The looming confrontation pits Primakov against what Vyacheslav Nikonov, head of the Politika think tank, called Yeltsin’s “family circle”–which includes Boris Berezovsky. “The president’s family circle is unhappy with Primakov’s excessive independence, unhappy with the fact that he is, in their view, in too close contact with the Communist Party…. Primakov is unhappy with that Berezovsky and the media he controls are carrying out a rather active campaign against the government” (NTV, February 7). Izvestia, citing “unofficial information” from “Moscow power structures,” reported today that one of the reason’s for Yeltsin’s trip to Amman was to “feel out” Western leaders’ reactions to the possibility of “changes in the government and dissolving the Duma” in several months time (Izvestia, February 9). Other newspapers–notably “Nezavisimaya gazeta” and “Novae izvestia”–appeared today to be egging Yeltsin on in this direction. All three newspapers, it should be noted, are hostile to the Primakov government.
A more likely scenario is that Yeltsin will remove some of Primakov’s key ministers. A likely candidate is First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov, a member of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation (KPRF). Yeltsin has a pretext for dismissing Maslyukov–namely, Maslyukov’s lack of success in negotiating with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), whose delegation recently left Moscow without agreeing to either renewed credits or restructuring Russia’s debt. This could account for Maslyukov’s attack yesterday on three former government officials–Yegor Gaidar, Yevgeny Yasin and Boris Federov–whom he accused of trying to sabotage the government (NTV, February 8). Maslyukov had previously charged some of Russia’s ousted “young reformers” of trying to wreck negotiations with the IMF by criticizing government policy abroad.
By ousting Maslyukov, possibly along with Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik–a member of the Agrarian Party, which is allied with the KPRF–Yeltsin would put Primakov in a difficult spot. If Primakov failed to protest the sackings, the leftist factions in the Duma, a major source of his support, would go on the offensive against him. Were he to protest, his only real option would be resignation.
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