Trud, May 21, 1999, p.2

This is not the first time I am hearing from certain politicians that the president is supposedly infirm, constantly ill, makes inadequate decisions, and is practically the main factor of destabilization in society. The president should consider resigning. It would be nice to conduct the presidential elections in December 1999 at the same time as the parliamentary elections. By then, according to such activists, everything will be all right in Russia – everything will be well and everybody will be satisfied.

The most surprising thing is that these opinions are being voiced more and more often since the failure of the impeachment initiative in the Duma, and rather often by those who voted against removing the president from office. At any rate, it is clear to me that all these announcements are being made purely for political purposes and have nothing to do with the real life of the country.

Everything would be all right if there were a free exchange of opinions, but unfortunately these maxims, if they were carried out in practice, would inevitably bring about severe political destabilization and still worse social tension.

Politicians who are asking the president either to resign or to agree to pre-term elections have not managed to learn the main point: any deviation from the principles of the Constitution, from the accepted rights, is very dangerous.

If the last decade taught us anything, it should be that one should not carry out experiments with the Constitution. We should learn to live by the law and allow the country to develop peacefully, without any delirious ideas like impeachment or pre-term elections. If we could maintain a sufficiently peaceful and constitutional political system (having attained, if not political concord, then at least an armistice) for at least for two years, we would inevitably notice a change for the better. But unfortunately we cannot do that so far. Here is a new proposal: abolish the post of Moscow mayor and appoint a vice premier for the affairs of the capital. It is definitely boring to live in serene Russia.


Trud, May 21, 1999, p.2

The editor’s office (but not it alone) has a copy of the letter which leader of the LDPR Duma faction Vladimir Zhirinovsky sent recently to the Russian president. In the letter he proposes an extensive list of candidates for various posts in the government which is currently being formed by Sergei Stepashin, as well as for certain key posts in Russian state companies and industrial enterprises. For instance, Zhirinovsky recommends himself for first vice premier (“in any field”) and his deputy in the Duma faction Mitrofanov for General Director of Slavneft. In all, Zhirinovsky proposes 17 people. However, the two final passages of the document, in which the leader of the LDPR asks the president to abolish the post of Moscow mayor and introduce the post of Minister for the Affairs of Moscow in the Russian government, is a sheer masterpiece in this rather cynical wrangle. In particular, Zhirinovsky justifies his proposal by the fact that “a great number of security structures, as well as some 100,000 well-armed security guards from private commercial structures, are subordinate to the mayor.”

We hope that this obviously provocative proposal, which may entail easily predictable destructive consequences, will not be escape the attention of the president. Meanwhile, Chair of the Moscow Municipal Duma Vladimir Platonov reacted to the proposal immediately and rather definitely. He stated that the proposals obviously and grossly contradict the Russian Constitution and Moscow legislation. It may also be of great interest to Zhirinovsky to know the personal opinion of the satirical writer.


Trud, May 21, 1999, p.2

It seems that almost all independent politicians have begun to talk about the dangerous unpredictability of the president in connection with a new governmental crisis. Indeed, the actions of the president cannot be explained by logic or common sense since this is now our fourth prime minister within a single year, which is ridiculous. Although before he could make economic excuses, in Primakov’s case the situation in the economy quite the opposite and had improved over his nine months in office. It is clear that his dismissal was provoked only by “political expediency” and certain personal motives.

Personally, I have the feeling that our political elite is losing the understanding that to rule the country for ten years is an extremely long time. Just think, why is it that in the US and other countries the term of presidency is strictly limited to eight years for a single person? It has its own logic, since, when a person has been ruling for too long he acquires many contacts, becomes dependent on other people, and begins forgiving to his inner circle for everything they do. As a result, corruption, abuses of office, and favoritism are worsening, and the government’s influence over key problems, including regional ones, is declining sharply.

Yeltsin, when young, was a real idol for Russia – a person on whom great hopes were pinned. And at the end of the 90’s he provokes pity and sometimes even compassion. And you have to start thinking: if his resignation is the best solution, elections for a new Duma and president should be held. If this happens, the country will get a new impulse for development. It is said, correctly, that, no matter what government is formed, it will not be able to decide anything while the president is ill, since currently everything is decided not by the president himself but by his inner circle, which nobody likes.


Moskovsky Komsomolets, May 21, 1999, p.2

Our experts were asked “How do you think the chances of the main candidates for president have changed in connection with the latest political events?”

As Vladimir Semago, a Duma deputy from the Russian Regions group stated, “Any appearance of a new politician who has great responsibilities immediately decreases the chances of the other candidates. Even if Stepashin does not fulfill the duties of prime minister for long, whatever odious person replaces him will represent a real danger for those running for president in 2000.”

As leader of the LDPR Vladimir Zhirinovsky said, “Nothing has changed. Those who consider themselves to be candidates for president have no chances to make it, as before. As long as Yeltsin is alive, he will hold power. It was quite a different matter that the Communists could cherish a hope for Primakov and, let us say, for the bad health of the president, and for the possible sluggishness of the Kremlin regarding impeachment…”

As Duma deputy Konstantin Borovoy stated, “The anti-Western propaganda spread by Primakov’s team and his dismissal make Zyuganov’s chances almost certain. It is possible to change public opinion, but it is unlikely to be done within a single year. It is absolutely clear already now that the Communists will win the next two presidential elections. The situation can only be changed if Yeltsin’s team applies titanic efforts. But there are no signs that the president perceives this.”

As political scientist Vyacheslav Nikonov said, “First of all, the chances that the presidential elections will be cancelled have increased. Lately, the Kremlin has been behaving as if Yeltsin is not going to leave. Secondly, Primakov’s chances have decreased considerably. But the widely-predicted split in Primakov’s electorate, which will mainly support Luzhkov, Zyuganov, and Yavlinsky, may be expected. Thirdly, Stepashin and maybe even Aksenenko may soon be listed as potential candidates for president. One of them may even be considered by the Kremlin to be Yelstin’s possible successor if the elections take place.”

As Nikolai Kharitonov, leader of Agrarian deputy group stated, “I do not think that the situation has changed. Zyuganov’s chances have increased. He has revealed political wisdom and far-sightedness and has not grounded his party. The chances of Yavlinsky and Zhirinovsky have, on the contrary, decreased. We have all been convinced of Zhirinovsky’s political perverseness, especially regarding the impeachment. The same goes for Yavlinsky. He announced consolidated voting but lacked the guts. Primakov has also only increased his political weight, and his future career depends purely on his health (with all due respect, in autumn he will celebrate his 70th anniversary).”


ORT, Novosti, May 20, 1999, 12:00

Sergei Stepashin met with Kemerovo governor Aman Tuleev before the conference of the Cabinet in the White House. They discussed the socioeconomic issues of the region and cooperation of the regional administration with the Federal government.


Independent Television, Segodnya, May 20, 1999, 14:00

On May 20 Stepashin held the first meeting of the government since Primakov’s dismissal. The meeting was open to the media. But names of candidates for ministerial posts were not discussed. Stepashin stated that by law he must form the government within one week. Every candidate for ministerial posts will be discussed with the president personally.


Russian Television, Vesti, May 20, 1999, 20:00

At the first meeting of the new government, Sergei Stepashin behaved confidently and asked his subordinates a lot of questions.

But First Vice Premier Nikolai Aksenenko was no less confident. To all appearances, he is trying to obtain a very important role in the new government. During the discussion about the prospects of the Russian economy he was the only person who was aggressive. Addressing Economy Minister Shapovaliants he stated: “I ask you these questions because you must understand that you do not have answers to them.” But it is not yet clear which of the two candidates, Aksenenko or Shapovaliants, will supervise the financial-economic bloc of the government. It will be decided in the near future, but not today – only after all the final decisions are made in the Kremlin.

According to Stepashin, Yeltsin will approve every candidate personally.

Meanwhile, the former team of the government is continuing to work. Stepashin proposed working with Duma deputies to adopt a draft of the budget for 2000 before the elections, which will take place in December 1999. Stepashin intends to increase the amount of money for the military-industrial complex. As he stated, “The position of Russia concerning the crisis in Yugoslavia is not being heeded because of the low level of our defense capacity.” He gave the minister of finance the responsibility of finding extra resources for the Russian defense complex.

Another item of the discussions was the position of the government concerning the negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. Stepashin said that “we must analyze and confirm the position of Russia.” And of course all the suggestions of deputies will be taken into consideration.

Another responsibility given to the minister of finance was to find out where the money which was allotted to Kemerovo is. But it is not clear what the finance minister can do concerning the loss of the money, since that is the business of police or security services. Moreover, Mikhail Zadornov has not been officially offered the post of finance minister in the new Cabinet.

The Duma, which supported Stepashin yesterday, expressed doubts that he acted independently.

Stepashin promised that official appointments to the new government will be done by the end of the week.