Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 18

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov’s January 22 letter to State Duma speaker Gennady Seleznev has become a hot topic of discussion and speculation in Moscow’s political circles. In that letter Primakov urged a kind of non-aggression pact for the parliament, the government and the Kremlin to secure political stability prior to Russia’s parliamentary and presidential elections (see the Monitor, January 26). On January 25 some among the media called attention to the fact that Primakov had not gotten President Boris Yeltsin’s approval before sending the letter which accompanied the draft legislation. In probable response, Primakov said that he had discussed the initiative with the president and that Yeltsin had given instructions “to think over a system of measures to guarantee accord between the branches of power and various political forces for the pre-election period.” Kremlin officials also played down any differences between Primakov and Yeltsin. Oleg Sysuev, first deputy chief of the presidential administration, said that in December Yeltsin had ordered Primakov to start work on a plan “which would help society reach agreement and hold elections under stable conditions.” The Kremlin released a statement on January 25 saying that Yeltsin supported Primakov’s efforts to bring about “cooperation between all branches of authority” (Russian agencies, January 26).

The statement, however, added that Yeltsin was opposed to any limitations on the “constitutional rights” of the branches of authority. Given that Primakov’s proposal would require Yeltsin to refrain from dissolving the Duma and dismissing the government (while requiring the Duma to refrain from actions which could provoke its dissolution, including the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin), the Kremlin statement would appear to reject the essence of Primakov’s proposal. As for whether Yeltsin–or, at any rate, his apparatus–knew about Primakov’s initiative beforehand, one newspaper today, citing unnamed sources in the presidential administration, said the Kremlin was informed of the actions Primakov planned to take, but not about the precise contents of his proposal (Vremya MN, January 27).

A number of key Duma members expressed reservations about the proposal. Viktor Ilyukhin, a radical Communist deputy who heads the Duma’s security committee, said he would never agree to end impeachment proceedings against Yeltsin and would oppose any attempt to grant Yeltsin immunity from prosecution. Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky said Primakov’s letter and packet of proposals were “destabilizing” in that they indirectly confirmed the dire state of Yeltsin’s health. Yavlinsky said his faction would never support the initiative. Aleksandr Shokhin, a deputy who until recently headed the Russia is Our Home faction in the Duma, said the proposal was invalid because it would effectively suspend the constitution (Russian agencies, January 26).