The governor of Nizhny Novgorod oblast, Boris Nemtsov, has warned that, if Yeltsin is away sick for a protracted period, Russia may be plunged into an all-out struggle for power. In that case, Nemtsov says, "the ranks of Yeltsin’s supporters, riven as they are by internecine rivalry, will be easy prey for the opposition." (Nezavisimaya gazeta, September 12) Nemtsov points to this week’s "pointless and unseemly" squabble over the transfer of Yeltsin’s powers, at the end of which the president grudgingly handed over some but by no means all of his powers to Viktor Chernomyrdin. The prime minister accepted what he apparently sees as a poisoned chalice with equally ill grace. Yeltsin’s spokesman
Sergei Yastrzhembsky announced yesterday that the president may hand over the nuclear suitcase for the short time that he is actually on the operating table, but said it had not yet been decided to whom that responsibility would be delegated. (RTR, September 12) In a rare flash of humor, Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov commented that, if he wanted to be sure the suitcase was in safe hands, Yeltsin should have given it to Helmut Kohl while the German chancellor was in Russia last week.
It may have been desire to avoid internecine wrangling that prompted politicians as disunited as Aleksandr Lebed, Anatoly Chubais and Gennady Seleznev to call on a clearly unwilling Yeltsin to delegate his powers to Chernomyrdin. However, as Yastrzhemsky admitted yesterday, the arrangements Yeltsin has made to date require only that the "power ministers" coordinate their actions with Chernomyrdin, not take his direct orders. And they leave both the presidential administration under Chubais, and the Security Council under Lebed, free of oversight. Other reports say Lebed is convinced that Anatoly Chubais, Logovaz Bank president Boris Berezovsky and the heads of other several other large banks have agreed that, if Yeltsin leaves office, they will support Chernomyrdin as the next president, with Chubais as premier. (Obshchaya gazeta, September 5-11)
Sevastopol at Center of Three-Cornered Fight.