There were signs today that Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who is under growing criticism and overall pressure from President Boris Yeltsin, may be preparing to sacrifice one or more of his controversial leftist deputies.
Primakov, who has been suffering from severe back pain and has canceled various planned trips and meetings, did manage to chair a meeting of the cabinet today. He said that government decisions were being executed at an “extremely low level” and that if the situation does not change, the next step could be “personnel changes.” Primakov told his cabinet that the authorities could win back the trust of the people only if government decisions are taken “unfailingly” and within the required time limits. He pointed specifically to a recent cabinet session devoted to the agricultural sector, and demanded a list of decisions made and who was charged with acting on them. Primakov warned that if these decisions are not acted on in a timely manner, “personnel changes will be carried out (Russian agencies, April 16).
The fact that Primakov singled out the agricultural sector is a sign that Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik, who is in overall charge of agriculture, may become the prime minister’s sacrificial lamb. Kulik represents the Agrarian Party in the cabinet, and has been the target of a number of corruption allegations. Such allegations have also been made against First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, who is in charge of overall economic policy. Maslyukov, however, is a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF), which is a more important source of support for Primakov than the Agrarians. Thus it would appear to be Kulik who is in the cross-hairs.
Primakov, however, also criticized the situation in areas which fall under Maslyukov’s sphere of responsibility. Primakov said it was important to strengthen the fight against criminal influence in the economy and to carry out previously announced measures to increase government revenues and decrease its expenditures. He also said, in reference to the problem of restructuring the debts of Russian industrial enterprises, “there’s been enough talk, it’s necessary to act.”
Maslyukov, speaking earlier at the same meeting, apparently was not been clued in to what Primakov would say, and accentuated the positive. He noted that the level of inflation had fallen from 4.1 percent in February to 2.8 percent in March and that fall in industrial production had been slowed from 14.5 percent last September to 3.7 percent this past March (Russian agencies, April 16).
PRIMAKOV’S BACK PROBLEMS.