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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Yeltsin Lashes Out at Prosecutor




President Boris Yeltsin said Friday that his prime minister "is useful to us" at this stage, but added that "later on, we will see."


The cautious support for Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov only fanned the speculation that Yeltsin was planning to fire him. In another indication that a Cabinet shuffle may be imminent, the president went on to say that the government needed strengthening.


Speaking during a meeting with regional leaders in the Kremlin, Yeltsin was as forceful and clear as he has been in recent months and his remarks were given unusually extensive television coverage.


He also used the occasion to try to convince the regional leaders, who are all members of the Federation Council, to fire Prosecutor General Yury Skuratov when they debate his resignation again on April 21.


"It's a shame and disgrace for Russia to have such a prosecutor,'' Yeltsin said. "You must take a clear position to put an end to this scandal. You mustn't act like last time ... when you failed to support the president.''


Skuratov has been investigating alleged Kremlin corruption, and Yeltsin tried to push him out in February. The upper house refused to sanction the ouster at the time.


State television then ran a video that showed a man who appeared to be Skuratov having sex with two prostitutes, and Yeltsin used it as a pretext to suspend him. Skuratov submitted his resignation a second time, and the Federation Council must again decide whether to accept it.


Skuratov has hinted that he has information about Swiss banks accounts belonging to high-ranking Russian officials, saying the account numbers were given to him by his Swiss counterpart, Carla del Ponte, when she visited Moscow last month.


He was challenged Thursday by Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, who said del Ponte told him personally that she had no such information about Swiss bank accounts.


But Friday, del Ponte's spokesman denied that she had given Stepashin any such assurance. "That is not true," spokesman Domenic Raymond was quoted as saying by Interfax.


In his meeting with regional leaders, Yeltsin took another swipe Friday at his prime minister, who has proposed scrapping elections for leaders of Russia's regions and republics, and instead appointing them directly from Moscow.


"Now is not the time to give up direct elections," Yeltsin was quoted by Interfax as saying.


Primakov has been out of sight in recent days while recovering at home from acute back pain. He was feeling better Friday and planned to come to work by Monday, a government spokesman said.


Although Yeltsin said in February that he would keep Primakov in office until his own term expires in 2000, there have been growing signs that his relations with Primakov have been strained.


The Russian press has been swirling with speculation that Yeltsin may soon dismiss Primakov, with all sorts of names being thrown out as his replacement.


Yeltsin denied that his meeting Thursday with former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin signaleda plan to bring him back to replace Primakov.