It didn’t take long. Just a day after his confirmation as prime minister, Sergei Stepashin is already in a certain amount of trouble. Just how much remains to be seen. This morning, Moscow time, Aleksandr Zhukov–the head of the State Duma’s budget committee who over the last few days has been touted as Stepashin’s choice to assume the post of first deputy prime minister in charge of the economy–announced through his spokeswoman that he will not join the cabinet. She said the reason for his refusal was that he was only being offered the position of deputy prime minister, not first deputy prime minister, and that he was “not satisfied with the range of his powers” (Reuters, May 20).
At a midday news conference, however, Zhukov said that the new cabinet should have two first deputy prime ministers, one in charge of industrial policy, the other in charge of financial-economic policy, and that he would accept the latter post if a “united team” were formed to handle financial-economic questions. This would mean, he explained, keeping Mikhail Zadornov as finance minister and Andrei Shapovalyants as economics minister. Zhukov added, however, that Yeltsin and Stepashin want just one first deputy prime minister in charge of overall economic policy. Stepashin, meanwhile, was quoted by “informed government sources” this morning as saying that he had not “changed his position” regarding his plans to appoint Zhukov (Russian agencies, May 20).
BEREZOVSKY MAY BE REGAINING STRENGTH.