Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 21

During an interview with NTV television last night, Russian Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov was asked about last week’s controversy surrounding his proposal to State Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev for a “nonaggression pact.” The proposal involved an agreement among the cabinet, the parliament and the Kremlin, with each side refraining from using some of their constitutional rights. Some media had reported last week that Primakov’s proposals, which included draft legislation outlining benefits for former presidents, was not cleared in advance with President Boris Yeltsin. Primakov told NTV that he had discussed with Yeltsin the idea of trying to achieve political stability in the walk-up to this year’s parliamentary and next year’s presidential elections, but that he had not cleared the specifics of his proposal with the president. Following the scandal, Kremlin officials emphasized that Yeltsin would never give up any of his rights mandated by the constitution. Primakov, for his part, denied that Yeltsin was angry when they met after the scandal broke. Asked about the comments of Commonwealth of Independent States Executive Secretary Boris Berezovsky, who criticized Primakov’s demarche for “polarizing” Russia’s establishment and called it a “political mistake,” Primakov answered: “I don’t agree with that assessment. I, in general, believe that Boris Abramovich [Berezovsky], being CIS executive secretary, should stop coming out publicly with criticism of the head of government of one of the CIS countries. He is an international bureaucrat, he must be involved in his work. Let him do his work and be successful, by the way, in these affairs. This is also a big task for him, and it has not yet been achieved” (NTV, January 31).

Primakov’s comments indicated again his escalating feud with Berezovsky. One newspaper today reported a rumor that Berezovsky “intercepted” and made Primakov’s demarche public in an effort to complicate the prime minister’s relations with Yeltsin. According to reports last week, some of Russia’s “oligarchs” recently threatened to engineer the Primakov government’s dismissal before the summer.

According to one “version” of Primakov’s demarche, the prime minister is Yeltsin’s most likely successor, and the move was part of an effort to consolidate his political position. Primakov told NTV yesterday that while it was “very pleasant” to hear himself described as Yeltsin’s likely successor, he had no such ambitions. “I have no ambitions at all, I do not want to participate in the presidential race,” Primakov said. “Therefore to think that I am doing something to strengthen any kind of position I have before the presidential race… it’s simply laughable” (NTV, January 31).