Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 165

President Boris Yeltsin is reported this morning to have nominated Russia’s acting Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov for the post of prime minister. (BBC, September 10) Leaders of the State Duma, who have twice rejected Yeltsin’s nomination of Viktor Chernomyrdin for the post, are likely to approve Primakov’s candidacy.

Primakov’s name was unexpectedly proposed by Yabloko leader Grigory Yavlinsky at a roundtable with the president last week. At first the veteran foreign minister, who has no economic experience or expertise, said he was not interested in the post. Presumably, Yeltsin has now persuaded him to stand by–arguing that only his candidacy can rescue Russia from the political turmoil that has brought the country to the brink of disintegration.

Primakov is a veteran foreign affairs heavyweight of the Soviet school. He began his career as a foreign correspondent, working for the newspaper Pravda in the Middle East when he was commonly assumed to have had intimate links with the KGB. He maintained close and friendly relations with the leaders of Russia’s Middle Eastern allies. He returned to Moscow during the Gorbachev period to head Moscow’s prestigious Institute of International Relations. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Primakov became head of the SVR, the foreign espionage successor of the KGB. He was appointed foreign minister in early 1996 and has proved a powerful defender of Russia’s perceived interests.

Primakov is likely to have to make a number of concessions to the communist-dominated Duma, including printing more money and reintroducing state controls over parts of the economy. It remains to be seen whether the Duma will push home its advantage and demand that Yeltsin carry out his earlier offer, made when he was trying to secure approval for Chernomyrdin’s nomination, to share some of his presidential powers with the Duma.

Russia’s acting government was expected to meet today to hear acting First Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fedorov outline his program of economic measures for rescuing the country from its quagmire. The plan is understood to include guaranteeing food supplies to the armed forces and indexing wages and pensions. Its unveiling coincides with a rebound by the ruble, which yesterday recovered more than a quarter of its value when its official rate jumped to 15.9 against the dollar, up from the official rate of 20.8. (Financial Times, September 10)