Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 41

In an interview yesterday with “Zerkalo,” RTR’s weekly news analysis program, Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky warned Primakov that people will judge his honesty and decency “not only by his own steps, but, given that he is the head of the government, also by those with whom he works, and by what those people are doing under his leadership.” Yavlinsky said Primakov “should have known from the very beginning” that he would have trouble with those cabinet members foisted on him by the leftist Duma majority. Former Economics Prime Minister Yevgeny Yasin, for his part, attacked the food-aid deal which the United States and Russia recently reached. Yasin charged that the deal, which Kulik negotiated, will benefit a handful of shadowy state companies which will distribute the food (RTR, February 28). RTR, a state television channel, is reportedly closely linked to the Kremlin administration.

Meanwhile, Yevgeny Kiselev, host of “Itogi,” NTV’s weekly news program, referred several times to rumors that Yeltsin was very disturbed by the corruption allegations against the Primakov cabinet. Kiselev also suggested that Yeltsin had been mislead by upbeat predictions from various cabinet members that the International Monetary Fund would agree to give Russia further credits. According to Kiselev, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, during his recent trip to Moscow, made it clear that Washington would not intervene with the International Monetary Fund on Russia’s behalf unless the Primakov government presented a realistic economic plan. Kiselev also interviewed former Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar, a stalwart opponent of the Primakov government, who said he believed that Yeltsin was most concerned now with finding a successor, and that he, Yeltsin, wants that successor to represent a “new generation” of Russian leaders. If Gaidar is right, this would clearly disqualify Primakov. Gaidar, like Kiselev, said that the KPRF was today Russia’s de facto “ruling party.”

First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov charged yesterday that the various press reports dealing with alleged corruption in the government were part of an orchestrated attempt by Russia’s “oligarchs” to undermine the government. While this might be seen as conspiracy theorizing, the way in which the charges suddenly appeared in various media was striking. As someone once said, even paranoids have enemies. Indeed, were Yeltsin to get rid of Kulik or Maslyukov, Primakov would be in an uncomfortable position: He would either have to take it in silence and risk alienating the leftist majority in the State Duma, or protest it and risk being fired himself. Thus, while the corruption charges against the cabinet are compelling, it does appear that the latest barrage of criticism and “kompromat” (compromising materials) against the cabinet is indeed being orchestrated by Primakov’s enemies.