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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Premier Opposes Ban of Communists

Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov on Tuesday called for calm in the escalating dispute over anti-Semitism within the leadership of the Communist Party, saying he was against appeals for the party to be banned.

Liberal politicians have been clamoring for the party to be outlawed since Communist leaders refused to censure State Duma Deputy Albert Makashov over anti-Semitic remarks he made at protests last month.

That failure, critics alleged, testified to the fact that the Communist Party leadership privately endorsed Makashov's sentiments.

But Primakov was unmoved Tuesday.

"My attitude to banning the Communist Party is sharply negative," Primakov was quoted as saying by Interfax after a meeting with Finnish Prime Minister Paavo Lipponen. "I believe that to outlaw a party that has the biggest faction in parliament would destabilize the situation."

Apparently admonishing financier Boris Berezovsky, who led the calls for the outlawing of the Communist Party, Primakov added: "You have to be careful with such statements."

President Boris Yeltsin stayed out of the fray. He remained out of public view Tuesday at his Rus residence in the Moscow suburbs, where he has been since returning from vacation Sunday.

Berezovsky, who is himself of Jewish origin, started the furor last weekend by saying that by tacitly supporting Makashov, the Communists were fanning racial tension that could lead to the disintegration of Russia.

Anatoly Chubais, former deputy prime minister and currently head of Russia's electricity monopoly Unified Energy Systems, and former prime minister Yegor Gaidar both joined Berezovsky in suggesting the party be banned.

The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II, also slammed Makashov on Tuesday. "Any attempts to foment [interracial] hatred destabilize the already precarious accord in society," Interfax quoted the patriarch as saying.

Legal experts agree that it would be technically very difficult to outlaw the Communist Party, quite apart from the political repercussions.

Viktor Sheinis, a Duma deputy with the liberal Yabloko party and an expert on legislation governing political parties, said the Supreme Court would have to rule that the party had violated the law on social organizations. "It is a very complicated process," he said. "I think it is completely unrealistic."

Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov told reporters his party could not be suppressed. "You cannot forbid an ideology," he said. "[The party] is the biggest source of stability in Russia. If you remove that, then I fear everyone will soon take to the barricades."