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Wednesday, May 12, 1999 Published at 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK

World: Europe

Analysis: Why Primakov was sacked

Primakov (right): Did he see it coming?

By Russian Affairs Specialist Malcolm Haslett

President Yeltsin's sacking of Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov had been rumoured for some time. But it still came as a shock when it happened, and people are now asking: Why did he do it?

Russia crisis
The immediate cause of Mr Primakov's sacking is the impeachment proceedings being instituted this week by the lower house, the State Duma.

A somewhat reinvigorated president, in typically belligerent fashion, is trying to show his Communist critics that if they want a fight, he's ready.

But the president has shown for some time that he's disenchanted with his prime minister, openly snubbing him on several public occasions in the last few weeks.

International rescue

As Boris Yeltsin's health worsened in recent years, Mr Primakov has in fact come to his rescue on more than one occasion.

As foreign minister he built a newly robust foreign policy, challenging western domination of the world scene. That line went down well with the Communist-nationalist majority in the Duma.

And when the economy collapsed last autumn, the new prime minister, managed to restore some political and economic stability.

But in so doing he became altogether too popular and powerful for President Yeltsin's liking.

He also didn't like the heavy Communist element in the prime minister's cabinet. That seemed to complicate negotiations with the IMF on much-needed credits.

Boris Yeltsin would also like to go down in history as the man who finally redeemed Russia from communism, and he saw that legacy threatened by Mr Primakov's left-leaning government.

Kosovo factor

The president was clearly annoyed, moreover, by the sight of his prime minister travelling to Belgrade surrounded by generals soon after the first Nato attacks on Yugoslavia.

Soon afterwards, President Yeltsin ordered his government and generals to tone down their rhetoric and handed over the leading role on Kosovo to ex-premier Viktor Chernomyrdin.

It was one thing to condemn the Nato actions, quite another to risk a permanent rift with the West.

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