Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 170

Russian President Boris Yeltsin has appointed Aleksandr Shokhin, Vladimir Ryzhkov and Vladimir Bulgak as deputy prime ministers in the government of Yevgeny Primakov (Russian agencies, September 16). All are centrist politicians with close ties to former Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin. Therefore, while Chernomyrdin himself is excluded from the government, members of his circle will be at the heart of the new one.

Shokhin, 47, will oversee financial policy, including taxation, and serve as liaison with international institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank. A moderate who served in Russia’s first reform government of 1991, Shokhin parted company with the more radical members of that government when he argued for the maintenance of state controls over the economy. Ryzhkov, 32, until now first deputy speaker of the Russian parliament, the Duma, is now to have the thankless task of overseeing social policy. Bulgak, 57, was deputy prime minister in Chernomyrdin’s government, where his portfolio covered science and technology, including space research and communications. An official said yesterday that Bulgak will have responsibility for industrial policy as well as science. Overall industrial policy will be supervised by First Deputy Prime Minister Yuri Maslyukov. This suggests that earlier reports that Arkady Volsky–an old friend of Primakov’s who was once aide to Yuri Andropov and now heads the Russian industrialists’ union–were incorrect. Shokhin and Maslyukov are reported to have already crossed swords over who is to supervise some economic responsibilities.

A fourth deputy prime minister, not yet appointed, is to be put in charge of regional policy. Rumor has it that this will be Yevgeny Nazdratenko, governor of Primorsky Krai. This is putting the fox to guard the hens: The Kremlin has been trying for a long time to coerce the combative Nazdratenko out of his region, which he rules like a private fiefdom. Until now, he has resisted all blandishments. Another–unidentified–regional governor is expected to become deputy prime minister in charge of agrarian policy. Nationalities policy is to be entrusted to Ramazan Abdulatipov. Abdulatipov was deputy prime minister with responsibility for ethnic relations when Chernomyrdin was in power (Russian agencies, September 16).

The new appointments bear out Primakov’s statement earlier this week that the new government would bear a strong resemblance to the old one. The main difference is that virtually all the members of the reform camp have been dropped. Given that it was during Chernomyrdin’s five years in power that Russia dug itself into its present hole, the make-up of new cabinet is unlikely to inspire much confidence among investors.

The ruble, which rebounded slightly following Primakov’s September 11 appointment to reach 55 percent of its pre-devaluation level, resumed its fall yesterday. The official ruble exchange rate dropped to 12.45 to the dollar, compared with 9.61 the day before (Russian agencies, September 17).