On December 24, the upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, passed an unexpected motion of censure on First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Nemtsov. That action was followed two days later by a Duma resolution calling on President Yeltsin to sack Nemtsov. Parliament had been infuriated by Nemtsov’s comment, allegedly made during a trip to Sweden in early December, that foreign investors should invest in reform-oriented Russian regions rather than those headed by Communist governors. Nemtsov denied allegations that he had identified the cities of Moscow and St. Petersburg and the regions of Moscow, Leningrad, Novgorod, Nizhny Novgorod, Samara, Tyumen, Yekaterinburg, Sakhalin, Karelia, and Tatarstan as promising places for investment. Nemtsov said he had merely mentioned the regions that are attracting the highest foreign investment. (RTR, December 26)
Nemtsov further angered Russia’s regional governors when he declared that the government had done its bit to ensure that wage arrears to government employees would be paid off by January 1, and that now it was up to the regions to ensure that everyone was paid on time. He also warned that the money might not be forthcoming in Primorsky and Krasnoyarsk Krais, Chita Oblast, and the Republic of Khakassia. (First deputy premier Anatoly Chubais later added Kemerovo and Irkutsk Oblasts and Krasnoyarsk Krai to the list.)
Regional governors complained about Nemtsov’s effort to pass the buck. Yeltsin gave Nemtsov lukewarm support, declaring that his work was "good." (NTV, December 24) In reality, Yeltsin probably viewed the governors’ protest as a pretext to damage Nemtsov at a moment when the "young reformer’s" star seems to be in decline, and there are signs of increasing warmth between president, the prime minister, and parliament. The governors did not protest on December 18, when Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin also said that payment of wage arrears was now up to the regions. (Itar-Tass, December 18)
President and Parliament Agree to Agree.