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Yeltsin Names Cabinet Replacements

March 2, 1998

MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin, completing a shakeup meant to mete out punishment for Russia’s woes, dismissed his minister of atomic energy today and named three veteran administrators to replace Cabinet officials he fired over the weekend.

Yeltsin also moved ahead in his campaign to reduce government spending, ordering the dismissal of bodyguards for a dozen top government officials, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported, citing presidential spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky.

Yeltsin had warned immediately before the shakeup that he intended to identify those responsible for the country’s woeful economic state and fire them. However, he denied today that the replacements were anything but ordinary personnel rotations.

``What reorganization? Ministers come and ministers go,″ ITAR-Tass quoted him as saying.

No replacement was named for Atomic Energy Minister Viktor Mikhailov, who was relieved of his duties ``due to a transfer to scientific work,″ according to the presidential press office.

Mikhailov, formerly the Soviet Union’s top nuclear weapons designer, has long said he would like to return to research.

Last month, Mikhailov announced his ministry would close three of eight plants involved in nuclear weapons production due to severe funding shortages. He has been an enthusiastic backer of Russian nuclear cooperation with foreign countries, including construction of a nuclear power plant in Iran that the United States opposes.

Yeltsin appointed security chief Ivan Rybkin as deputy prime minister in charge of relations with other former Soviet republics. Rybkin will replace Valery Serov, who was dismissed Saturday.

Rybkin has been the chief Russian negotiator with Chechnya, consistently voicing the need for a gradual approach to normalizing relations between Russia and the separatist republic.

Rybkin told reporters that he would continue to oversee negotiations with Chechnya for some time.

Yeltsin also promoted first deputy ministers of transport and education to the posts of minister, replacing their bosses.

Yeltsin frequently shuffles his Cabinet, and is known for placing blame on others for failures that might otherwise be considered his own.

``Somebody has to answer for the current state of affairs,″ he said last week.

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