Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 125

President Boris Yeltsin today met with Pavel Krasheninnikov, Russia’s justice minister, to discuss, among other things, legal issues involving the country’s parliamentary elections (scheduled for December of this year). Prior to the meeting, Yeltsin expressed his displeasure at not having been supplied with information from the Justice Ministry on whether public organizations and political parties are complying with Russian law and the constitution. Yeltsin specifically noted that he had ordered Krasheninnikov to check on whether the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), along with other parties, had been violating the law, but had not received the results of the Justice Ministry’s investigation (Russian agencies, June 29). Following the meeting, Krasheninnikov said that he and Yeltsin had discussed “the theme of the coming parliamentary elections and the extremist background which now exists.” He also said that he had been given the authority to take actions in relation to various parties, including the KPRF, to ensure that “outbursts of extremism” did not take place in Russia (Russian agencies, June 29).

Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin today, in an address to a conference of the Federal Security Service (FSB), said that the main task facing the authorities in the upcoming parliamentary elections is “to bar extremists, criminals and swindlers from power.” Stepashin said that the situation in the country remains “complicated,” adding that “the constitutional system is coming under increasing threat.” He also noted that the ongoing election campaign is proceeding “against the backdrop of an increasingly tense political situation” and “is aggravating the situation in Russia.” He said that he would meet with the leaders of Russia’s main electoral blocs and parties in late August to help ensure “transparency” during the December vote. Speaking at the same conference, FSB Director Vladimir Putin, who also heads Yeltsin’s Security Council, touched on similar themes, warning of the threats of separatism and extremism and adding that the main task facing the security services is to maintain Russia’s territorial integrity.

During a break in the conference, Stepashin reassured journalists that the authorities would not pressure voters or violate their rights, while Putin said the security bodies would not take “anticonstitutional” actions. All the same, the hardline talk from the top today will undoubtedly help fuel speculation that the Kremlin is considering a ban on the KPRF. According to one rumored scenario, Yeltsin does not intend to stay in power after his term ends next June, but sees the removal of Lenin’s tomb from Red Square and the outlawing of the KPRF before the term expires as his historical mission (Moskovsky komsomolets, June 25). The re-burial of Lenin could trigger unrest among KPRF followers and thus provide a pretext for banning the party.

On the other hand, Yeltsin has denied that he intends to ban the KPRF, and the Kremlin has denied any plans to re-bury Lenin. Today’s tough talk may just be an attempt to rattle the KPRF’s cage.