Moving toward a confrontation with President Boris Yeltsin, the head of Russia’s Communist Party said Sunday that his large faction in parliament will oppose the president’s nominee for prime minister.
Yeltsin has threatened to disband parliament if lawmakers fail to approve his choice for premier, Sergei Kiriyenko, a talented but youthful former oil executive.
But in an interview with the Interfax news agency, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov, who heads parliament’s largest bloc, said he was not convinced of Kiriyenko’s abilities or swayed by the president’s threat.
“We cannot confirm just anyone as the country’s No. 2 leader,” Zyuganov said, according to Interfax.
“If the president becomes seriously ill, then it will be the premier who takes responsibility for the nuclear ‘briefcase,”’ he said. “And to trust such an unknown and immature person would be the highest form of irresponsibility, even if those who are pushing Kiriyenko for prime minister don’t want to recognize it.”
The Communists, together with other anti-reform parties, control a narrow majority of seats in parliament’s lower house, the State Duma. However, other parties have not yet said how they plan to vote.
Yeltsin nominated Kiriyenko last week after firing his entire Cabinet. He has praised the 35-year-old man - who has just 7 months of experience in government - as a skilled professional untainted by Kremlin infighting who can work with various factions.
In an interview broadcast Sunday, Kiriyenko acknowledged that he has been put in a tough position.
“Honestly, it’s difficult, very difficult,” he told Russian state television. “But the job is very interesting, and I have a colossal desire to do everything that the president has given me to do.”
He said his friendship with Boris Nemtsov, the acting first deputy prime minister, would not affect his job.