Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 225

Just hours after returning to the Kremlin today following two weeks of hospitalization for pneumonia, President Boris Yeltsin fired Valentin Yumashev, his influential chief of staff, along with three of Yumashev’s deputies–Yuri Yarov, Yevgeny Savostyanov and Mikhail Kommisar. Yumashev has been replaced by Nikolai Bordyuzha, chairman of the Security Council, a powerful presidential advisory body. Russian media reported that Yumashev will probably continue to work in the Kremlin as a presidential aide, while Yarov has been named to be Yeltsin’s representative in the Federation Council, the upper chamber of Russia’s parliament. NTV television quoted Oleg Sysuev, who was Yumashev’s first deputy, as saying that other personnel changes may be in the offing (NTV, ORT, December 7). Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Dmitri Yakushkin was quoted as saying that Yeltsin has put Russia’s justice ministry and the State Tax Services under his direct control (Itar-Tass, December 7).

Yakushkin quoted Yeltsin as saying the shake-up was aimed at strengthening the presidential powers and discipline, and that the head of state had criticized his administration during a Kremlin a meeting this morning. Yakushkin said that Yeltsin has brought the justice ministry and tax services under his control in order to step up the fight against corruption and economic crime. The Kremlin spokesman added that Yeltsin believed that opportunities to fight political extremism have been missed, and that the “careless” positions had “undermined faith in the power of the president, [and] in the authorities in general.” Yeltsin, said Yakushkin, “plans to do everything to maintain stability and civil peace until 2000, when the next presidential election will take place.” The Security Council will meet this week to discuss, among other things, the problem of “political extremism,” Yeltsin’s spokesman added. Yakushkin said Yeltsin had spent three hours in the Kremlin, after which he had returned to the Central Clinical Hospital (Prime Tass, December 7).

Various observers noted that the unexpected personnel shake-up, coming on the heels of a Kremlin absence, was a vintage Yeltsin performance. Indeed, one of the Russian president’s harshest critics, Communist Party official Valentin Kuptsov, said this latest demonstration of the head of state’s unpredictability was further proof that the constitution should be amended to reduce the powers of the presidency (NTV, December 7). One of NTV’s analysts interpreted the firings–and the fact that Yeltsin had placed the justice ministry and tax services under his direct control–as a reaction to growing public dissatisfaction over unchecked crime and corruption in the wake of the murder of State Duma deputy Galina Starovoitova and the scandals surrounding St. Petersburg’s legislative elections, whose first round took place Sunday (December 6). According to the NTV analyst, Yeltsin, in firing his deputies, wanted to demonstrate that he is active and ready to take measures against crime.