Amid rumors that a cabinet shake-up is imminent, President Boris Yeltsin, who remains in the Central Clinical Hospital recovering from a bleeding ulcer, held a 90-minute meeting with Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. Following the meeting, the two dismissed speculation that they are in conflict. “They are trying to drive a wedge between us, but no such wedge exists,” Yeltsin declared to the TV cameras. Primakov seconded the comment. Yeltsin did mildly upbraid Primakov for his relations with the media, saying that by reacting badly to press criticism, the premier was “stirring up” the situation in the country rather than calming it. In response, Primakov said Yeltsin has “stronger nerves,” but that he would heed the president’s advice (NTV, March 15).
Few observers seem impressed by these public displays of unity (yesterday’s was the second in recent weeks). Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika Foundation think-tank, discussed the Yeltsin-Primakov conflict in a column published today. He wrote that Yeltsin is unlikely to take any radical steps against the Primakov cabinet–particularly, the removal of First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, a member of the Communist Party–prior to Primakov’s visit to Washington next week. Nikonov wrote, however, that March 23 may be an important day, given that in the past two years, Yeltsin fired Viktor Chernomyrdin as prime minister and brought Anatoly Chubais back into the government on that day.
According to Nikonov, Yeltsin’s three main goals now are to rule as long as possible, to prevent the communists from returning to power and to guarantee the future safety of his family. Nikonov wrote that the best guarantee of the second two goals being fulfilled is for Yeltsin to be succeeded by a union of Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky (Izvestia, March 16).
SKURATOV SET TO APPEAR BEFORE FEDERATION COUNCIL ON MARCH 17.