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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Old Premiers Size Up Political Scene




Russia's former and future prime ministers were getting their political ducks in a row Wednesday.


Vladimir Putin got the enthusiastic support of Viktor Chernomyrdin, who said his party, Our Home Is Russia, will back Putin when he comes up for a confirmation vote Monday in the State Duma.


"He is a very serious, thoughtful, qualified person," said Chernomyrdin, who was fired as prime minister in 1998. "He is very responsible."


Chernomyrdin, who met with Putin in the White House on Wednesday, told reporters that Putin could be approved on the first vote.


The news also came that another former prime minister, Yevgeny Primakov, the political trump card this election season, may announce as early as Thursday that he will join the new alliance of Fatherland and All Russia. The announcement came from Gennady Kulik, a deputy prime minister in Primakov's government, which was sacked in May.


Putin, who was nominated Monday by President Boris Yeltsin, appears confident of support in the Duma, parliament's lower house. He has not held the intensive talks with its leaders that his recent predecessors did immediately after being nominated and intends to meet most parties only on Monday, the day of the vote.


Leaders of Our Home, the Kremlin-backed "party of power" in 1995 Duma elections, have trumpeted Putin's membership in their party, possibly hoping his premiership will bring them back into the public's good graces.


Other key parties in the Duma also have hinted that they will vote Putin through on Monday.


Vladimir Zhirinovsky, head of the Duma's third-largest party, however, withdrew his party's promised support for Putin on Wednesday and named his price for backing him: the burial of Vladimir Lenin and a ban on the Communist Party.


Sergei Stepashin, like Primakov, has become a hot political commodity since his sacking as prime minister Monday.


He planned to hold consultations by the end of week with Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov, the leader of Fatherland; Tatarstan President Mintimer Shaimiyev, founder of the All Russia group of regional leaders; and Primakov, Interfax reported.


The only other prime minister of recent memory, Sergei Kiriyenko, said Wednesday that Stepashin could lead a right-center bloc that includes Kiriyenko's party.


"I talked to Stepashin on the phone Monday. I think we will meet very soon," Kiriyenko said on Ekho Moskvy radio.