President Boris Yeltsin has informed Russia’s armed forces that he considers it pointless to name a new defense minister prior to Russia’s run-off presidential election, a senior military officer said yesterday. The officer, who claimed to have seen Yeltsin’s message, said that the Russian president had also pledged to use as key criteria in selecting a new defense minister a candidate’s ability to carry out military reform and to ensure social protection for servicemen and their families. (Interfax, June 27) Yeltsin’s apparent decision to postpone selection of a new defense chief comes despite an earlier pledge by Security Council secretary Aleksandr Lebed to name a new minister at the beginning of this week.
Meanwhile, an Itar-Tass commentary yesterday said that Yeltsin would probably also hold off until after the election on naming a new chief for Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB). The commentary suggested that this would be an astute move in the context of the election campaign, but, of equal importance, that it also reflects tension with the government and the FSB over whether to appoint a professional intelligence officer to the post. In the latter regard, the commentary observed that the agency has gone through countless reorganizations and a number of directors since the August 1991 coup. According to one FSB official, the constant upheaval has caused 10,000 career intelligence officers to leave the service. (Itar-Tass, June 27)
In another unsubstantiated report on the backstage maneuverings at the Kremlin, a Russian daily said June 26 that Border Forces chief Andrei Nikolayev had actually refused the Defense Ministry post and subsequently been offered the FSB directorship. The same report suggested that the government is now considering merging the FSB, the border forces, and the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI), an action that would replicate in part the structure of the Soviet KGB. (Nezavisimaya gazeta, June 26) While they were part of the KGB, the assets currently belong to FAPSI were employed, among other things, in monitoring telephone conversations.
Yeltsin’s Rainbow Coalition.