Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 82

There were few surprises yesterday when Russian President Yeltsin announced the first appointments to the new government. (RTR, April 28) As expected, Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, Defense Minister Igor Sergeev and Finance Minister Mikhail Zadornov were reappointed while Sergei Stepashin was named interior minister. Also reappointed were Sergei Shoigu as minister for emergencies, Nikolai Aksenenko as railways minister, and Aleksander Tikhonov as education minister. The rest of the lineup is expected to be announced today.

Russia’s new Prime Minister Sergei Kirienko has, as promised, cut the number of deputy prime ministers from eight to three. Moreover, there is to be no first deputy premier. Named as deputy premiers yesterday were Kirienko’s mentor Boris Nemtsov and technocrat Viktor Khristenko. Nemtsov told journalists, first, that he expects to have more responsibility in the new government and, second, that it is he who will be in charge when the prime minister is away from Moscow.

Khristenko has until now been deputy finance minister. He is being given responsibility for relations between the federal government and Russia’s regions and, in particular, for the vitally important task of overseeing payments from the federal budget to the regions and ensuring that the money is paid on time to millions of people currently suffering wage and pensions arrears. This is what Khristenko, a former businessman from Chelyabinsk, was supposed to be doing in the finance ministry. Now, however, he is being given more clout to ensure that federal transfers are not embezzled on the way to the regions. Yesterday, desperate miners in Partizansk, a coal mining town near Vladivostok in Russia’s Far East, tried to draw attention to their plight by temporarily taking the deputy governor of the region hostage. (Itar-Tass, April 28) The miners have been on hunger strike for a week. At the weekend, miners’ wives told Kirienko that they were reduced to selling their blood to hospitals to feed their families. (RTR, April 26)

A government spokesman said yesterday that Kirienko intends to give ministers more and sharper responsibilities than they had in the old government, where every rank-and-file minister was overseen by at least one deputy premier. The Yeltsin administration has been promising for nearly two years to streamline this cumbersome system. Kirienko is following through on a reform long recognized as essential. Meanwhile, the government will be getting a few new faces: Valery Yazev, member of the State Duma from the Our Home is Russia faction, told journalists yesterday that he had been offered the post of energy minister held until last month by Kirienko himself.