Yeltsin gives disgraced spy chief key post
Tuesday 31 March 1998
Despite hints from his aides that he is keeping his options open about a third term, Mr Yeltsin - whose presidency has been overshadowed by ill- health - indicated he will stand down at the next elections in 2000. His government, fired en masse last week, remains in pieces as his inexperienced new Prime Minister, Sergei Kiriyenko, 35, prepares for a confirmation battle with the lower house of parliament.
All the main parliamentary factions have expressed misgivings about his nomination, and the Communists - who hold nearly a third of the seats - have demanded its withdrawal. A vote is due on Friday.
But, as Russia's political circles reel in the aftermath of the government's sacking, one part of the jigsaw slotted into place. The President named as acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, a former head of the counter- intelligence services notorious for his bungled role in the Chechen war.
The 46-year-old lieutenant- general - appointed Justice Minister last year after the previous incumbent was photographed frolicking in a Moscow steam baths with two women - has remained close to Mr Yeltsin, despite a patchy career. In September 1994 he led an operation to arm pro-Moscow Chechen opposition forces with tanks, anti-aircraft missiles, and helicopters.
Although he later criticised Russia's decision to send troops into the republic, starting a 21-month war, he is still blamed by rights groups for his role. Among other things, his agency, then called the FSK, supplied the Kremlin with misleading intelligence about the pro-independence forces. In June 1995 he was sacked after Chechen fighters took 1,500 people hostage in south Russia.
His appointment indicates his links to the intelligence community are valued by Mr Yeltsin, who, mindful no doubt, of the attempted coup against Mikhail Gorbachev in 1991, has gone to lengths to maintain tight control over the security services.
The minister, whose appointment must be approved by parliament, becomes Russia's chief policeman, a role previously filled by the hawkish Anatoly Kulikov, sacked last week. Mr Stepashin will hope to see Mr Yeltsin through to the end of his presidency in 2000 - if, that is, the President sticks by his words.
Although Mr Yeltsin indicated he would not be running again, he has a record of contradictory behaviour. If no other candidate stands a chance of victory, and his health holds up, he will be under pressure from the ruling elite to change his mind. For now, Mr Yeltsin has tentatively aligned himself with Viktor Chernomyrdin, the ex-prime minister, without giving him unqualified backing.
The sacked prime minister would head the government's election campaign, he said yesterday, before meeting the UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. "We need a strong leader and, bearing in mind that I, so to speak, am not taking part in the elections, we need reinforcements. That is why we rearranged the pieces and put everything in place."
- 1 Qataris pledge to expand Canary Wharf
- 2 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 3 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 4 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
- 5 Watch eerie drone footage of destroyed building in Stalingrad
#JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
UK election candidates: 'Nasty party' Ukip faces fresh questions on eve of vote
Who should I vote for in the general election? Take The Independent's interactive quiz to find out which party's the right choice for you
Ohio 'Shawshank Redemption' fugitive Frank Freshwater arrested after 56 years on the run
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP
£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...
£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...
£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...