Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 44

The government of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov appeared to be under further fire today in the wake of a rumor that President Boris Yeltsin had given him an ultimatum to fire communist cabinet members. A Russian news agency, citing unnamed sources, reported late yesterday that Yeltsin had given Primakov such an ultimatum, and that Primakov, who went on vacation last week, was given ten days to think about it. According to this report, if Primakov fails to make up his mind, he will be removed from office (Russian agencies, March 4). Over the last week attacks by the press have increased against First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF) and Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik, who belongs to the Agrarian Party, a close KPRF ally. The attacks on Maslyukov and Kulik have included accusations of corruption and criticism over the Primakov cabinet’s inability to reach an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Maslyukov is Russia’s main negotiator with the IMF.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin today called the report about Yeltsin’s alleged ultimatum to Primakov “nonsense.” Some key political players, however, seemed less ready to dismiss the report. Boris Federov, the former finance minister and tax chief, while praising Primakov for having maintained political stability, said the prime minister has to change his economic team. Federov said he was ready to join the government, if asked, and promised he would institute major tax reforms within two months and win renewed IMF lending within three. Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov was more careful, but said that the cabinet should consist of non-ideological specialists, and that neither politics nor ideology should be among the criteria in determining who serves in it. Luzhkov appears to have been referring to Maslyukov and Kulik (NTV, March 4).