Russian prime minister Viktor Chernomyrdin says there will soon be important changes in the Russian government. "They will not be merely cosmetic," the prime minister said yesterday. "We are talking about the intensification of market reforms." (NTV, February 25) Chernomyrdin was speaking one day after President Boris Yeltsin’s call for a government shake-up provoked speculation that the prime minister would himself be dismissed. But Yeltsin’s spokesman Sergei Yastrzhembsky hastened to say that the president’s anger was not aimed at Chernomyrdin personally and to deny rumors that the premier was going to be sacked. (Interfax, February 25) Even Izvestia, which on February 25 openly speculated that Chernomyrdin would soon be dismissed, felt obliged to note that "in the past, what seemed like reliable information about Chernomyrdin’s resignation has more than once turned out to be a hoax."
Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov welcomed the promise of cabinet changes, but stressed that the Communist-dominated Duma would not tolerate the return to the government of Yeltsin aide Anatoly Chubais. Zyuganov called instead for the inclusion of Communist and nationalist ministers in a coalition government. (Itar-Tass, January 25) Communists already hold two portfolios in the present government — justice and CIS affairs — but would welcome a post for one of their economic specialists, particularly for former Gosplan chairman Yuri Maslyukov. The changes are expected to be announced on March 6, when Yeltsin is due to address the Russian parliament and a meeting of the full government has been scheduled. (Itar-Tass, February 25) Reshuffling the government will be a quick and easy way for Yeltsin to demonstrate that he is back in control after his long bout of illness.
Russian Defense Minister Assails Civilian Rival.