Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 56

In a nationwide television address this morning. President Boris Yeltsin said he was dismissing the entire Russian government, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin included. Saying the present team lacks dynamism and initiative, Yeltsin said Russia needs a new team to deliver tangible results. He promised to set up "a new and strong government" to give a new impetus to economic reform. (BBC, March 23)

Yeltsin has appointed outgoing Energy Minister Sergei Kirienko as acting prime minister until a new candidate is named. The thirty-five year-old Kirienko made his career in Nizhny Novgorod, where he headed the regional Komsomol before setting up his own bank in 1994 and then taking charge of the Nizhny-based Norsi Oil. He is seen as a protege of former Nizhny governor Boris Nemtsov, who brought Kirienko to Moscow in May 1997, after Nemtsov himself joined the government. Yeltsin’s choice of the reformist Kirienko as acting premier suggests that the new government will, as Yeltsin promised today, continue the reform path.

Today’s announcement may help to explain last week’s reports that Yeltsin was refusing to sign into law the 1998 federal budget as adopted by the two houses of the Russian parliament. As of today, Russia is still without a budget. There was immediate speculation in Moscow this morning that whoever Yeltsin appoints as his new prime minister will also be seen as Yeltsin’s anointed successor in the 2000 presidential election. Until now, most observers assumed that Yeltsin favored either Nemtsov or Chernomyrdin as his successor, but today’s events will be a severe blow to any presidential hopes Chernomyrdin might have been harboring.

Lebed Assails Russian President.