Agrarian Party leader Mikhail Lapshin reacted gloomily to President Yeltsin’s 14 May decision to reappoint Viktor Khlystun as minister of agriculture, saying that unless Khlystun had abandoned the "reformist policies" he tried to effect in 1991, when he was first appointed to the post, no good would come of it for Russian peasants. (Interfax, May 17) But the newspaper Izvestiya greeted the appointment of the "intelligent, honest, and experienced" Khlystun as "a sign that democratic trends are gaining momentum in the administration." (Izvestiya, May 16)
Khlystun served as agriculture minister from fall 1991 to 1994, but was fired after strong pressure from the agrarian lobby, which objected to his attempts to reform the farm sector. Now, Izvestiya writes, the Agrarian Party "has lost a considerable part of its electorate and become much less influential." Khlystun replaces Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandr Zaveryukha, who has been acting agriculture minister since the beginning of this year. Meanwhile, the controversial land code adopted by the Duma in its second reading on April 10 is scheduled to receive its third reading on May 22. Even if it is approved by the Duma, the legislation is likely to be vetoed by President Yeltsin since it explicitly forbids the free sale of agricultural land, a reform to which the Yeltsin leadership is strongly committed. Speaking on behalf of the government, Deputy Economics Minister Ivan Starikov warned earlier this week that Russia’s attempts to attract investment in the agricultural sector, and foreign investment in particular, would be hampered if the land code were adopted in its present form. (Interfax, May 14)
Military Conscription Wrangle Continues.