Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 71

On April 9, President Boris Yeltsin, responding to persistent rumors, insisted that he has no plans either to dissolve the State Duma and call new elections or to ban the Communist Party (KPRF). What is more, following the exchange of apparently hostile comments between the president and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on April 9-10 (see the Monitor, April 12), the two held what was described as an ordinary working meeting yesterday. Despite the appearance of calm, however, rumors continue to proliferate that the Kremlin is poised to take radical steps.

A weekly political magazine reports that key “oligarchs” have been involved virtually non-stop in meetings at the Kremlin over the last two weeks, devoting themselves to finding a way to get rid of Primakov. According to this account, tycoon Boris Berezovsky and SBS-Agro chief Aleksandr Smolensky–both out of the country with warrants issued for their arrests–were absent from the meetings, as was MostBank founder Vladimir Gusinsky, who has thrown in his lot with Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky (Vlast, April 13).

During one such meeting, it is said, Anatoly Chubais–the architect of privatization and former Kremlin chief of staff who now heads United Energy Systems–represented the views of hard-liners in calling for Primakov’s ouster, dissolving the Duma and undertaking a “merciless war” against Kremlin opponents such as suspended Prosecutor General Yuri Skuratov (possibly including arresting them). Other variations were reportedly discussed, including firing Primakov and replacing him with either Federation Council Chairman Yegor Stroev or former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin.

The Kremlin insiders are said to have finally decided that if the Duma gets the 300 votes needed for impeachment, Yeltsin will fire the leftists in the cabinet–presumably meaning Deputy Prime Ministers Yuri Maslyukov and Gennady Kulik. Primakov has promised to quit if they are fired, but if he does not, they will be replaced by people he finds unacceptable. If this forces Primakov out, he will be replaced by an acting prime minister–that is, one not confirmed by the Duma. If Primakov chooses to stay on, he will be completely isolated (Vlast, April 13).

Another report quotes an unnamed source in the presidential administration as saying that the Kremlin has already drafted a presidential decree naming Anatoly Chubais as acting prime minister (Novaya gazeta, April 12-18). Chubais said yesterday that Yeltsin has not offered him any position and that he does not want one (Russian agencies, April 12).