Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 223

If the threats to remove Moscow police chief Nikolai Kulikov are part of a Kremlin plot to undermine Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and the Fatherland-All Russia coalition prior to the December 19 State Duma elections (see the Monitor, December 1), they may be just one part of a multipronged strategy.

Sergei Yastrzhembsky–former Yeltsin spokesman and now both a Moscow vice premier and the deputy head of the Fatherland-All Russia election headquarters–claimed yesterday that the Kremlin administration is working to have Fatherland-All Russia eliminated from the parliamentary race. Yastrzhembsky claimed that “very lucrative proposals” were made to several Fatherland-All Russia candidates to get them to withdraw from the race, including money, apartments in Moscow and St. Petersburg and career promotions. Konstantin Zatulin, one of the coalition’s top candidates, claimed that he was offered a bribe in the neighborhood of US$700,000-800,000 to drop his candidacy but would not say who made the offer (Russian agencies, NTV, December 1).

In response to Yastrzhembsky’s accusations, Igor Shabdurasulov, first deputy head of the Kremlin administration, was quoted yesterday by the Interfax news agency as saying that the presidential administration has never made “either intermediate or final decisions to take the Fatherland-All Russia bloc out of the election race.” Shabdurasulov, it appears, did not indicate whether initial decisions on the issue had been made. Shabdurasulov denied that anyone in the Kremlin “is hatching any treacherous plans” toward the coalition and that Yastrzhembsky’s comments were “clumsy attempts to justify one’s blunders by others’ wicked designs” and a sign of panic in the Fatherland-All Russia camp. Meanwhile Former Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko, one of the heads of the Union of Right-wing Forces and a challenger to Luzhkov in the race for Moscow mayor, was quoted yesterday as saying that he was against “the hypothetical possibility of barring the Fatherland-All Russia coalition from the December 19 parliamentary elections” (Russian agencies, December 1).

Fatherland-All Russia leader Yevgeny Primakov, however, went on the offensive today concerning the alleged bribery attempts. He said that members of the Kremlin administration had committed “yet another crime” in trying to bribe Fatherland-All Russia candidates to drop out of the race. Primakov said the coalition’s election headquarters “are getting signals from everywhere” that members of the Kremlin administration” are using “the money of the oligarchs” to offer “enormous bribes” to Fatherland-All Russia candidates. Primakov said Fatherland-All Russia would complain to the Central Election Commission, the Prosecutor General’s Office and “international organizations” about the attempts, and that the coalition’s enemies “are afraid of us because if we are voted for we will strike out at the embezzlers” (Russian agencies, December 2).

During his tenure as prime minister earlier this year, Primakov was reportedly behind the issuing of an arrest warrant for Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky. Following Primakov’s removal, the warrant was rescinded.