nikolai Aksenenko, the new first deputy prime minister, is said to be close to the tycoon Boris Berezovsky and Roman Abramovich, the head of the Sibneft oil company, which is part of Berezovsky’s business empire. Berezovsky, who has been Primakov’s most powerful open foe, said today that Primakov’s dismissal was “not just the replacement of one person to the post of prime minister for another,” but rather an aborting of an attempted communist and KGB “revanche.” Berezovsky, whose businesses were targets of criminal investigations earlier this year and who himself was for a brief time the object of an arrest warrant, said that Primakov’s replacement, Sergei Stepashin, “undoubtedly shares the president’s ideology and will doubtless follow the course of reforms” (Russian agencies, May 12).
Meanwhile, one top Kremlin official rumored to have been an exponent of a soft line vis-a-vis Primakov–first deputy Kremlin administration chief Oleg Sysuev–resigned today (Russian agencies, May 12).
Further, while the new cabinet may very well include certain “young reformers,” two leading columnists from that camp–Yulia Latynina of “Expert” magazine and Aleksandr Bekker of “Vremya MN” newspaper–warned that the reformers in a new cabinet will inherit an economy with an extremely bleak prognosis and thus undoubtedly be blamed for it. Latynina, in a column in the English-language “Moscow Times,” actually argued that the firing of Primakov would be a gift to the communists (Vremya MN, Moscow Times, May 12).
CHERNOMYRDIN COMPLETES VISIT TO CHINA…