Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 92

Russian President Boris Yeltsin today fired Yevgeny Primakov from the post of prime minister and appointed Sergei Stepashin–interior minister and Yeltsin loyalist whom the president recently named as a first deputy to Primakov–as acting prime minister. Yeltsin also appointed Nikolai Aksenenko, Russia’s railroads minister, as Stepashin’s first deputy. According to both communist sources and those in Primakov’s apparatus, Yeltsin today asked Primakov to submit his resignation. Primakov refused and was fired.

State Duma deputy and former Economics Minister Aleksandr Shokhin was quoted as saying that Yeltsin decided to fire Primakov because, during a meeting with Duma leaders yesterday, Primakov did not say that he would resign if the lower parliamentary chamber were to vote in favor of impeachment (Russian agencies, May 12). Primakov has repeatedly said, however, that he opposed the Duma opposition’s attempts to impeach Yeltsin.

Meanwhile, Stepashin claimed both that he had not expected to be appointed acting prime minister and that Primakov had said that he approved of Stepashin as the new head of government. Primakov reportedly defended the cabinet during his meeting with Duma leaders yesterday, saying that it was working “well and professionally” (Russian agencies, May 12).

According to one interpretation of Russia’s law on government cited recently in the Russian press, Stepashin may now serve for two months as acting prime minister without State Duma approval. On the other hand, Duma Speaker Gennady Seleznev said today that the lower house would “most likely” begin debating Stepashin’s nomination on May 19.

Yuri Maslyukov, Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) member and first deputy prime minister in charge of economic policy, remains in his post. He said today, however, that he would not continue to do so even if asked (Russian agencies, May 12). That is, in any case, unlikely: It is difficult to imagine that either Maslyukov or Gennady Kulik, a deputy prime minister and leftist Agrarian Party representative, will be asked to stay on.

The new acting prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, said that the make-up of a new cabinet will be announced within the period stipulated in Russia’s constitution. It is all but certain the Maslyukov and Kulik will be ousted, particularly because Yeltsin, in announcing today’s ministerial shake-up, stated that the members of Primakov’s cabinet “have failed to carry out what they [should have].”

In making today’s decisions, Yeltsin specifically said he was concerned with the continued stagnation of the Russian economy, particularly given the parliamentary elections being set for this coming December. “We do not have the right to delay for another half a year–until the end of the election campaign–making decisions for economic growth,” a Kremlin statement quoted Yeltsin as saying (Russian agencies, May 12).