In his eight months in office, Mr Primakov did little to tackle his country's appalling economic difficulties. But inertia brought a stability of sorts that has vanished. The one Russian politician who might have persuaded the parliament to vote for the tough reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund, essential if the country is to put its financial house in order, has been dismissed. The Communists, the largest single party in the Duma, are up in arms, and could well prevent confirmation of Sergei Stepashin, Mr Yeltsin's young protege, who has been named to succeed Mr Primakov. Fresh elections may be unavoidable, there are even mutterings of a coup in the offing. At the very least, the stalled impeachment proceedings against Mr Yeltsin will gain fresh momentum.
But the President's erratic behaviour could destroy hopes of Russia playing a role in ending the Balkans war. Mr Yeltsin's threat to withdraw from the diplomatic process because Nato has ignored Russia's demand for a halt to its bombing suggests he is seeking to assuage his nationalist critics, led by the Communists. If he is obliged to carry out the threat, and thus dash prospects of an agreed UN resolution, the Kosovo crisis would enter a more perilous phase. By sacking Mr Primakov, Russia's modern tsar has done both his country and the international community a grave disservice.Reuse content