Yeltsin's man tries to make a good fist of it

Phil Reeves in Moscow sees the prime minister-designate sparring with destiny

RUSSIA'S prime minister-designate, Sergei Kiriyenko, 35, is trying a new way to convince a sceptical nation he is the man for the job. Sporting red boxing gloves, the slightly built politician has appeared on television whacking a punch-bag.

The message is clear: he may look like an owlish and studious provincial ex-banker whose nickname among his colleagues is the "little computer", but he is also a "muzhik", a red-blooded Russian male who has the muscle to get things done.

His performance, on the popular political programme "Itogi", belongs to a long tradition in which Russia's leaders have tried to curry admiration by displaying their sporting prowess. Boris Yeltsin was famously fond of demonstrating his volleyball and tennis skills, until his health intervened. The ambitious mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, at 61 still relishes appearances on the football field. The sacked prime minister, Viktor Chernomyrdin, now vying for the presidency, has tried to beef up his image by jet-skiing. The equally corpulent Communist leader, Gennady Zyuganov, claims his interests include tennis and volleyball. Mr Kiriyenko's posturing is the latest manoeuvre in the Kremlin campaign to try to ensure he is confirmed in his job after being nominated - to universal astonishment - by Boris Yeltsin on 23 March.

This week may prove critical. Mr Yeltsin is due today to hold round- table talks with the leaders of parliament, party factions, trade unions and the regions in the hope of persuading them to drop their opposition to Mr Kiriyenko.

The President has said he will listen to their suggestions for ministerial appointments and policy, both of which are in disarray after his dismissal of the government.

That he is willing to meet them for discussions at all is uncharacteristically conciliatory, but Mr Yeltsin's aides emphasise he is not prepared to compromise over the nomination and will resubmit Mr Kiriyenko's name if it is rejected. It has yet to be decided exactly when the State Duma (lower house) will vote, but it could be on Friday.

Under the constitution, parliament will automatically be dissolved if it rejects Mr Kiriyenko three times. Whether either side is interested in pushing the stand-off to that is doubtful. The Communists, the largest party in the Duma, have said they are willing to risk an early poll to block Mr Kiriyenko, whom they view as young and inexperienced. But they have a record of caving in.

On Saturday a promise was extracted from the new premier-to-be to pay off billions of roubles owed to public-sector workers. However, Russia's unpaid workers - many of whom are expected to join union-led strikes and marches on Thursday - have seen too many such pledges made and broken.

They will attach as much credibility to Mr Kiriyenko's words as they will to his attempts to persuade them he is the hard man of the boxing ring.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Recruitment Genius: Chef

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Chef is required to join one of the largest ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor