Prime Minister Sergei Stepashin was set to meet in Sochi today with President Boris Yeltsin and discuss the line-up of the new cabinet. Yeltsin flew to the Black Sea resort at the start of the weekend for a vacation before signing off on the new government.
In an interview yesterday, Stepashin said that during the meeting he would insist that there be two first deputy prime ministers, one of whom would be in charge of macroeconomics, given the need to have someone who could talk to the International Monetary Fund as well as to the State Duma. Stepashin said he would push the candidacy of the State Duma budget committee chief Aleksandr Zhukov, but that he had other possible candidates in mind and that the final word was Yeltsin’s (NTV, May 23).
Russian media have speculated that members of the president’s inner circle–specifically, his daughter Tatyana and her allies, including Kremlin administration chief Aleksandr Voloshin and the tycoon Boris Berezovsky–sent Yeltsin to the southern Black Sea resort to cut him off from other sources of information and influence–particularly those of a rival group of insiders headed by privatization architect Anatoly Chubais. Russian media have reported that an under-the-carpet fight has been going on for control over the new cabinet, and that Berezovsky’s “clan” has been fighting to ensure that Nikolai Aksenenko, the railways minister recently made a first deputy prime minister, would be the cabinet’s only first deputy prime minister and would thus control economic policy.
Berezovsky, according to Russian press reports, is not getting his way completely in the formation of the new government. He reportedly did manage to get an ally, Vladimir Rushailo, appointed as interior minister; Stepashin, however, said in his NTV interview that he alone picked Rushailo. Some media last week had predicted that Berezovsky would place one of his allies–possibly Russian Public Television chief Igor Shabdurasulov–in the important behind-the-scenes post of chief of the governmental apparatus. The post has gone instead to Mstislav Afanasaev, already a deputy head of the government apparatus. Afanasaev, according to one source, has for some time been close to Stepashin, who worked as a top official in the governmental apparatus for a time after stepping down as head of the Federal Security Service (Profil, May 24). Stepashin would thus appear to be trying to include on his new team at least some figures loyal to him–or, at least, not beholden to the warring clans.
IS YELTSIN BACK TO HIS BELOVED TACTIC OF DIVIDE-AND-RULE?