Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 54

The status of the CIS executive secretarial post has become an object of confused speculation following Russian President Boris Yeltsin’s unilateral “decision”–widely recognized as unlawful–to dismiss Boris Berezovsky from it. Berezovsky, currently in the United States on a speaking tour, insists that he remains the lawful holder of the post, pending a decision by consensus at the CIS summit. But Russia’s CIS Cooperation Minister Boris Pastukhov announced yesterday that only six heads of state–those of Belarus, Moldova, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan–have thus far added their signatures to the dismissal; Yeltsin had asked all presidents on March 4 to sign on “without delay.” Pastukhov, moreover, hinted yesterday at widespread disagreement with the Kremlin’s nomination of the Belarusan Ivan Karatchenya as CIS Executive Secretary.

Claims–some symbolic, some real–to that post seem to be multiplying. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has already announced his intention to nominate a representative of his country or any country other than Russia. Shevardnadze, moreover, added to the series of embarrassing disclosures he has made since the commotion began. He told a March 15 news conference that Yeltsin had wrongly told him by telephone that Berezovsky had tendered his resignation. Shevardnadze half-let Yeltsin off the hook with the comment that it would be pointless to punish the Kremlin staff for misleading Yeltsin.

Belarusan President Alyaksandr Lukashenka suggested last week in Kyiv that the CIS executive secretary’s post should go to a Ukrainian. If Kyiv accepts, “Ukraine will then have to sign the CIS pacts which it has not signed,” was Lukashenka’s publicly stated rationale. The proposal actually accompanied Lukashenka’s unsuccessful attempt to persuade Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma to join in a “comprehensive strategic partnership” with Russia and Belarus (see the Monitor, March 16). Kuchma confirmed that Moscow has asked him directly to propose a Ukrainian for the post but sidestepped the proposal.

In Russia itself, the CIS executive secretary’s post has turned into something of a political football. Saratov region governor Dmitri Ayatskov has proposed the candidacy of Vladimir Shumeiko, the former chairman of Russia’s Federation Council and of the CIS Interparliamentary Assembly, a long-time Yeltsin loyalist, now leader of the Reforms-New Course movement. Samara region Governor Konstantin Titov is believed to seek the position for himself and to have approached Kuchma for support during a visit to Kyiv. Some communist and allied deputies in the Duma favor Narodovlastie faction leader Nikolai Ryzhkov, the former Soviet prime minister, who now heads a “Eurasian” public movement. Armenia for one would enthusiastically favor Ryzhkov.

The overall situation prompted even Lukashenka to remark ruefully on leaving Kyiv: “The CIS: now you see it, now you don’t.” Echoed Kuchma: “Just like the post of executive secretary: now you see it, now you don’t” (Trud, Komsomolskaya pravda, Nezavisimaya gazeta, Moskovsky komsomolets, Ekho Moskvy, Itar-Tass, March 13-17; Radio Tbilisi, March 15).