Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 181

Russian president Boris Yeltsin appeared on Russian television Saturday in an apparent effort to prove that he is fit enough to work despite his impending heart operation. Yeltsin was shown in the hospital talking with Defense Minister Igor Rodionov and was heard to say that NATO should strike a deal with Russia before embarking on expansion. "We will put the issue this way. First a deal with Russia and then you tackle the issue of expanding NATO. They want it the other way around, but that won’t work!" Yeltsin declared with a smile. (RTR, Reuters, September 28) Rodionov was reporting to Yeltsin on his participation in the recent NATO defense ministers meeting in Norway.

In an interview published the same day in a popular Moscow newspaper, Security Council Secretary Aleksandr Lebed said Yeltsin should relinquish his presidential powers until he has fully recovered from his operation. (Moskovsky komsomolets, September 28) Lebed said the decision-making machinery is at a standstill and that this is harming adoption and execution of policy. "It’s not clear whether we have a president or not," he said. "I would prefer any leader, however temporary, to none at all." Lebed warned that constitutional procedures for transferring power are dangerously vague and could open the door for Yeltsin’s aides to rule in his absence, using him as a puppet. On the face of it, Lebed was only saying what many Russians are thinking. Lebed has stated that he will support Viktor Chernomyrdin when Yeltsin hands over his powers to the prime minister during his heart operation. He was not, therefore, calling on Yeltsin to step down in favor of himself. But the public forum Lebed chose to express his concerns underlines once again that Lebed is not a Kremlin team player and is pursuing an agenda of his own.

Nazran Conference Approves Chechen Peace Plan.