Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Premier Set to Keep Key Reformers but President Yeltsin Is Weakened by New Law That Gives the Cabinet the Executive Powers

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Russian Premier Set to Keep Key Reformers but President Yeltsin Is Weakened by New Law That Gives the Cabinet the Executive Powers

Article excerpt

AFTER days of negotiations, newly installed Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin yesterday moved to form a new Cabinet that includes many of the key figures who led the reform policies of the previous government.

The new government should reassure many, including Western governments and financial agencies, who feared that the more conservative premier would sweep away the personnel and policies of his predecessor, reform architect Yegor Gaidar. Indications that precisely that was being planned prompted Russian President Boris Yeltsin to break off an official visit to China Dec. 19 and rush back to Moscow to save his reform government.

While two reformist ministers have been removed, the new Cabinet preserves the senior vice premiers from Mr. Gaidar's team, including the men in charge of international economic policy, according to the Interfax news agency, and the controversial program to privatize Russia's huge system of state-run industries.

According to preliminary reports of the Cabinet's composition, the government will retain vice premiers Alexander Shokhin, who oversees all foreign economic relations; Anatoly Chubais, the privatization boss; and Boris Saltykov, who is in charge of social policies such as education, labor, health, and social security. Two other vice premiers also will keep their jobs - Vladimir Shumeiko, who is in charge of industrial policy, and Georgy Khiza, a former defense industry executive. Both men were brought into the Cabinet last spring in response to earlier criticism of Gaidar's policies but are considered relatively pro-reform by Gaidar aides.

Mr. Chernomyrdin, who served as energy minister in the Gaidar government, had promised not to make major changes in the government following his selection last week by the conservative-dominated legislature. But there has been growing pressure, particularly from centrist political forces associated with the lobby of state-run industries, to replace some of the young market reformers on Gaidar's team.

President Yeltsin's swift return from China managed to save most of the Gaidar team. Only one key member was sacrificed - Pyotr Aven, the young minister of foreign trade who was also Russia's key negotiator in talks with Western governments and banks over payment of Russia's huge foreign debt. Mr. Aven has been a target of attack not only by conservatives, but also from within the government. Mr. Shokhin will likely take over Aven's duties as debt negotiator.

Concerns that the market reform strategy of Gaidar was being abandoned were heightened in recent days by reports that the Central Bank, along with the parliament, was ready to issue massive new credits to preserve state-run industry. …

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