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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chernomyrdin Courts Public on TV

Viktor Chernomyrdin, Russia's not-exactly-telegenic prime minister, will get his own weekly TV show, during which he will answer questions from the public, a government spokesman said Tuesday.

Chernomyrdin, whose bland manner and speech are occasionally made fun of in the Russian media, would answer questions from the public during the 15- to 20-minute show, said spokesman Igor Shabdurasulov.

He said the show fulfilled President Boris Yeltsin's call for "a dialogue, for informing the public about what the government is doing, and why."

The idea is for the show to be live, Shabdurasulov said, but time pressures might lead to some shows being taped. Shabdurasulov said the day and time of the show's broadcast were being worked out, and that Thursday or Sunday evening was a possibility.

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and some provincial governors already have similar shows, he said.

Chernomyrdin is a potential presidential candidate in 2000, and a TV show would give him exposure. One analyst, however, said the show was more likely to be a hot seat than a bully pulpit.

"This is no favor for Chernomyrdin," said Andrei Piontkovsky, head of the Institute for Strategic Studies in Moscow. "Every week he will have to explain why things are going so badly in the country. And he's no great orator."

Piontkovsky said the show was probably not Chernomyrdin's idea and that it could be related to Yeltsin's recent calls for more public accountability from his ministers. In his state-of-the-nation speech last week, Yeltsin said economic goals would be met or the government would be replaced.

State television channel RTR, which will broadcast the show, is generally seen as promoting Chernomyrdin rivals First Deputy Prime Ministers Anatoly Chubais and Boris Nemtsov.

Chernomyrdin had been seen as gaining influence in December and January, as Chubais was tainted by a book-royalty scandal and he and Nemtsov lost some of their duties. But on Feb. 5, Yeltsin reaffirmed his support for them.

Yeltsin, a potential candidate for another term despite his history of heart trouble, likes to keep ministers and potential successors off balance by frequently reshuffling his administration.

Chernomyrdin, a former head of the Soviet natural-gas monopoly, favors a slower pace of economic reform than do Chubais and Nemtsov, who were brought into the government last year to push Yeltsin's stalled economic program.

While a skilled bureaucratic infighter, Chernomyrdin is not a brilliant speaker. Examples of his speaking style include this December assessment of his fifth anniversary in office: "If one considers what could have been done, and then what we did do over this long time, one can conclude that something was done."

But his homespun phrases are often persuasive in the communist-dominated State Duma, parliament's lower house, where he is well-regarded.