In an informal conversation with Russia’s Independent TV, Communist party leader Gennady Zyuganov revealed the contours of the shadow cabinet being put together by the Communists and their nationalist and agrarian allies. Oddly enough, there seemed to be no place for Zyuganov himself in the team, which is to number some thirty members. The final composition of the shadow cabinet will be decided at the end of April by a plenary meeting of the Popular-Patriotic Union of Communists, nationalists and agrarians. (NTV, March 6)
The post of prime minister is likely to go to Yegor Stroyev, governor of Orel Oblast and speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament. Stroyev, a moderate Communist, would not be a controversial choice, but Zyuganov’s other nominees certainly would. Nikolai Kondratenko, governor of Krasnodar Krai, would be deputy prime minister in charge of the economy. Kondratenko is notorious for his virulently racist and anti-Semitic views. Since he was elected governor at the end of 1996, he has put together a coalition of Communists, Cossacks and nationalists and enacted a krai charter that declares the North Caucasus region to be the "historical territory of the Kuban Cossacks" and "a place of residence for the [ethnic] Russian people." (Izvestia, March 4)
Another controversial appointee would be Vasily Strarodubtsev as deputy premier with responsibility for agriculture. Starodubtsev, a leader of the Agrarian party, was one of the plotters of the August 1991 coup that brought down the USSR. He was elected one year ago as governor of Tula Oblast and is a strong opponent of private land ownership. (See Monitor, March 6, lead story)
Zyuganov’s choice of the Communist firebrand Viktor Ilyukhin to take charge of state security would usher in a witch hunt against leading members of the present government. As a member of the State Duma, Ilyukhin has repeatedly called for criminal investigations against first deputy premier Anatoly Chubais and his government associates. Zyuganov pointedly told NTV that, though the Communists could work with several of the members of the present cabinet, they drew the line at Chubais, Boris Nemtsov and deputy premier Yakov Urinson.
Finally, Zyuganov mentioned Aman Tuleev, governor of Kemerovo Oblast, to return to the cabinet to take charge of Russia’s relations with the CIS, a post that Tuleev held until a year ago. Zyuganov promised that some seats in the shadow cabinet would go to women, but he named none, other than commenting that Svetlana Goryacheva, the Communist deputy speaker of the Duma, is "experienced and educated." Zyuganov infuriated many at the weekend when he marked International Women’s Day with the comment that there is "nothing more frightful" than a woman who is both smart and pretty and "asks too many questions." (Itar-Tass, March 5)