Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 126

Russia’s political players and observers have been mulling over President Boris Yeltsin’s upbraiding of Justice Minister Pavel Krasheninnikov yesterday, whom he criticized for not having provided him with data he requested concerning “constitutional violations” by the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) (see the Monitor, June 29). A clip of Yeltsin and Krasheninnikov was shown last night on television. It was classic Yeltsin: The head of state openly admitted before the television crews that he had invited them in to record his dressing down the justice minister, who stared at the table for most of the session. Yeltsin insisted that he was not asking for “conclusions” from Krasheninnikov on the KPRF’s activities, just “facts” (NTV, June 29).

While Yeltsin’s demarche may simply have been an attempt to rattle the communists’ cage, some apparently view it as a sign that the Kremlin is seriously considering a ban on the KPRF prior to December’s parliamentary election. This appears to be why Vladimir Ryzhkov, who heads the Russian is Our Home faction in the State Duma, said yesterday that he and his party “resolutely oppose any attempt by the authorities to ban the Communist Party or any other opposition party or movement.” Ryzhkov said while his party opposes communism, “it is totally unacceptable to fight the communist idea by administrative methods” (Russian agencies, June 29).

The KPRF itself, of course, is taking the threat seriously: While the State Duma has started its summer recess, the communist faction in the parliamentary lower chamber is keeping some thirty members in the Duma building on Okhotny Ryad in downtown Moscow at all times, just in case the Kremlin does indeed move against the party (Moscow Times, June 30). The Duma building has become the KPRF’s de facto electoral headquarters. Meanwhile, Viktor Ilyukhin, the radical KPRF deputy who heads the Duma’s security committee, charged yesterday that the Kremlin plans to remove the body of Vladimir Lenin from his tomb on Red Square on July 17, the anniversary of the murder of Tsar Nicholas II and his family on Lenin’s orders. Ilyukhin asserted that the Kremlin plans to ban the KPRF in August (Kommersant, June 30). KPRF members have warned that if Lenin is reburied, they will immediately bring mobile “protest groups” in from the regions to the capital (Argumenty I Fakty, No. 26, June 1999). Such protest activity could provide the pretext to ban the party, particularly if it becomes violent.