Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Yeltsin's Russia Restless; Many Reformers in Retreat

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Yeltsin's Russia Restless; Many Reformers in Retreat

Article excerpt

Some have been fired, others have fled, but the exodus of reformers from President Boris Yeltsin's entourage may be pretty much over. There simply aren't that many liberals left.

Since Jan. 1, Yeltsin has fired Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev and Anatoly Chubais, who headed efforts to privatize state operations. Four senior members of his Presidential Council resigned to protest the tougher policy toward rebels in Chechnya.

Most Russians and many Western leaders are watching to see whether the latest exit of reformers will lead to a shift away from free-market reforms and whether Yeltsin chooses outright war to end the 13-month-old Chechen fighting.

Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin left Sunday for the United States to reassure U.S. officials that Russia remains committed to free-market reforms. During his four-day visit, he plans to meet with President Bill Clinton, congressional leaders and bankers.

Yeltsin's move toward more authoritarian policies came after Communists and right-wing nationalists won the most votes in last month's parliamentary elections, mainly because millions of Russians are unhappy with economic reforms.

Yeltsin has a long history of shedding reformers when under pressure from hard-liners, but until now he has pushed ahead with programs to create a market economy.

Talking Tough

But with five months to go before the presidential election, Yeltsin appears to have decided that the way to win voters over is to talk tough, act tough and turn his back on the reformers, who did poorly in those parliamentary elections.

This month he has insisted - over and over again - that he will continue the reform course that he set in 1991 when he became Russia's first democratically elected president. But the signs that Yeltsin will keep his word on reforms are not encouraging.

This past week alone, a top official close to Yeltsin said the government erred in copying Western-style reforms. And then the president picked an automotive official who favors state subsidies for industry as chief of economic policy rather than find a reformer to take the privatization job Chubais had held. …

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