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Russian Press Review: Yeltsin Criticized, But Uncertainty Prevails

  • Floriana Fossato

Moscow, 9 September 1998 (RFE/RL) -- The Moscow newspapers today criticize President Boris Yeltsin for his failure to name his choice of prime minister. Also, most newspapers agree that the possibility of the Duma dissolution is nearing and discuss possible options.

KOMMERSANT DAILY: Yeltsin's silence raises questions

The business-oriented "Kommersant daily" has on its first page a picture of a troubled-looking Yeltsin and an article headlined: "Time To Put Forward (a candidacy)." The article says: "although during the last two weeks deputies in the State Duma have not acted in a honorable way, yesterday's silence raises also questions about the president's honor. Failing to put forward his candidate for premiership, Yeltsin extended anarchy in the country by another two days.:

The article continues: "There is nothing worse than lack of news. And now not only it is impossible to say whether the country will have a prime minister at some stage, but also whether there is a president in Russia."

TRUD: There's nobody to extinguish the fire

The daily "Trud," formerly the trade unions newspaper and now part of the Gazprom media empire, agrees and says in its main article that "There Is Nobody To Extinguish The Fire."

VREMYA-MN: Hunters for a prime minister position are difficult to find

"Vremya-MN," a daily close to the Central Bank, says that Yeltsin is likely to propose Viktor Chernomyrdin for the third time. The paper says: "But Chernomyrdin's third attempt to be approved by the Duma will probably end up in another rejection."

According to "Vremya MN," the presidential decree dissolving the Duma "will probably arrive at Okhotny Ryad (Eds: the address of the Duma's headquarters.) a few minutes after a third negative vote on Chernomyrdin." But, the paper says: "the dissolution of the Duma and Yeltsin's stubbornness to impose Chernomyrdin will not guarantee the acting prime minister the possibility of working normally in the future."

The article says that according to the Constitution, the president is under no obligation to nominate the same candidate rejected by the Duma three times: "This would seem to give Yeltsin wide possibilities for maneuvering and taking unusual decisions." The paper concludes: "the job of prime minister is the job for a kamikaze. Any person appointed to the position will have to deal with the economic crisis and with an unpredictable Kremlin...this will mean two dangers at one - hunters for such a position are difficult to be found."

NEZAVISIMAYA GAZETA: The next prime minister will probably also be the country's next president

"Nezavisimaya Gazeta," a paper controlled by financier Boris Berezovsky, floats the possibility that Yeltsin could propose governor of Krasnoyarsk Aleksandr Lebed for the third vote: "In order to dissolve the Duma, Yeltsin could propose the deputies an unacceptable nominee such as Lebed. Let's repeat it again, even if all the 443 members of the Duma vote against him, Lebed could become Prime Minister." (Lebed, who does not hide his presidential ambitions, has said he is not interested in the post of prime minister.) "Nezavisimaya Gazeta" writes that the person who will become Russia's next prime minister will probably also be the country's next president and says: "it is clear that the candidacy of (Moscow Mayor Yuri) Luzhkov would be unacceptable for the president" because it would automatically mean that "Yeltsin's immediate resignation would become a foregone conclusion."

RUSSKY TELEGRAF: We would need the Yeltsin of 1991

"Russky Telegraf," controlled by Oneximbank, features on its first page an interview with liberal economist and former prime minister Yegor Gaidar, who says that if Yeltsin dissolves the Duma "he would have the opportunity of appointing a reformer to lead the government." In this case, Gaidar argues, the West would "probably" give Russia additional funds, enabling the new government to implement tough measures to save Russia from hyper-inflation.

Gaidar says the decision to sack Kiriyenko was Yeltsin's "worst one" since the decision to start the war in Chechnya. Gaidar adds that possible candidate for premier in a new reformist government include former deputy prime ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov or himself. But he says that "to do this we would need the Yeltsin of 1991 and I honestly have trouble seeing this now."

MOSCOW TIMES: This collapse is President Yeltsin's fault

Finally, the English-language "Moscow Times" writes in an editorial that "Russia has drifted with no government for more than a week...Store shelves have emptied, gasoline lines have reappeared and prices have soared...Ultimately, this collapse is President Yeltsin's fault." The paper goes on: "now the Kremlin must offer a nominee for the third and final time. It could be Chernomyrdin -or someone else. It ought to be someone else."

It continues that acting foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov "is a compelling suggestion: Primakov is liked by Yeltsin, but also by the communists and nationalists because of his ministry's willingness to cross the West...Primakov is a former KGB spy chief -but for that matter, George Bush once ran the CIA. Primakov is not an economist, but that might also be a plus -particularly if he were to bring Yabloko economists into his government."

The article concludes: "Primakov has said he does not want the job, but Yeltsin ought to offer it to him formally."