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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kremlin Aide Gives Primakov Warning

In a sign that Yevgeny Primakov may be the next target of presidential wrath, a Kremlin official issued a public dressing-down of the prime minister over the weekend.

In an interview on ORT television, President Boris Yeltsin's first deputy chief of staff Oleg Sysuyev accused Primakov of being "complacent" about the country's economy and the performance of his government, specifically its negotiations with the International Monetary Fund.

"It seems to me Yevgeny Maximovich [Primakov] should be advised to be more critical of the performance of the government because this position of complacency can make the prime minister and ourselves miss something of key importance," Sysuyev said on television Saturday.

He added that Yeltsin "undoubtedly has critical remarks to make about the performance of the government."

The Kremlin's warning follows corruption allegations against First Deputy Prime Minister Yury Maslyukov and Deputy Prime Minister Gennady Kulik that have been circulating in recent weeks. Last week, the Kremlin ordered an investigation into the charges. The two Communists are the key to stable relations between Primakov and the leftist-dominated f and often belligerent f State Duma.

Attacks against Maslyukov and Kulik appear to be aimed at weakening Primakov, whose increasing power and popularity seem to make Yeltsin uncomfortable. Primakov has also made an enemy out of financier Boris Berezovsky, who has been angered by the government's investigations into several firms he is believed to have connections to.

Primakov seemed to have won a battle against Berezovsky last week when Yeltsin called upon the heads of other CIS countries to oust the tycoon from his post as executive secretary of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

But in the past Yeltsin has demonstrated an even hand when it comes to firing: Reluctant to let power accumulate in one camp, he balances a blow to one side with a blow to the other. Thus, many observers think that Berezovsky's dismissal does not bode well for Primakov. Even if firing the prime minister himself would be too risky, it would not be difficult to fire one of his key ministers or take away some of their powers.

Sysuyev said Yeltsin was particularly concerned about negotiations with the IMF, which are being led by Maslyukov. Russia urgently needs to reschedule $4.8 billion of IMF debt this year, and the government is depending on new credits from the IMF, which are already written into the budget.

The IMF has said it is wary of giving money to a government that lacks a coherent economic program, and this year's budget, the fund says, is unrealistic. Maslyukov has caused further irritation by publicly criticizing the IMF.

Even if Yeltsin does not fire Maslyukov, he could remove IMF negotiations from his portfolio, a step that he has already threatened to take.

"If it becomes necessary, the president will personally interfere in this process [of IMF talks] because he realizes how important the results of the negotiations are for Russia," Sysuyev said.

Sysuyev's remarks seemed to indicate a step back from a previous Kremlin pledge not to fire Primakov.

"The personnel policy is not ossified, so it is impossible to guarantee any pattern here that could lead anyone to believe they are in the government forever," he said.

On the eve of Yeltsin's most recent hospitalization for a bleeding ulcer on Feb. 27, the president and prime minister announced in front of television cameras their intention to work together until the next elections in 2000.

Primakov and his Cabinet made a show of solidarity Friday when Maslyukov and Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov flew to Sochi, where the prime minister is vacationing, to discuss the IMF talks. Later, Maslyukov said that personnel changes were not discussed at the meeting, Interfax reported.

On Friday evening, Primakov, who is due back in Moscow on Tuesday, had a telephone conversation with IMF head Michel Camdessus. Itar-Tass quoted Primakov as saying the exchange was "constructive," but gave no further details.