Russia's reckoning: Power struggle at heart of the Kremlin

INTENSE BARGAINING was under way last night in the highest echelons of Russian power over who should lead the nation out of an economic, political and social crisis before it is too late. Both chief player and hostage at the heart of the deal-making was Viktor Chernomyrdin, the apparatchik whom Boris Yeltsin hauled back as prime minister in despair, prompting speculation that the Kremlin had run out of solutions.

Heated discussions were held between the Kremlin's chief of staff, Valentin Yumashev, Mr Chernomyrdin himself, and parliamentary leaders over power- sharing proposals which would weaken Mr Yeltsin, and a Soviet-style economic plan.

Late yesterday, there were reports that a "broad consensus" had been struck. The lower house of parliament, the State Duma, has clamoured for more powers many times, but for once it has a real pressure point: its ability to confirm or reject Mr Chernomyrdin's nomination, due for debate on Monday.

The Kremlin is desperate for him to be installed in his post as soon as possible. Sensing weakness from the usually autocratic President, opposition groups - notably the dominant Communist Party - are threatening to reject Mr Chernomyrdin's nomination, dooming Russia to several weeks of ruinous political limbo. If the President wants his man, they argue, then he must pay the price - by giving up some of his powers and committing Russia to an economic plan which rolls back the so-called reforms.

Mr Yeltsin is not a leader who gives away power easily. His authority is, after all, vested in a constitution which he fought hard to get past the electorate nearly five years ago. And even if he signs away some of his powers, he is perfectly capable of reneging on the deal.

Yet power is what parliament is now demanding. And they just might get it. The documents were been drawn up by a tripartite commission, made up of representatives of both houses, the government, and a Kremlin observer. Last night drafts were placed before Mr Yumashev, at a meeting with Mr Chernomyrdin and the leaders of the parliamentary factions.

Before them were what amounted to draft proposals for a significant shift in the balance of power. The Russian constitution would be amended to give the Duma greater control over ministers and policy. The President would be banned from ruling by decree in on issues deemed within the cabinet and parliament's remit. He would be barred from proposing a candidate twice for prime minister, if the Duma rejected the nomination. Parliament would agree to debate what kind of guarantees to give Mr Yeltsin after the end of his term, and agree not to impeach him.

The initial reaction from the Kremlin was dismissive. The Yeltsin camp waved the plan away as biased. But it was willing to negotiate - perhaps in the hope of hoodwinking parliament by making promises to be broken later, but perhaps because Mr Yeltsin is genuinely ready to strike a bargain.

The Kremlin has, it was reported yesterday, produced its own much weaker political proposals. Chief among its conditions are an agreement that the Duma will not impeach Mr Yeltsin before the end of its term, next year. In return, Mr Yeltsin would agree not to dissolve it - as he can, if it refuses three times to endorse Mr Chernomyrdin's candidacy. Crucially, Mr Yeltsin is demanding a five-year moratorium on changes to the constitution.

Last night- doubtless to the horror of Washington, the G7, the European Union and the others begging him to stick to "reforms" - Mr Yeltsin appeared to have accepted the economic proposals, which include price controls, ending the rouble's convertibility, printing money and renationalisation.

It may be that the proposals will evaporate once Mr Chernomyrdin is behind his desk. But they may not. The old Gazprom chief is a luke-warm reformer. At his back stand committed interventionists such as Yuri Luzhkov, Moscow's mayor, and an army of anti-reform parliamentarians.

Western economists believe that the plan's implementation would be disastrous. "You would see empty shops, starvation," said Al Breach, a Moscow-based economic analyst.

Deciding what to do now will be painful for Mr Yeltsin. The mood is moving swiftly against him, at home and abroad. No matter how much back- slapping goes on between him and President Bill Clinton on next week's two-day Moscow summit, he has lost the faith of the West. Yesterday he dealt them another blow by going ahead with the sacking of his guru of market economics, Anatoly Chubais, who is beloved in the West, but loathed by Russians.

When Naina, Mr Yeltsin's long-suffering wife, told reporters yesterday she had an "intuition" that everything would be OK, it had the ghastly ring of the last muddled days of Nicholas 11 and his tragic family.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules
filmReview: The Rock is a muscular Davy Crockett in this preposterous film, says Geoffrey Macnab
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Louis van Gaal watches over Nani
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
transfersColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Teaching Assistant

£12024: Randstad Education Leeds: Teaching Assistant September 2014 start - te...

Physics Teacher

£130 - £162 per day + UPS: Randstad Education Hull: Physics Teacher Long Term ...

IT Technician (1st/2nd line support) - Leatherhead, Surrey

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Technician (1st/2nd line support)...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn