Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 28

Russia’s shadowy and powerful Security Council convened yesterday for the first time since Russian president Boris Yeltsin suffered a heart attack last October. As always, the meeting was held behind closed doors and few details of the discussions were made public. In addition to Yeltsin, who chairs the council, participants included Security Council Secretary Oleg Lobov, Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin, First Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Soskovets, presidential staff chief Nikolai Yegorov, presidential advisor Viktor Ilyushin, the ministers of defense, interior, foreign affairs, finance, justice, atomic power, and emergency situations, and the directors of the Federal Security Service and the Border Guards. Vyacheslav Trubnikov, recently named director of the Foreign Intelligence Service, was appointed to the Council.

Yeltsin formally removed from council membership former foreign minister Andrei Kozyrev and the ex-chairmen of the Duma and Federation Council, Ivan Rybkin and Vladimir Shumeiko. (1) The last two had been included on the Council by Yeltsin early in 1995 following Russia’s disastrous invasion of Chechnya, presumably with the goal of co-oping the parliamentary leadership in the war effort. The failure by Yeltsin to appoint their successors, Gennady Seleznev and Yegor Stroyev, both of whom belong to the Communist party, is notable. It led some observers to suggest that the president remains wary of including them in the government’s deepest deliberations. Although formally an advisory body to the president, the Security Council, created in early 1992, has been compared by many to a contemporary Politburo and is generally considered the most powerful decision-making body in Russia. Perhaps not coincidentally, the chairman of the Duma’s Security Committee, Viktor Ilyukhin, also a Communist, announced the same day that a new law regulating the activities of the Security Council would be considered by the parliament in March or April. (2)

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