In a move that signaled a further strengthening of hard-line elements within the Russian government, Nikolai Yegorov was named presidential chief of staff yesterday. Yegorov replaces Sergei Filatov, one of the few remaining liberals around Yeltsin. The new staff chief is believed to be close to head of the Presidential Security Service Alexander Korzhakov. Filatov’s departure was first announced on January 13 and was initially ascribed by Russian commentators to Korzhakov’s influence. As Minister of Nationalities and a Deputy Prime Minister, Yegorov was among the primary authors of the plan to invade Chechnya in December 1994. He oversaw the disastrous and brutal military campaign in the Caucasus republic through January 1995. Yegorov was stripped of his government posts following the Budennovsk hostage crisis during the summer of 1995; his latest appointment represents a full political rehabilitation.
The Kremlin announced Yegorov’s promotion on the same day that Russian forces launched an assault on Chechen rebels holding hostages in Dagestan. Coming on the heels of Andrei Kozyrev’s replacement as foreign minister by the more nationalist Yevgeny Primakov, the elevation of Yegorov suggests that following the December elections, Yeltsin decided his political fortunes would be improved if he moved closer to the nationalist camp. Yeltsin confirmed yesterday that Filatov has been named deputy chairman of the president’s reelection campaign. Among several alarmed opinion leaders was Nikolai Bodnaruk, deputy editor of the newspaper Izvestiya, who said Yegorov’s assignment "creates an impression of gloomy times to come for Russia." (1)
Russian Forces Battle Chechen Fighters Holding Hostages.