Publication: Monitor Volume: 5 Issue: 103

The impression that a chaotic battle continues within Russia’s “verkhushka”–the top echelons of the government and state–was reinforced yesterday by a series of contradictory decrees and statements from the Kremlin.

President Boris Yeltsin yesterday released Mikhail Zadornov–who he had named first deputy prime minister in charge of macroeconomics the day before–from his duties as finance minister. The president then appointed Deputy Finance Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, Russia’s negotiator with Western creditors, to the Finance Ministry post. Afterwards, Zadornov said he believed that the person holding the post of macroeconomics tsar should also be finance minister, and hinted he might step down in response to Yeltsin’s decision to separate the positions. Later yesterday, Russian media quoted anonymous sources as saying that Zadornov would indeed remain finance minister while serving as first deputy prime minister in charge of macroeconomics. Kasyanov, meanwhile, flew to London to discuss debt restructuring with the London Club of creditors, and refused to comment on the imbroglio.

During a press conference today, Zadornov refused to discuss the issue of whether he would retain the finance minister portfolio. He did say, however, that the question of how duties will be divided up between the two first deputy prime ministers–meaning himself and Nikolai Aksenenko–has not yet been decided.

Aksenenko, however, indicated yesterday that he would be the main person in charge of economic policy. The previous day he had conceded that Zadornov would run overall macroeconomic policy, while he, Aksenenko, would be in charge of the economy’s “real sector”–which, he said, would also involve macroeconomic policy. Yesterday, Aksenenko was more categorical, saying that the “real sector” could not be separated from either macroeconomics or finances, and his supervision would “extend to all areas of work, including the areas of the real economy headed by Mikhail Zadornov.” Aksenenko, who was railways minister in the cabinet of Yevgeny Primakov, predicted these wide-ranging powers would be approved by Yeltsin (Ekho Moskvy radio, May 27).