President Boris Yeltsin gave a radio address Saturday to mark the fifth anniversary of the adoption of Russia’s constitution. The key message of the speech was that Russia needed “strong power at the top,” and the Russian head of state attacked those who he said were “urging for all power to be given to parliament” (Russian agencies, December 12). This would seem to indicate that Yeltsin has no plans to alter the constitution to reallocate governmental powers. The communists and other members of the opposition have called for the presidency to be done away with altogether, but other, more pragmatic politicians–such as Federation Council Speaker Yegor Stroev and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov–have called for some redistribution of the executive’s wide powers.
Yeltsin, who last week fired his chief of staff and other officials in his administration in an apparent effort to reassert his authority, struck again Friday, when he issued a decree dismissing Viktor Cherepkov, mayor of the Far Eastern city of Vladivostok. According to presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin, the move was made in connection with the “abnormal situation… where the role of mayor is being played by someone whose powers have expired.” Yakushkin was referring to the fact that last fall, Cherepkov, whom Yeltsin sacked in 1994 but who was reinstated after he appealed the decision in court, was taken off the ballot in mayoral elections for allegedly abusing his position during the electoral campaign. In response, many Vladivostok voters voted against all candidates, and the results were thereby nullified. Several weeks ago, the city was hit by power outages, and it appears that Yeltsin is blaming Cherepkov for the heating and electricity losses the city has had to endure. Cherepkov has been in a long battle of wills with his nemesis, Primorsky Governor Yevgeny Nazdratenko. Nazdratenko, whom Anatoly Chubais unsuccessfully tried to have removed as governor back in 1996, when Chubais headed the presidential administration, has hailed Yeltsin’s removal of Cherepkov–early this morning appointing Yuri Kopylov as acting mayor of the city in Cherepkov’s stead (Itar-Tass, December 14). Cherepkov, for his part, said he would appeal Yeltsin’s decision, declaring that “if the authorities work in opposition to the law on the orders of gangsters, it is the end of the authorities.” Supporters of Cherepkov reportedly gathered outside the city mayor’s offices (NTV, December 11).
…PRESIDENTIAL SWORD SWINGS IN WIDE ARC, BUT MEETS SOME “OPPOSITION.”