Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 70

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov took to the airwaves on April 10 with a televised address in which he defended his record and answered a less-than-ringing endorsement which President Boris Yeltsin had made the day before.

The highlight of the twelve-minute address, which was broadcast by RTR state television and Russian Public Television (ORT), came when Primakov again repeated his claim that he has “no ambitions or desire whatsoever” to run for president. He then, with a certain amount of evident bitterness, said that “time limits” were being put on his work, adding: “Today I’m useful, but tomorrow–we’ll see” (ORT, April 10). While he did not mention Yeltsin by name, this was a clear reference to Yeltsin’s April 9 comments. During a meeting with the heads of the national republics, Yeltsin again denied he had plans to sack Primakov, calling it “nothing but speculation and rumor.” But he followed this by saying: “At this stage, Yevgeny Primakov is useful to us. And later on, we will see.” Yeltsin also said he would not rule out measures to “strengthen” the cabinet–presumably meaning appointing new ministers of a “reform” orientation, and possibly firing the two leftist deputy prime ministers, Yuri Maslyukov and Gennady Kulik.

There may be a specific context for Yeltsin’s comment about Primakov being “at this stage… useful to us.” According to persistent rumors, the Kremlin is outraged by a comment Primakov allegedly made during a meeting not long ago with opposition leaders, when he said that the State Duma’s impeachment process was not serving “our” cause. The Kremlin inner circle reportedly viewed Primakov’s alleged use of the first person plural in relation to the communist-dominated opposition as an act of treachery, which may explain the formulation of Yeltsin’s April 9 comments.