Russian Cabinet Shakeup Denied
Apr. 28, 1999
MOSCOW (AP) _ President Boris Yeltsin's decision to promote his interior minister prompted speculation today that another major Cabinet shake-up is imminent. Officials denied any such plans.
Russian media and politicians have long been buzzing with rumors about a growing rift between Yeltsin and Prime Minister Yevgeny Primakov. The president fed those theories by saying recently that Primakov ``is useful at this stage, and later we shall see.''
When Yeltsin fired Primakov's first deputy Vadim Gustov on Tuesday and replaced him with Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin, many observers predicted a broader Cabinet reshuffle was on the way.
The Communist Party's No. 2 official, Valentin Kuptsov, said today that Yeltsin may fire Primakov next month, and that Stepashin would probably take over the post, the Interfax news agency reported.
Stepashin denied such a plan was in the works and said that he was ready to work with Primakov.
Primakov also sought to dispel the idea that Stepashin's appointment threatened his power. He praised Yeltsin's decision as a ``positive event.''
Stepashin will take over Gustov's duties of monitoring relations with provinces and ex-Soviet republics, while retaining the interior minister job. The Kremlin said Stepashin's appointment was designed to improve Moscow's relations with the increasingly unruly regions.
``This is normal,'' Primakov said today at Stepashin's first Cabinet meeting in his new post. ``We must strengthen the fight against crime and corruption and the links with regions.''
Yeltsin, who relishes in reshuffling his government, twice fired the entire Russian Cabinet last year. After his appointment in the wake of Russia's financial collapse last August, Primakov took on many of the president's daily duties when Yeltsin was sidelined by a string of illnesses.
Yeltsin, 68, has been more active in recent weeks, and appears to be trying to reassert his authority.