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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

EDITORIAL: Yeltsin's Fears Need Easing So He'll Go




Assume, for a moment, that Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, NTV television, human rights activist Yelena Bonner, Yabloko chief Grigory Yavlinsky and a host of other intelligent observers are right when they say Boris Yeltsin might need to be shoe-horned out of the Kremlin.


Assume - entirely for the sake of argument - that this is because Yeltsin and/or his daughter Tatyana Dyachenko have been involved up to their eyeballs in various dubious financial schemes.


Assume that Yeltsin is quite rattled by the prosecutors and auditors who have been poking around - from Russia's Yury Skuratov to the Communists' Viktor Ilyukhin to Switzerland's Carla del Ponte. And assume he found it a mite uncomfortable in June to come so close to being accused of "genocide against the Russian people" by parliament.


If you assume all of this, then you must agree that from Yeltsin's point of view, it would probably be downright dangerous to leave the Kremlin.


So it was heartening Wednesday to see Yevgeny Primakov addressing this very problem - the problem that Yeltsin might see stepping down as dangerous.


Primakov has not yet embraced Luzhkov and entered the new Fatherland-All Russia political tent. But all the signs are that he will. And on Wednesday, he took a step toward cooling Yeltsin's fears, with some bland talk of making sure the new bloc is "not anti-presidential."


When he was prime minister, Primakov tried to hammer out a retirement package for Yeltsin. He failed, in part because he handled it clumsily and in a small-minded way.


Now Primakov is, it seems, cautiously trying to reopen a Kremlin dialog. Good. This time, let's not be cheap: Give Yeltsin a retirement package that includes money, property, lifetime membership in the Federation Council, ironclad immunity from all prosecution and just about anything else he wants. Russia is going to need to buy out his contract, and money should not be an object.


Money alone, of course, won't do it. Yeltsin will need to feel he can trust any proffered golden parachute. But how can he trust anything when his regime has been so corrupt? If the economy tanks again in, say, 2002, what's to stop a President Primakov or President Luzhkov from deflecting blame by suddenly unveiling a massive corruption case against Yeltsin?


It may be hopeless, but Primakov has the right idea. The new Fatherland-All Russia bloc needs to open a dialog directly with the president. So does the West, which prefers to whistle and look the other way on Russia these days. Everyone with Yeltsin's ear should be helping him to make the right decision.