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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Primakov Hosts Brainstorming Retreat

After five months in power without a clear economic strategy, Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov has called 150 scholars, bankers, entrepreneurs and politicians to a retreat this weekend at a resort outside Moscow to brainstorm solutions to Russia's economic crisis.

The two-day affair is being organized by the Public Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, until now a relatively obscure body with no real influence on national policy.

That may be about to change.

Primakov's press secretary, Tatyana Aristarkhova, told Interfax that the council's experts have been drafting an anti-crisis report since October that would be discussed over the weekend at Lesnye Dali - a resort about 30 kilometers west of the city and situated on the banks of the Moskva River, where Soviet ministers once relaxed.

Sergei Karaganov, the council's chief, told Interfax that this report would be presented and discussed before participants in the brainstorming session. The goal, as Interfax put it, is no less than finding "a political strategy to end the current financial crisis."

Among those invited to attend, Aristarkhova listed tax chief Georgy Boos, Audit Chamber chairman Yury Boldyrev, Our Home Is Russia Duma faction head Vladimir Ryzhkov, Yabloko leaders Grigory Yavlinsky and Vladimir Lukin, Kremlin administration chief Sergei Prikhodko, head of the Russian Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs Arkady Volsky and - as Interfax put it - "prominent bankers and businessmen."

Primakov, who was to speak Saturday, has kept his economic strategy vague as he consolidates his political authority. In fact, Karaganov was paraphrased by Interfax as saying that "no economic or other problem concerning public life can be resolved without first breaking the political stalemate."

That vague statement could be interpreted as an endorsement of Primakov's equally vague high-profile efforts to strike a political peace agreement with the State Duma, the lower house of parliament.

Primakov's government is waiting for an answer on badly-needed loans from the International Monetary Fund, which has expressed dissatisfaction with Russia's economic policies.

Meanwhile, President Boris Yeltsin - in a spurt of activity after weeks of illness - put in another day at the Kremlin on Friday. Given that he also worked Monday, taking an unexpected trip to Jordan for King Hussein's funeral, this marked the first time in months the ailing president had put in a five-day work week.

Yeltsin, 68, recovering after two weeks in the hospital with an ulcer, has been eager to show he is not as marginalized as opponents and many ordinary Russians believe him to be. Media reports have said he also wants to limit Primakov's growing influence.

Primakov has had day to day responsibility for running the economy, while Yeltsin's political role has shrunk due to health problems and political fallout from the Aug. 17 financial collapse.

He also faces continued bitter opposition in the Duma - where Primakov is far more popular. On the same day U.S. President Bill Clinton was acquitted in his impeachment trial, the head of a Duma committee examining five impeachment charges against Yeltsin said it would complete its work on Monday.

Vadim Filimonov told reporters the committee would then pass its findings to the council of the Duma. Formal proceedings could start in March.

Charges cover the collapse of the Soviet Union, the war in Chechnya and economic turmoil.

The impeachment bid faces formidable constitutional obstacles and has been mostly a platform for the Duma communists to criticize Yeltsin.

The Kremlin said Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov had discussed several questions with Yeltsin, including the Commonwealth of Independent States that loosely groups 12 ex-Soviet republics.

"The minister briefed the president on the forthcoming talks between the president and the European Union leadership as well as the Russian-German consultations," it said in a statement. German Chancellor Gerhard Schr??der, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency, will be in Moscow for EU and bilateral talks next Thursday and Friday.

Yeltsin asked Ivanov to keep him briefed on the Kosovo crisis and to step up efforts to strengthen ties with Japan.

He also called for measures to restructure the CIS, whose leaders are scheduled to meet in Moscow on Feb. 26. Some states, notably Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, have said they do not wish to renew their membership in the CIS's collective security pact, though this does not mean they wish to leave the CIS altogether.

Primakov met the prime minister of Belarus, Sergei Ling, to discuss ways to bring the two Slav states closer together.

Yeltsin and President Alexander Lukashenko signed a union deal last December but there is still a long way to go to marry the world's largest country with one of the last hold-outs of Soviet-style central planning.

On the domestic front, Primakov has proposed a truce between the government, parliament and the Kremlin ahead of a parliamentary election in December and a presidential vote in mid-2000.

The stability plan faces barriers. The Duma thinks it should go further; the Kremlin thinks it goes too far. A working group will meet on Monday to try to hammer out a compromise text.