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Newsline - September 11, 1998


At 5:00 p.m. local time on 11 September, the State Duma is scheduled to consider the candidacy of Yevgenii Primakov as prime minister. Primakov needs a simple majority of 226 votes. Since all factions, with the exception of Vladimir Zhirinovsky's Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, which has only 50 votes, have expressed support for Primakov, he is expected to be confirmed. Zhirinovsky criticized Yeltsin's choice of Primakov, saying that the decision proves Yeltsin's weakness and is the "final degradation of the political regime." He called Primakov "a pro-American candidate" appointed by U.S. President Bill Clinton. JAC


President Boris Yeltsin on 11 September finally accepted the resignation of Sergei Dubinin as head of the Central Bank and named Viktor Gerashchenko as the new chairman. Dubinin offered his resignation on 7 September. Gerashchenko, 60, headed the Central Bank both before and after the Soviet Union fell apart. He was sacked soon after 11 October 1994, Black Tuesday, when the ruble lost 25 percent of its value. Dubinin was minister of finance at the time. Since 1996, Gerashchenko has been chairman of the Board of the Moscow International Bank. JAC


Communist leader Gennadii Zyuganov said Yurii Maslyukov, former minister of trade and head of Gosplan, will be offered the position of deputy prime minister in charge of the economy. Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii, who first suggested Primakov for the job of prime minister, has also been tipped as a potential appointee for economic policy. However, he told Russian Public Television that Yabloko did not "need to be paid" for its support with the appointment of himself or fellow Yabloko member Vladimir Lukin, Russia's former ambassador to the U.S., to a cabinet position. He said, "Our reward will be to see increased stability in the country." ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September that Robert Markaryan, current director of the Foreign Ministry's Secretariat, would likely be appointed head of the government administration. JAC


On 11 September, the Russian benchmark stock index hit a record low, falling 5.4 percent from the day before. Traders cited concerns that Communist Party member Yurii Maslyukov will be appointed to a top economic policy-making post and the anticipated return of Viktor Gerashchenko to head the Central Bank. Meanwhile, the ruble strengthened against the dollar for the third consecutive day. According to Bloomberg, the ruble rose as high as 11.15 rubles to $1, compared with the previous day's high of 13.5 rubles to $1. The official ruble rate was 12.87 rubles to $1. Some traders expect the ruble to start losing value again because of the likely delay in the next IMF tranche and continued problems in the banking system. Acting Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov told Interfax on 10 September that the ruble's future exchange rate will largely depend on the composition of the new cabinet. JAC


Speculation about the composition of Primakov's cabinet continues. In addition to current Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov, Chair of the State Duma's Committee on International Affairs Vladimir Lukin, Deputy Foreign, Ambassador to the UN Sergei Lavrov, First Deputy Foreign Minister Boris Pastukhov, and Deputy Foreign Minister Georgii Mamedov have all been dubbed potential candidates to replace Primakov at the helm of the Foreign Ministry. JAC


World leaders heaped praise on Yeltsin's nomination of Primakov, suggesting that the diplomat-turned-prime minister will be able to restore some stability to Russia. German Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel said that Primakov enjoys the trust of Western countries, while French Premier Hubert Vedrine said Primakov has the very qualities needed to restore the public's confidence in authority. U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott called Primakov an "extremely able, skillful advocate of what he sees as Russia's national interest" and said that he "clearly recognizes the extraordinary importance of U.S.-Russian relations." Closer to Russia, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, who has locked horns with Primakov in the past, said that "Yevgenii Primakov is a nominee acceptable for the majority of Russia's political forces." He continued that "being an experienced and well-educated politician, [Primakov] will be able to do much to achieve stability in Russia, in which Georgia is largely interested." JAC


Russia's regional leaders appeared to have a uniformly positive reaction to Yeltsin's nomination of Primakov. Krasnoyarsk Governor Aleksandr Lebed, who himself was considered a potential candidate, told reporters 10 September, "It's a victory and the result of a compromise between differently biased political forces." Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiev also praised Yeltsin's choice, calling Primakov "an authoritative politician." Aman Tuleev, governor of Kemerovo, noted Primakov's "wisdom and considerable professional experience." And the governors of Perm and Primorskii Krai also added their voices to the chorus of commendations. JAC


Financial magnate Boris Berezovskii called Primakov's nomination "a decision with a plus sign in today's extremely complex situation." Most Bank head Vladimir Gusinskii described Primakov's nomination as "the best choice Russia can make today." Former President of the Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev said Primakov will "shape a government that will express national interests, not those of 10 percent or 20 percent of the population." JAC


Secretary of Russia's National Security Council Andrei Kokoshin was abruptly dismissed on 10 September. No reason was given other than that he has another job, the nature of which has not yet been made public. Earlier, Kokoshin was credited with forging a coalition in the cabinet willing to push through military reform (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 4 August 1998). According to ITAR- TASS on 11 September, former Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister Anatolii Kulikov will replace Kokoshin as head of the Security Council. ITAR-TASS also reported the same day that acting Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Sysuyev will quit the cabinet to take a "high-level" diplomatic job. JAC


"Izvestiya" on 11 September predicted that Yeltsin, "having made one concession to his opponents, will inevitably be forced to make others and in this way will gradually withdraw from power." The newspaper added, "It is quite likely that before the year 2000, Yevgenii Primakov will have to carry out the duties of head of state as well as premier." In an interview with Russian Public Television, Yabloko leader Grigorii Yavlinskii made similar comments. He said, "The first political figure in the country is the president, but now we have a 'political' prime minister, who in every situation will be able to discuss a whole range of political issues. He cannot take decisions on all of them, but he is a responsible figure for discussing and preparing the most important decisions." JAC


"Vremya MN" on 11 September reported that the Russian Central Bank shut down its branch in Kalmykia Republic after it used 236 million rubles ($15 million) collected in taxes for the regional budget. Such rebellious actions may draw a harsh reaction under the new government. In brief remarks made to reporters on 11 September, Primakov said he is in favor of "preserving Russia as a single, strong state." JAC


ITAR-TASS reported on 10 September that inspectors in St. Petersburg fined more than 1200 trading companies for "unjustified price mark-ups" of more than 50 percent during the past three weeks. St. Petersburg Mayor Vladimir Yakovlev decreed that the price increases on staple foods, such as bread, baby food, milk, dairy products, flour, sugar, and soap should not exceed 15 percent. JAC


Valerii Okulov, director-general of Aeroflot, told reporters on 10 September that some aviation workers will have to be laid off and certain benefits eliminated. To save on hard currency, imported foods will be replaced by domestic ones for in-flight meals. According to ITAR-TASS, Okulov also admitted that the threat of a strike by both air traffic controllers and pilots exists because "pro-Communist parties are actively encouraging union leaders to join mass protest actions." According to AP, Alaska Airlines will drop its weekly flights to Russia's Far East because they are not profitable. JAC


Tatarstan Prime Minister Rustam Minnikhanov on 10 September announced that Kazan has introduced a series of short-term measures to overcome the economic crisis, RFE/RL's Tatar-Bashkir Service reported. The program includes the stabilization of prices for basic consumer goods through the end of September. Tatarstan National Bank Chairman Yevgenii Bogachev, meanwhile, said that the republic's banking system is in relatively better shape than the Russian Federation's. PG


Ambassador Frank Lambach, Germany's representative to the OSCE's Minsk Group, arrived in Yerevan on 10 September, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. Following meetings with senior Armenian officials, Lambach said the current situation, "a cease-fire without negotiations," is "not stable." And he noted that representatives of the three Minsk Group co-chairs will arrive in the Caucasus within the next few days to try to push the peace process forward. PG


The cooperation group of Armenia, Greece, and Iran met in Tehran on 10 September to discuss how to carry out the planned construction of an Iranian-Armenian gas pipeline and other measures of economic cooperation, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported. The three foreign ministers in attendance also discussed the situation in the Balkans, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Afghanistan. The cooperation group, established in Athens in December 1997, will hold its third meeting in September 1999 in Yerevan. PG


Armenian presidential adviser Vagram Nersisiants told Interfax on 10 September that Yerevan will press for more private foreign investment in order to increase the rate of economic growth to 6-7 percent a year. He said that Yerevan has concluded that it cannot count on government- to-government assistance over the longer term. PG


Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze on 10 September told visiting U.S. Vice Admiral Daniel Murphy that he is grateful for American assistance in developing Georgia's naval staff and infrastructure, AP reported. Murphy's flagship, the "USS LaSalle," had stopped at the Georgian port of Poti, bringing with it medical supplies and other forms of humanitarian assistance. In response to Shevardnadze's comments, Murphy said the visit by "USS LaSalle" to Poti, the first by a U.S. naval vessel to that port, has established a bridge for international cooperation. PG


Georgian Socialist Party leader Vakhtang Rcheulishvili told Interfax on 10 September that his party and its allies will press for the impeachment of the Georgian president based on the argument that he cannot serve simultaneously as head of the Georgian Citizens Union and chief of state. But Rcheulishvili acknowledged that the parliament's majority will not go along. As a result, Rcheulishvili said that his group will bring the case before the Constitutional Court. The opposition would like to force Shevardnadze to give up his Union leadership in order to reduce that group's chances in local elections scheduled for 15 November. PG


The Tajik Prosecutor-General's Office has filed formal charges against three men suspected of killing four UN employees in central Tajikistan in late July, ITAR-TASS reported on 11 September. According to the office's chief investigator, Sharif Kurbanov, the three will tried on charges of terrorism. BP


Kyrgyz Deputy Foreign Minister Alibek Jekshenkulov said on 10 September that he has been misquoted by Russia's ITAR- TASS news agency, both Reuters and ITAR-TASS reported. ITAR-TASS on 9 September had quoted Jekshenkulov as saying his country "did not exclude" recognizing the Afghanistan's Taliban movement as the legitimate government of that country. Jekshenkulov said that he had commented that the "question is a complex one and demanded consultations with our partners, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Russia." Jekshenkulov also said that Kyrgyzstan has received confirmation from representatives of the Taliban and the coalition opposing it that they will attend an international conference on Afghanistan in the Kyrgyz capital. He added that the conference will be the first in a series of such meetings in various countries. BP


Kyrgyz parliamentary member and leader of the Ata-Meken Party Omurbek Tekebaev told RFE/RL correspondents on 10 September he has prepared a draft law on referenda. Tekebaev said that according to the draft, a national referendum could not be held until the parliament has approved holding it first. He added that all details of the referendum, such as the exact date, would have to be announced at least one month before the vote. President Askar Akayev on 2 September announced that a referendum on amendments to the constitution would be held in "mid-October." He also called for a public debate on his proposals, but the parliament was informed neither about the proposed amendments nor the referendum itself before the president's announcement. To date, Akayev has not signed a decree on holding the vote. BP


Moody's Investors Service has downgraded Ukraine's rating for foreign-currency debts from B2 to B3 and for foreign- currency bank deposits from B3 to Caa3, AP reported on 10 September. The U.S. agency cited "the depletion of Ukraine's foreign-currency reserves to dangerously low levels over the past few months," which, it said, suggests "an increase in the risk of default on [Ukraine's] foreign debt obligations." Moody's also did not share the government's optimism over the recent approval of a $2.2 billion loan by the IMF, saying the loan will only postpone a financial crisis if radical economic reform is not implemented. Meanwhile, Ukrainian Television reported on 10 September that Ukraine has obtained the first tranche, $257 million, of the IMF loan. JM


The leftist-dominated parliament on 10 September failed to approve the state privatization chief, raising doubts about the government's plans to speed up privatization in the country, AP reported. Oleksandr Bondar, Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma's nominee to head the State Property Fund, received 210 votes in the parliament, 16 fewer than the necessary simple majority. "We think that privatization and demonopolization are two levers that pushed Ukraine into abysmal ruin," Ukrainian Television quoted one communist deputy as saying after the vote. Petro Symonenko, leader of the Communist Party caucus, said privatization may still be continued if Kuchma nominates a communist to head the State Property Fund. JM


At a government meeting on 10 September, Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka demanded that "all criminal structures" be driven out of the country's monopolized alcohol and tobacco market, Interfax reported. He said that up to 25 percent of the Belarusian tobacco market is controlled by criminal gangs. Lukashenka ordered law enforcement agencies and security services to tighten control over the production and sale of liquor and tobacco products. He also warned that Belarus's 67 distilleries may be reduced to as few as 10 unless they produce "top-quality vodka." JM


Reform Party Chairman and former Foreign Minister Siim Kallas has suggested that the appointment of Russian acting Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as prime minister would not be favorable for Estonia and might strain relations between the Baltic States and Russia, BNS and ETA reported on 10 September. Kallas said Primakov "harbors a hidden animosity toward the Baltic States" dating back to when the Russian official headed the Security Council under former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. "He still bears a grudge against the Baltic States because they broke away from the Soviet Union," Kallas said. At the same time, he described Primakov as a "clever but easygoing man" who would not seek conflict. President Lennart Meri is quoted as saying that he welcomes every move that will help Russia end the "politically indeterminate" situation and the economic crisis. JC


The trial of 91-year-old Aleksandras Lileikis, who is accused of crimes against humanity during World War II, was postponed indefinitely on 10 September after the court ordered an independent medical examination of the hospitalized defendant. The examination will seek to determine whether Lileikis's health may improve sufficiently to allow him to give evidence and attend the trial, as required by law. According to Reuters, the examination could take several weeks. No date for the resumption of the trial has been set (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 9 and 10 September 1998). JC


Poland's Monetary Policy Council on 9 September announced it is cutting the monthly devaluation rate of the zloty to 0.5 percent from 0.65 percent, "Rzeczpospolita" reported on 11 September. The council has also cut the Central Bank's minimum 28-day money market intervention rate to 18 percent from 19 percent. The move, which follows a fall in prices for a second consecutive month in August, is aimed at achieving the government's goal of 9.5 percent inflation this year. According to financial experts quoted by "Rzeczpospolita," the council's decisions show that the Russian crisis has virtually no impact on the Polish economy. JM


The Federation for Women and Family Planning has harshly protested a cabinet minister's support for the sale of the anti-impotence drug Viagra (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 10 September 1998) and his proposal to subsidize Viagra prescriptions to boost fertility rates, AP reported. "The current government cares more about the pleasure of men than health care for women," the feminist organization said in a statement. The organization added that the proposal is especially outrageous given that the Solidarity-led government cut subsidies for contraception earlier this year. JM


Prime Minister Vladimir Meciar on 9 September told Slovak Television that "massive Czech propaganda" on the eve of the 1992 partition had portrayed Slovaks as a "fascist and anti-Semitic nation" and that "this reputation" has lingered on after independence. "At that time Slovakia was not assessed better than it is now," CTK quoted him as saying. In other news, top fashion model Claudia Schiffer, invited by Meciar to attend the opening of a new highway stretch, said that "the person who will vote for number one will not make mistakes," AP reported, citing TASR. Meciar's party refers to itself as "number one" in the election campaign now under way in Slovakia. MS


Slovakia is restricting political programming on radio and television in the run-up to the 24-25 September parliamentary elections, saying such programs violate restrictions on campaigning, RFE/RL's Bratislava bureau reported. The Radio and Television Council on 9 September halted a political program scheduled to be broadcast by the pro- government Slovak Public Television, council chairman Peter Juras told journalists in Bratislava. He said the council also ruled that three independent broadcasters--Markiza TV, Radio Twist, and RFE/RL must broadcast public announcements that they have violated the election law in their programming. The law prohibits media from airing electoral coverage other than the parties' official election campaign for 30 days before the election. MS


Memo 98 concludes in a survey released on 10 September that Slovak Television news coverage "has completely abandoned any pretense of providing voters with fair, accurate, and balanced covering of relevant political events" and is increasingly pro- government biased. The survey was based on the amount of coverage devoted to various parties during news programs. Memo 98 also said Markiza TV tended to give "much positive coverage" to opposition parties, though less so than Slovak television's coverage of pro-government parties, Reuters reported. Memo 98 is an independent media monitoring group set up by the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly and the Association for Support of Local Democracy. MS


UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan disclosed the contents of a letter he sent to Belgrade blaming Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic for indiscriminate violence against ethnic Albanians, the destruction of villages, and the continuing flow of refugees in Kosova, Reuters reported. The letter, sent by Annan on 1 September, asked Milosevic to call an immediate cease-fire. Annan has received no response from the Yugoslav president. The UN Security Council repeated Annan's position on 10 September. State Department spokesman James Rubin said that the problem in Kosova will continue until Milosevic stops Serbian forces from "raining a humanitarian disaster down on the people of Kosova." In Belgrade, opposition leader Zoran Djindjic said the crisis is the result of "the inefficiency of the undemocratic authorities in Serbia." And in Prague, Bulgarian Prime Minister Ivan Kostov told RFE/RL that Milosevic is "the problem" and that the conflict would be resolved sooner without him. PB


Vukasin Jokanovic, Yugoslav prosecutor-general, said on 10 September that several hundred suspected members of the Kosova Liberation Army (UCK) will go on trial this month, AP reported. Jokanovic, speaking on Radio Belgrade, said that UCK forces have been decisively defeated. Dragoljub Jankovic, the Serbian justice minister, said 716 ethnic Albanians are under investigation in Kosova and will face charges of terrorism and conspiracy against the state. He said about half of those being investigated have been detained. PB


Zivadin Jovanovic on 10 September said that Serbian forces control all of Kosova and that Belgrade is willing to hold talks with ethnic Albanians to resolve the crisis, Reuters reported. Speaking in Athens after talks with Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos, Jovanovic said the UCK has withdrawn to a very small portion of Kosova, has "no leadership," and controls no territory. He claimed that 60,000 refugees have returned to their homes and that schools are open. He added that "ethnic Albanians do not trust the UCK anymore. They express their loyalty to the Serbian authorities." Pangalos said sanctions against Belgrade "did not help," and he called for Yugoslavia to be reintegrated into the international community. PB


The UCK said in a statement on 10 September that support by Kosova "shadow state" President Ibrahim Rugova for a U.S.-backed peace accord with Belgrade will undermine the UCK's fight against Serbian forces, AP reported. Issued by the UCK's political wing and published in the daily "Koha Ditore," the statement said the proposed agreement is aimed at "demobilizing the masses who have joined the liberation war...and destruction of the UCK." It said that proposed peace talks between Rugova and Belgrade are a "cover for the Serb occupiers' terror over the civilian population." PB


The independent news agency Beta reported on 10 September that there are at least three strong factions within the UCK. One faction, thought to be the largest, recognizes Adem Demaci as its political representative and Jakup Krasniqi as its spokesman. It advocates complete independence from Belgrade. Another follows orders from the head of the so-called Kosovar government in exile, Bujar Bukoshi, and calls itself the Armed Force of the Republic of Kosova. It is reportedly strongest along the border with Albania. The third faction is a small number of units that conditionally support Rugova. PB


Hrvoje Sarinic, the head of the Croatian president's office, and Economics Minister Nenad Porges signed an agreement on 10 September that will allow Bosnia-Herzegovina free transit to the Croatian port of Ploce, Croatian Radio reported. Deputy High Representative Jacques Klein and U.S. envoy Richard Sklar attended the ceremony. Sarinic said the agreement allows for economic development both of the port of Ploce and of Bosnia. The Croatian parliament must still approve of the agreement, which both sides have been working on since 1994. PB


The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) says the international community in Bosnia-Herzegovina is using "non-democratic" means to help moderates win in the 12- 13 September elections, AFP reported on 10 September. Christopher Bennett, the director of the International Crisis Group Balkans Project, said "the elections will bring changes, but this will be due to non-democratic measures." Bennett cited the omnipotent power of High Representative Carlos Westendorp in pushing aside hard-line nationalists and the "snatch operations" by NATO led peacekeepers as examples of the international community's running "roughshod" over Bosnia's democratic institutions. Voters are to elect a new interethnic presidency, national parliament, and legislative assemblies in the Muslim-Croat and Serb entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina. PB


Former President Sali Berisha, speaking at a rally in Tirana, threatened to use force against the government of Prime Minister Fatos Nano, Reuters reported on 10 September. Berisha accused Nano of abusing the constitution and warned him not to "play with our freedoms." Berisha said "we shall crush you into powder, force will know no bounds." He said if Nano does not leave office he could meet the same fate as Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. Berisha has been holding rallies almost every day since six former government officials appointed by him were arrested last month. Some 3,000 people attended the rally. PB


The IMF on 10 September said that it supports the Albanian government's economic reforms and noted that an IMF team will visit Tirana in mid- October, Reuters reported. Juha Kahkonen, IMF mission chief for Albanian, said in a letter to embattled Finance Minister Arben Malaj that the economic policies continue to "bear fruit." PB


European Commissioner Hans van den Broek on 10 September said at a joint press conference with President Emil Constantinescu that all candidates for EU membership will eventually join the organization but doing so depends to a large extent on each country's performance. Van den Broek said he has not been "updated" on the EU's performance evaluation of all candidate countries, which was recently leaked to the press, saying that Romania is "last" on the list of candidate states. He urged his hosts "not to lose heart" and to proceed with the faster implementation of reforms, singling out the privatization of large state companies, the banking sector, and the reform of public administration. Constantinescu said that while it is "possible" Romania is now in "a weak position" for integration, the "political will" to continue reforms exists and is backed by the population. MS


In an attempt to lure back the Movement of Civic Alliance into the Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), CDR leaders on 10 September announced that civic organization members of the convention will have the right to participate "on equal terms" in determining decisions related to the CDR's strategy and program. But it added that they will not have a say in decisions related to CDR election candidates and will be able only to make "moral objections." The National Liberal Party and two smaller parties have proposed that the CDR parties be allowed to run on separate lists in local elections. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Radu Vasile said the elections for mayor of Bucharest might be "inopportune" in the present "austerity conditions" and that a decision on whether to hold them must be reached at the "political level." MS


A five-strong delegation headed by IMF counselor Richard Haas began a visit to Moldova on 10 September to evaluate the progress of economic reform and the possibility of renewing loans to Moldova. An agreement on a three-year, $190 million loan was suspended in fall 1997 because of the stalled reform process. Moldova received only $52.5 million of that loan, but IMF chief representative in Moldova Mark Horton said a $30-35 million tranche could be unfrozen in view of the impact of the Russian crisis on Moldova's economy and the IMF's evaluation of economic priorities included in the draft 1999 budget, RFE/RL's Chisinau bureau reported. The delegation met on 10 September with Deputy Premier Ion Sturdza, Finance Minister Anatol Arapu, and National Bank Governor Leonid Talmaci. MS


Ivan Kostov has welcomed the nomination of acting Russian Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as premier. Kostov told RFE/RL in Prague on 10 September that Primakov has demonstrated he is a "good friend." He said Bulgarian officials have "excellent" relations with Primakov. MS


Bulgaria is about to register its first budget surplus since the country began the transition to a market economy in 1990, dpa reported on 10 September, citing BTA. The government said that the 190 billion leva ($110 million) surplus will be spent on improving infrastructure, social welfare services, and the administration's information system. In other news, the parliament on 9 September unanimously ratified the agreement on Bulgaria's accession to the Central European Free Trade Agreement on 1 January. The accession agreement was signed in Sofia in July, BTA reported. MS


by Paul Goble

Boris Yeltsin's decision to nominate Foreign Minister Yevgenii Primakov as his prime minister is already sending shockwaves through Russia, Russia's neighbors, and the international community.

But while this appointment may give the crisis-ridden Russian regime some room for maneuver, it is unlikely in itself to resolve the underlying problems now confronting the Russian Federation. By turning away from the obviously unpopular and apparently unconfirmable Viktor Chernomyrdin, Yeltsin has once again shown that he maneuvers best precisely when he is under the most intense political pressure.

But if Yeltsin's decision to promote Primakov was somewhat unexpected, it nonetheless reflects three aspects of Yeltsin's general political style.

First, the Russian president again has taken what many are certain to call a dramatic step only after he had denied that he would do it.

Second, he has selected someone who may be able to recoup some of Russia's lost authority and influence in the West, a clear signal that Yeltsin still hopes to gain more Western aid even as he advances someone popular with many Russian nationalists at home.

And third, Yeltsin has chosen someone with little experience in those areas-- economics and domestic affairs--that a Russian prime minister is supposed to direct.

This last fact makes it likely that Primakov will face fewer obstacles to being confirmed. After all, Duma factions, ranging from the communists to the reformers, are likely to believe they will be able to convince Primakov to advance their agendas. But precisely for that reason, Primakov's appointment may not affect the ways in which Moscow now conducts business. To the extent that proves the case, Primakov's appointment ultimately may not matter as much as some hope and others fear.

The most obvious consequences of Primakov's appointment are likely to be in Moscow and the Russian Federation. Russian politicians of various stripes are already viewing Primakov's appointment as a victory for them or at least as a concession by Yeltsin to the growing power of the parliament.

Moreover, his appointment is likely to attract new candidates for the race to succeed Yeltsin both because Primakov is not an obvious successor and because parliamentary deputies and governors undoubtedly feel themselves more important players in Russian politics than they did only a few weeks ago. And ordinary Russians are certain to welcome the appointment of Primakov, a man known for his toughness and staunch defense of Russian national interests.

But even if these developments give Primakov a certain honeymoon in Moscow, they will not do anything to address Russia's economic collapse or the growing political disorder across the country as a whole. To address those problems, Primakov must not only craft a new set of policies but also reinvent the Russian government. Doing one or the other would be difficult for anyone. But having to do both at the same time almost certainly means that Primakov 's approach is likely to be an amalgam of various views, a pattern that has gotten Russia into trouble in the past and may get Primakov into trouble quicker than many expect.

If the exact direction Primakov is likely to take domestically remains unclear, his approach to Russia's neighbors and to the West is certainly far clearer. Although Primakov has been foreign minister at a time when Russian power has declined in the former Soviet republics, he has been a forceful advocate of the view that Moscow must remain the dominant player in these countries. To the extent that he is able, he is certain to continue to advocate a tough approach to the neighbors. But Russia's weakness and Moscow's need to attract Western assistance may combine to force him to moderate his past approach.

Perhaps Primakov's greatest role in the future will be one that he has already starred in: stoutly defending Russian national interests even while befriending Western leaders. Over his long career in the Middle East, as a Moscow think-tank head and as foreign minister, Primakov has pushed for a very forward Russian policy, one designed to take advantage of any Western weakness.

Not surprisingly, many of his speeches and articles in the past have been openly anti-Western and anti-American. But despite this trend, Primakov has been remarkably successful in winning the friendship of Western leaders and gaining their confidence.

Primakov's very public ties with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright are only the most recent example. And such attachments have allowed Primakov to obtain more assistance from the West than his views would seem to justify. Both he and Yeltsin clearly hope that Primakov will once again be able to work his magic, especially given the recent acknowledgment by Russian officials that they had lied about conditions there in order to gain Western aid.

No Western leader wants Russia to fail. And consequently, the West is likely to respond more positively to a charm offensive by Primakov than it would have to any steps by a restored but rather dour Chernomyrdin.

But unless Primakov can turn things around in Russia, an apparently Herculean task, he and his patron are likely to discover that Primakov's ability to woo Western leaders may not matter nearly as much as either man hopes.