Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 225

The battle between the Kremlin and the leaders of Fatherland-All Russia (OVR) heated up over the weekend. On Saturday (December 4), the Kremlin press service released a statement saying that President Boris Yeltsin, who was in the Central Clinical Hospital recovering from pneumonia, had signed a decree removing Colonel-General Nikolai Kulikov as head of the Moscow police. Yesterday, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov told reporters that he had not seen the decree and was not sure if Yeltsin had signed it. He said that someone in the Kremlin administration may simply have attached a facsimile of Yeltsin’s signature to the document.

While the official reason for Kulikov’s removal was that his work had been unsatisfactory, Luzhkov has accused the Kremlin of being behind a politically motivated campaign against the Moscow police chief. The Moscow mayor also predicted yesterday that the federal authorities would move against the heads of the Moscow branches of the Federal Security Service and tax police, and against the city’s chief prosecutor. Luzhkov confirmed today that he will appeal Kulikov’s dismissal in court, given that the federal law governing the police requires that the appointment or dismissal of a regional Interior Ministry head be “coordinated” with the local authorities. The Kremlin, however, is likely to insist that it had the right to remove Kulikov because he also held the federal position of deputy interior minister. Luzhkov also warned yesterday that attacks on him and his coalition could lead to social protest. Some media reported today that a pro-Luzhkov demonstration will be held later this month.

Some observers have suggested that the Kremlin removed Kulikov to make it easier to bring criminal charges against other Moscow government officials. Indeed, OVR leader Yevgeny Primakov said yesterday that a few such cases were already being prepared. Primakov also called Kulikov’s removal politically motivated, and warned that OVR, which has publicly supported Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s handling of the military operation in Chechnya, would reconsider its position toward Putin’s government if the “provocations” against OVR continue. Likewise, Yevgeny Kiselev, host of Itogi–NTV television’s weekly news analysis program–last night challenged Putin to say where he stands vis-a-vis the Kremlin’s alleged campaign against Luzhkov and OVR (NTV, December 5; Segodnya, Izvestia, Russian agencies, December 6).

Last week, Primakov accused the Kremlin administration of trying to bribe OVR candidates into dropping out of the December 19 State Duma elections. He named the banker Aleksandr Mamut as being behind the bribery attempts. The Kremlin subsequently said that Mamut was merely a volunteer adviser, not an administration official, as Primakov had alleged. Mamut himself denied Primakov’s charges and said that he would sue the former prime minister (Russian agencies, December 3).

Today, as the latest controversy roiled, Yeltsin left the hospital and showed up for work at the Kremlin (Russian agencies, December 6).