Yeltsin Promotes One Reformer, Dumps Two Others
MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin tried to appease both friends and foes Friday, naming a radical reformer with strong ties to the West as finance minister while removing the unpopular economics minister.
Yeltsin issued terse decrees announcing the changes just ahead of his confrontation with the Congress of People’s Deputies, meeting in emergency session to determine how Russia should be governed.
He gave Deputy Prime Minister Boris Fyodorov the additional job as finance minister, replacing Vasily Barchuk, and dropped Economics Minister Andrei Nechayev.
Yeltsin and his aides portrayed the shuffle as a attempt to ″correct mistakes″ made in carrying out market reforms and boost the level of competence in the Cabinet.
″We are short of professionals,″ Yeltsin’s chief of staff, Sergei Filatov, told reporters in the corridor of the Grand Kremlin Palace during a break in the Congress.
Nechayev was a special target of hard-line lawmakers, who blamed him in part for the painful economic reforms launched 15 months ago by Yegor Gaidar, the acting prime minister Yeltsin was forced to drop during his last showdown with parliament in December.
Fyodorov, 35, has been in charge of Russia’s economic reforms since Gaidar’s departure.
On Thursday, the Cabinet approved a set of ″emergency stabilization measures″ drawn up by Fyodorov.
The package calls in part for urgent measures to curb inflation and prop up Russia’s embattled currency, and includes a six-month freeze on foreign debt payments.
Fyodorov’s promotion to full Cabinet rank gives him more clout in bringing about reforms, both at home and in talks with the West.
A spokesman for parliamentary Speaker Ruslan Khasbulatov, Yeltsin’s chief foe, welcomed the changes and said Yeltsin was trying to appease critics of his economic policies. Konstantin Zlobin said the changes also indicated Yeltsin was moving toward a compromise with parliament.
Yeltsin said Nechayev would be given new duties, but he did not say what they would be. According to the Interfax news agency, Barchuk will become ambassador to Norway.
Nechayev had been strongly associated with Gaidar’s painful reforms, which drew stiff opposition both from the conservative lawmakers who dominate the parliament and from consumers.
Prices on many goods have risen several thousand times, the ruble has plummeted in value, production fell about 20 percent in 1992 and inflation has raged at close to 2,000 percent.
Western nations have been discussing deferral of Russia’s payments on the former Soviet debt, estimated at $70 billion to $80 billion.
Japan announced today that the Group of Seven industrialized nations has agreed to hold an emergency meeting of finance and foreign ministers in Tokyo next month to discuss a Russian aid package.
Japanese government spokesman Yohei Kono also confirmed expectations that Yeltsin would be invited to the annual meeting of G-7 leaders, which Tokyo plays host to this year in July.
Representatives of the Russian government will also be invited to the April 14-15 meeting. The G-7 groups Britain, the United States, Japan, Canada, France, Germany and Italy.
Fyodorov served as finance minister in the first Russian government formed after Soviet-era elections in 1990. He resigned later in the year after a radical plan for introducing a market economy had been rejected.
He moved to London to become managing director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and most recently served as Russia’s executive director at the World Bank in Washington.