. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

With the Cat Back, the Mice Play for Keeps

Last Friday President Boris Yeltsin moved from the Central Clinical Hospital to his dacha in Barvikha. Judging by official pronouncements and indirect evidence, the president is feeling better and is beginning to take an interest in a wider sphere of issues.


While he has yet to do anything concrete, the president has become the main factor in Russia's political life. The stir among major political forces of late can be explained primarily by the fact that he is recovering, has started to read the newspapers and look into details, and will soon begin to make decisions.


Few doubt that Yeltsin is set to announce a very harsh and unexpected decision. No one doubts that he will show the country who is boss. We all remember recent charges that not the president, but his inner circle, was running the country. And we all remember how in a single day the president sacked Korzhakov, Barsukov and Soskovets.


Since the presidential elections last summer, Yeltsin's activity has been almost continuously restricted for medical reasons. Almost the only public demonstration of the president's will was his televised signing of a decree removing Alexander Lebed from his post as Security Council secretary. Most of the other decisions associated with Yeltsin, or issued directly by him, were initiated by Chief of Staff Anatoly Chubais or by the president's daughter, Tatyana.


No one knows how Yeltsin will now flex his will. He could dissolve the State Duma, which has refused to pass the 1997 budget. He could sack Chubais, who is widely seen to have accumulated too much power, and to have used that power inappropriately. Or he could send Finance Minister Alexander Livshits packing: wage arrears continue as before; and tax collection, which Livshits oversees as deputy prime minister, remains ineffective.


Yeltsin's return to active political life could be marked by an entirely unexpected move, but everyone expects this move to be decisive.


With early presidential elections now unlikely, the battle for power has become a battle for access to power. The choicest spot "next to power" is occupied by Chubais, but its desirability does not derive from his job title. Former chief of staff Sergei Filatov had not a tenth of Chubais' political weight. This spot is at the center of the battle because of Chubais' personal influence on the president.


Chubais' opponents understand that if he keeps his job in the coming weeks, he will remain there for the long term. This explains the recent salvos of kompromat , or compromising information -- primarily the famous article published in Moskovsky Komsomolets.


Although Chubais has retained his composure, there are indications that he is disturbed by recent events, and realizes that the kompromat war in the press could hurt him.


Other possible victims of Yeltsin's discontent include General Prosecutor Yury Skuratov, who displayed notable enthusiasm in his investigation of illegal wiretaps on Chubais, and Livshits, who understands that whatever his professional and personal qualities, he is a prime candidate for "public punishment."


This "list of administrative nervousness" could be extended. The president is recuperating, and someone will emerge the worse for it. For experienced "warriors in the corridors of power," this is the perfect situation for taking care of business.