Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 31

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov went out of his way this weekend to deny rumors of tension between him and President Boris Yeltsin. Speaking at the annual meeting of the Council for Foreign and Defense Policy–a nongovernmental organization composed of more than a hundred leading politicians, businessmen and academics–Primakov denounced those he said were trying to “drive a wedge” between the cabinet and the Kremlin, and said that the president shared his view. “Boris Nikolaevich is categorically against this. I have spoken to him about [it],” Primakov said. “He… also sees a malicious motive in it.”

The prime minister again denied harboring presidential ambitions, and insisted that Yeltsin should serve his full term: “I think the president should remain [in office] for the entire time, as spelled out in the constitution, for the sake of stability in Russia, for the normal conduct of the elections, so that all the conditions can be created for the elections” (Russian agencies, February 13).

A possible reason for Primakov to think it necessary to make these points is that the council’s head, Sergei Karaganov, a long-time Primakov ally, had previously called for Yeltsin’s resignation and an alliance between Primakov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. Both points were on the council agenda at this weekend’s meeting, but they were voted down. Karaganov said he was against Yeltsin stepping down prior to the end of his term (Russian agencies, February 13). The Kremlin also went out of its way to stress that all was well between the head of state and the head of the government. Presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin said in an interview that Yeltsin and Primakov “are two politicians who respect each other highly and who have known each other for many years and work in very close contact.” Yakushkin echoed Primakov’s claim that “there are people who are not interested in the maintenance of normal considerate relations between the president and the premier.”

Yeltsin showed up for work at the Kremlin on four consecutive days last week. Yakushkin, clearly wanting to emphasize the president’s apparent recuperation from his bleeding ulcer, noted that Yeltsin met on February 12 with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov to prepare for meetings with the leadership of the European Union and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, who is expected to arrive in Moscow this week (Russian agencies, February 14). For his part, Oleg Sysuev, Yeltsin’s first deputy chief of staff, said that Yeltsin “always feels like President Yeltsin and has repeatedly proved this.” Sysuev said Yeltsin is “always as healthy as required by the constitution” (Russian agencies, February 13).