Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 12

The equanimity, however, was not universal. Grigory Yavlinsky, head of Yabloko, called on Primakov to address the nation and explain Yeltsin’s health situation. Yavlinsky said there was “indirect” evidence that “the situation with the health of the president is more serious than usual, which arouses much anxiety.” Vladimir Davidenko, head of the Duma’s health protection committee, who is himself a doctor and a member of Vladimir Zhirinovsky’s Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR), said yesterday that–in view of Yeltsin’s most recent illness–the Duma is correct to demand that an official finding on Yeltsin’s health be presented to both houses of parliament and the government (Russian agencies, January 19). On a visit to Stockholm, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov said, on the one hand, that given Yeltsin’s health record, “nothing unexpected has happened in the political, public and economic life of Russia.” Luzhkov, however, echoed Yavlinsky, saying that society need an answer from Yeltsin “as to how he… plans to solve the problem” of his health. After this, Luzhkov said, “there can be some further steps–discussions or corresponding decisions” (NTV, January 18). A number of political observers have said that among Russia’s major politicians, Luzhkov and his political movement, Otechestvo, stand to gain the most from pre-term parliamentary and presidential elections.

Yeltsin’s illness came on the heels of what appeared to be an improvement in his physical and political health at the end of December. The president returned to the Kremlin after being hospitalized for pneumonia, and appeared more healthy and lucid than he had for a long time. Yeltsin shuffled his administration, replacing Valentin Yumashev with Nikolai Bordyuzha as his chief of staff. A press account published today speculated that Yeltsin had planned further shake-ups in the spring. According to this version, the president viewed Primakov’s increasing popularity and strength with “undisguised jealousy.” This would explain why Yeltsin ordered Primakov to prepare a report last week on wage arrears to state workers–a problem which has been worsening and looks insoluble, and which could provide Yeltsin with the pretext to ditch the cabinet, as he did last year with Viktor Chernomyrdin. According to this version, Yeltsin’s ulcer was, in essence, a stay of execution for Primakov (Moskovsky komsomolets, January 19).