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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WHAT THE PAPERS SAY: For Prime Minister, It's Chilly Political Weather

The May weather obviously isn't treating us kindly. However, compared to the atmosphere in the corridors of power, what we have outdoors is truly summery. None of the state officials any longer doubt that [President Boris] Yeltsin has set out on the path of war and may well disperse both the ministers and deputies in the near future.

Yeltsin's recent televised attack on the prime minister [Yevgeny Primakov] made many people in the street gape. But the state officials kept a stiff upper lip. Currently, numerous versions are doing the rounds as to why the relationship between Yeltsin and Primakov has deteriorated so.

One version has it that the president, for medical reasons, has finally lost his sense of reality and is simply possessed by the desire to fire prime ministers at least once a year, while his inner circle either simply cannot restrain "grandpa" any longer or are also living in a world of their own. Others maintain that Primakov is actually playing his own game, and has already stopped keeping the president's interests in mind.

Finally, according to the coolest version, the whole hullabaloo was caused by the fact that the anti-corruption measures taken by Primakov may soon affect the president's family's interests.

The Kremlin officials' protests that the prime minister has allegedly sold his soul to the Communists and organized persecution of the press, which is, according to them, the reason for the desire to fire him, are not true. The actual far-from-ideal relations between Primakov and the Communists are well known to everybody, including the officials of the presidential administration. However, there is no doubt that, whether or not they know the true reasons for the conflict, all the officials have long been confident of the likelihood that the prime minister's dismissal is imminent.

Moskovsky Komsomolets, May 7

Yeltsin's Seating Chart

Russia will have a new government in a week's time - that's the rumor which swept through the political elite yesterday. This rumor was eagerly heeded both in the Duma and in the White House, and in other government offices. It should be mentioned that all sources named the same date - May 10 to 12.

The president gave the rumors a basis. At a meeting of the organizational committee for celebrating the third millennium and the second millennium of Christianity, Boris Yeltsin suddenly broke off his speech, looked around the hall and announced: "You aren't sitting right. Stepashin is the first deputy prime minister, so sit in the right way." After Sergei Stepashin moved to the seat next to Yevgeny Primakov, the president solemnly introduced him to the participants of the meeting.

Of course there was no need for such an introduction ... but it seems the action was politically expedient. The interior minister's recent appointment as first deputy prime minister has been interpreted as the appointment of the prime minister's successor.

Vladimir Zhirinovsky was the first to crack. Yesterday he announced to journalists that the president has five or six candidates for the post of prime minister, with Stepashin as the most likely of them. The LDPR leader predicts a change of government before the impeachment debate in the Duma, which is scheduled for May 13 to 15 ...

Vremya MN sources in the White House think that the outbreak of rumors concerning a change of government is more reminiscent of a deliberate PR move, and does not necessarily mean that such a change will occur within days.

Vremya MN, May 6

Kremlin Charm Blitz?

Sergei Zverev, former Gazprom deputy CEO and a former executive of the MOST media empire, is said to be on the verge of becoming deputy director of the presidential administration in charge of political matters. ... Zverev is known as one of the country's top 10 lobbyists. Anxious to avoid burning its bridges with the Duma and the Cabinet, the Kremlin hopes his talents will come in handy ...

Apparently, it has finally dawned on the Kremlin that empty threats have a negative effect on the image of the presidential team. In any case, it was decided that aggravating the Communists by replacing [First Deputy Prime Minister Yury] Maslyukov and [Deputy Prime Minister Gennady] Kulik was not expedient for now. Analysts do not rule out the possibility that Maslyukov will be "moved," but remain in the government. ... Indeed, if the Communists are ousted from the government, the Duma will never adopt laws without which we can forget credits from the West.

Argumenty i Fakty, No 18, May, 1999