Yesterday’s much-hyped meeting of the Russian government — an event earmarked for high drama — spiraled into confusion and ended in farce. President Boris Yeltsin opened the all-day meeting, most of which was televised live, at 10 a.m. in the Russian government building. In opening remarks, the president said the meeting had been called to identify those guilty for Russia’s economic problems. By the end of the day, he threatened, three cabinet ministers would have lost their jobs. Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin rose to give an overall account of the government’s stewardship. Then, when the first break was taken, Yeltsin disappeared and did not return. There was initial alarm that Yeltsin had been taken ill, causing an immediate fall on financial markets. Fears were dispelled, however, when Yeltsin emerged in the afternoon to welcome the visiting Ukrainian president to the Kremlin. (NTV, February 26)
Rumor had it that Yeltsin and Chernomyrdin met in the break and that Chernomyrdin persuaded Yeltsin to keep the government team intact. Other reports said the two men had argued and that Yeltsin stormed off in a fury. Yeltsin aide Aleksandr Livshits confirmed that the two men conferred during the break, but declined to confirm reports of a quarrel. Other reports said the prime minister managed to dissuade Yeltsin from making changes in the cabinet line-up when the two met prior to the meeting. Chernomyrdin made his opinion clear when he told a press conference last night that "I oppose endless bureaucratic reshuffling and hectic reorganization. I favor a natural course of events. (NTV, February 26) Reports last night said Yeltsin would announce minor cabinet changes within two to three days.
Chernomyrdin Calls for More Spending Cuts.