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Russia: Media Say Dyachenko Appointment Consolidates Status Quo

  • Floriana Fossato

Moscow, 1 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - Commenting on the decision of Russian President Boris Yeltsin to name his youngest daughter, Tatyana Dyachenko, his official image adviser, Moscow newspapers today seemed hardly surprised and almost relieved.

Two influential pro-government newspapers, "Segodnya" and "Kommersant Daily" ran front-page articles, saying Dyachenko's official appointment yesterday had long been expected. They said it helps clarifying Dyachenko's role, as she takes a more public stand, particularly during Yeltsin's foreign trips.

Media observations seem to recall Dyachenko's own comments made in her new capacity yesterday. After the official announcement, made by Yeltsin's press-secretary Sergei Yastrzhembsky during a Kremlin news-briefing, Dyachenko said her appointment "removes the whole ambiguity of my situation."

Russian media have consistently reported that 37-year-old Dyachenko played an influential political role behind the scenes at least since last year's presidential electoral campaign. Yeltsin will mark the first anniversary of his successful, against-all-odds re-election in two days.

In a commentary running with the headline "Legalization," "Kommersant daily" reminds readers that during the first press-conference after Yeltsin's victory, Viktor Ilyushin, then presidential first aide, said Yeltsin's analytical electoral team would be preserved, and he praised Dyachenko for her role as privileged "communication channel" to the president. In her first briefing, Dyachenko said that for her "it is easier to tell the president unpleasant things, since it is easier for him to hear them from me than from others." "Kommersant" concludes that "even after the appointment, Dyachenko remains Yeltsin's daughter, and this is her main strong point."

Dyachenko, who had been cited for months in media ratings of Russia's most influential politicians, was already rumored to have an office in the Kremlin and to control personal access to the president. Since Yeltsin resumed political activity, after recovering from heart troubles that disrupted his first months in office after re-election, Dyachenko started becoming more visible, particularly during official foreign trips. She was in Baden-Baden, Germany in April, when Yeltsin met Germany's Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and was part of the Russian delegation in Paris in May, when Yeltsin met NATO leaders and signed the Founding Act, defining relations with the Western alliance.

Yastrzhembsky declined to say why Yeltsin made the appointment now, and said the president took the decision "when he considered it necessary." But, "Segodnya" says that after the last trips, the question of clarifying Dyachenko's role became a necessity. The newspaper says that explaining to the public Dyachenko's presence in official Russian delegation was becoming increasingly difficult.

If Russian journalists welcomed Yeltsin's move, observers say the appointment is likely to provoke angry reactions from Yeltsin's opponents, especially in the Communist- and nationalist-dominated Russian parliament. They have constantly criticized Dyachenko for allegedly supporting their main enemy, First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais, and for manipulating the president, since his re-election, particularly during his long illness.

Today State Duma Chairman Gennady Seleznyov, a Communist, told Interfax news agency that Dyachenko's appointment violates existing legislation. According to Seleznyov, a bill regulating service in state organs, says that close relatives of state officials cannot be appointed to top state positions.

Dyachenko said in her briefing that she "does not have personal ambitions," and that she has assured her husband -- who, she said, opposed her appointment -- that she will work in the Kremlin only for the next three years, until the end of her father's second and constitutionally mandated last term.

"Kommersant daily" said that this may be true, judging from the unusual openness with which Dyachenko answer journalists' questions. The paper says Dyachenko looks "too candid a person in comparison with experienced politicians." But, the paper concludes that after obtaining officially a Kremlin post, Dyachenko may well acquire soon also the "political clout" she does not seem to have now.

Some observers say many Russians are likely to dislike the move, as they are concerned with the possibility of a wave of nepotism starting. Recently Yeltsin appointed the husband of his eldest daughter to head the state airline company Aeroflot.

On the street today, Muscovites told our correspondent that Dyachenko, who was shown last night on TV, looks like a "sincere and strong woman," and that "if she proves effective in her new job, other members of the Yeltsin family could get official posts." But these and others criticized the move, saying it "diminishes Yeltsin's authority."